An Anthropologist Among The Historians And Other Essays

An Anthropