Colonial and Post-Colonial India

Ahmad, A. In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures. New York: Verso, 1992.A neo-Marxist response to the post-colonial literary studies that have emerged out of the Subaltern School as well as to the work of Edward Said in his Orientalism.

Amin, S. ‘Gandhi as Mahatma: Gorakhpur District, Eastern U.P. 1921-22.’ in R. Guha and G. Spivak (eds.) Selected Subaltern Studies. New York: OUP, 1988.Please see the annotation under the heading "Guha, Ranajit".

Arnold, D. and Ramchandra Guha (eds.). Nature, Culture, Imperialism: Essays on the Environmental History of South Asia. Delhi: Oxford Univ. Press, 1995

An edited volume that was revolutionary in its attempt to integrate an ecological lens into the practice of history of South Asia. The attempts at "environmental history" perhaps vary in quality and do not all pertain to the colonial and post-colonial period, but nevertheless, taken as a whole, this book certainly breaks new ground and is well worth a look, especially for any student thinking of writing on a related subject. In the context of the rapid deforestation of contemporary India and the massive environmental damage inflicted by industry there, works of this type take on a special urgency and poignancy.

Bayly, C. A. Information and Empire: Political Intelligence and Social Communication in North India, 1880. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997.

---(ed.) The Peasant Armed: Indian Revolt of 1857. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.

---Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars: North Indian Society in the Age of British Expansion, 1770-1870. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1983.

Bayly is a historian who has written some very influential books dealing with the early colonial period in South Asia. Information and Empire looks at the mechanisms by which the colonizers gathered information about their subjects in India and used that information as a means to impose control. This work also discusses continuities and discontinuities between the British intelligence gathering and the earlier systems in use in pre-colonial India, particularly that of the Mughals. Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars, perhaps Bayly’s most influential work, presents an extremely detailed, rigorous look at societal structures and institutions in the early and middle colonial period. Bayly is not a participant in the Subaltern Studies "movement", however there is some affinity between his restoration of agency to the colonized and the Subalterns’ focus on "history from below."

Bhadra, G. ‘Four Rebels of 1857’ in R. Guha and G. Spivak (eds.) Selected Subaltern Studies. New York: OUP, 1988.

Bose, S. and A. Jalal Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy. Delhi: OUP, 1997.

Probably the best, most up-to-date introduction to the modern history of the South Asian subcontinent available today. Some take issue with the work as too opinionated, however this will be extremely useful for any student writing about the colonial or post-colonial period. It has an exceptionally good annotated bibliography.

Breckenridge, C. and P. van der Veer (eds.) Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.

Chakrabarty, D. "Open space/public place: garbage, modernity and India", South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies (Nedlands, Australia) 14, 1, June 1991: 15-31.

This article, like the one cited below by Sudipta Kaviraj, deals with the reception and adaptation of "modern" ideas about urban space in India. Dipesh Chakrabarty examines the construction of the category of "public" space in India, basically asking "what makes it public"?

Chatterjee, P. Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse? Minneapolis: Univ. of

Minnesota Press, 1993.

---The Nation and its Fragments. Delhi: OUP, 1994.

---‘The Nationalization of Hinduism’, Social Research 59, 1, Spring 1995: 111-149.

Chatterjee’s work is focused on the emergence and development of Nationalism as a philosophical and political project in colonial India. He examines the complex interaction between the thinkers behind this movement and western modernity, showing the ways in which a kind of "spiritual autonomy" preceded and provided the basis for the emerging demands for political autonomy.

Cohn, B. Colonialism and its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1996.

Cohn, an anthropologist, focuses his attention on the ways in which the colonizer came to know the colonized and the uses this information was put to. Although he hasn’t been the most prolific author, what Cohn writes is taken very seriously by historians of this period. Especially interesting section on the colonial transformation of everyday objects into "artifacts".

Das, V. Critical Events: An Anthropological Perspective on Contemporary India. Delhi: OUP, 1995.

---(ed.) Mirrors of Violence: Communities, Riots and Survivors in South Asia. Delhi: OUP, 1990.

Veena Das writes about the consequences of violence, particularly ethnic or communal violence in contemporary South Asia. The edited volume, Mirrors of Violence, contains articles by important post-colonial scholars such as Ashis Nandy, Dipesh Chakrabarty and Gyanendra Pandey. It is divided into three sections, the first of which deals with the relationship of riots to South Asian society as a whole, asking what kind of role this violence plays. The second section treats particular incidents in detail, examining them in their specificity, looking at motives, actors and consequences. The third and perhaps most important section is organized around the theme of survivors’ narratives, how survivors of these incidents make sense out of what has happened, what the personal consequences are for them.

Dewji, F. ‘Hindu/Muslim/Indian’, Public Culture, 5, 1, Fall 1992: 1-18.

In this provocative and controversial essay, Dewji uses analytical tools drawn from Derrida and other contemporary theorists to discuss the role of the "other" in the discourse of Indian nationalism. He seeks to "disrupt" the narrative of nationalism by writing a "history of difference". In other words, he tries to lay bare the workings of national identity in India and particularly the ways in which different groups are excluded from those processes of identity-formation.

Dreze, J. and A. Sen India: Economic Development and Social Opportunity. Delhi: OUP, 1998.

Fox, R. ‘Gandhian Socialism and Hindu Nationalism: Cultural Domination in the World System’, Journal

of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, 25, 3, November 1987: 233-247.

---Lions of the Punjab: Culture in the Making. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1985.

The second of the two works is an anthropological look at the ways in which Sikh identity was shaped and changed by the colonial experience.

Guha, Ranajit. ed. (with G. Spivak) Selected Subaltern Studies. New York: OUP, 1988.

---Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India. Delhi: Oxford Univ. Press, 1983.

Guha is one of the key figures in the "Subaltern Studies" school of history writing. The "Subaltern Studies" movement is perhaps the key Indian intellectual export of the post-colonial era and has influenced history writing everywhere. Basically, it represents a far-ranging attempt to write a "history from below", to recover and restore the voice of people and groups historically marginalized and silenced by the discourse of the elite. In Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency for example, Guha looks at rural uprisings against colonial rule not as the irrational and misguided expression of frustration by reactionary illiterates, as colonial administrators had represented these incidents, but rather with a respectful ear toward the demands and ideas behind them. Selected Subaltern Studies is an edited volume that provides a handy introduction to the scope of this exciting "school" of historiography.

Hansen, T. The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1999.

A critical look at modern-day Hindu politics in India. Well-balanced for a book of its type, with an excellent bibliography and very thorough background material.

Hasan, M. India’s Partition: Process, Strategy and Mobilization. Delhi: OUP, 1993.

This is a reader of articles, narratives and primary documents from the period before, during and immediately after the Partition of India. Any student writing about Partition would do well to begin here. It contains transcripts of speeches by the important political leaders of the day including Jinnah, Nehru and Gandhi. It also contains excerpts from written works, including political writings and fiction.

Kaviraj, S. "Filth and the Public Sphere: Concepts and practice about space in Calcutta", Public Culture 10, 1, Fall 1997: 83-113.

An interesting little essay that examines the meaning and uses of public and private space in colonial Calcutta. Kaviraj discusses the division of the city into ‘native’ and British quarters as well as the development of the idea of the modern city as the hygienic, orderly antithesis of the irrational and chaotic countryside. Seeks to explore the ways in which people "represent and act" in relation to the space (whether public or private) that they’re in. An example of this would be Kaviraj’s extensive analysis of the development and use of public parks in the city.

Kopf, D. British Orientalism and the Bengal Renaissance: the Dynamics of Indian Modernization, 1773-1835, Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1969.

Langewiesche, W. ‘The Shipbreakers’, The Atlantic, August 2000: 31-49.

This fascinating article from the Atlantic is an in-depth look at a very important emergent industry in contemporary India: the scuttling of large ocean-going freighters and tankers. As environmental concerns have driven up the cost of doing this dirty, dangerous work in America and Europe, India has increasingly come to dominate the industry. The author uses this issue as a way to address modern India’s entry into the world market of global capitalism, warts and all.

Metcalf, B. D. ‘Islamic Reform and Islamic Women: Maulana Thanawi’s Jewelry of Paradise, in B. Metcalf (ed.) Moral Conduct and Authority. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1984.

---Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860-1900. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1982.

One of the ways that the Islamic community in North India responded to colonial modernity was through attempts at internal reform. Often these attempts focused on the education of women. Barbara Metcalf performs a close reading on one of these reformist texts and in the process provides a lot of useful background on the reformist milieu and the role(s) women occupied within it.

Nandy, A. The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism. Delhi: OUP, 1983.

An influential study of the psychological effects of the colonial period. This work is particularly useful when looking at questions of identity, religious and national, in contemporary India.

Oberoi, H. The Construction of Religious Boundaries: Culture, Identity and Diversity in the Sikh Tradition.Delhi: OUP, 1994.

O’Hanlon, R. Caste, Conflict and Ideology: Mahatma Jotirao Phule and Low Caste Protest in Nineteenth-Century Western India. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985.

Pandey, G. ‘The Appeal of Hindu History’, in von Stietencron (ed.) Representing Hinduism. 1995.

---The Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India. Delhi: OUP, 1990.

Pandey’s work concentrates on uncovering the ideology of Hindu nationalism and its impact on "communalism" in contemporary India.

Parekh, B. Colonialism, Tradition and Reform: An Analysis of Gandhi’s Political Discourse. New Delhi:Sage Publications, 1989.

This book goes well beyond what is suggested by its title, exploring Gandhi’s take on almost all of the crucial issues of his day. It manages to be respectful and attentive but not hagiographical. This book would be an excellent resource for any student writing about Gandhi.

Raychaudhuri, T. Europe Reconsidered, Perceptions of the West in Nineteenth-century Bengal. New Delhi: 1988.

One of the key concerns of the colonial period is the reception and appropriation of European ‘modernity’ by Indian intellectuals. This book looks at the reactions of three of these intellectuals in particular, by examining their writings about the issue. What emerges is a very complex picture, not of passive reception of the superiority of the West, but rather a give-and-take, a kind of selective appropriation and adaptation of modern western ideas.

Roy, T. The Politics of a Popular Uprising: Bundelkhand in 1857. Delhi: OUP, 1996.

Said, E. Orientalism. New York: Random House, 1978.

How was the ‘Orient’ constructed and conceived in the West both before and during the colonial period? How did pre-conceived notions of the East structure the responses of Europeans to what they "found" upon actually arriving there? These questions and more are explored in this extremely famous book. Could be profitably read in conjunction with the work cited by Bernard Cohn above. Many scholars consider this book to mark the inauguration of a new era in "Oriental" Studies. Said has accomplished this by turning a critical eye to the practices of scholarship and the power-relationships implicit within them.

Sontheimer, G. D. and H. Kulke (eds.) Hinduism Reconsidered. Delhi: Manohar, 1989.

Thapar, R. ‘The Theory of Aryan Race and India: History and Politics’, Social Scientist 24, 272-4, 1996: 3-29.

Romila Thapar gives a solid, balanced picture of what is at stake in arguments over the origin of Indus and Vedic cultures and the theoretical connections between them. She shows the ways in which these arguments have been fit into a political discourse of Hindu nationalism.

van der Veer, P. and S. Vertovec "Brahmanism abroad: on Caribbean Hinduism as an ethnic religion", Ethnology (Pittsburgh, PA) 30, 2, April 1991: 149-166.

Varshney, A. ‘Contested Meanings: India’s National Identity, Hindu Nationalism and the Politics of Anxiety’, Daedalus, Summer 1993, 122, 3: 227-261.

This would be an excellent article to read alongside the Ashis Nandy book, which it builds upon. This work treats the paradoxical "minority complex" of the majority and suggests that the treatment of minorities in India by the majority has as much to do with feelings of insecurity vis-à-vis the world community as it does with real threats to the majority’s rule posed by those minority groups.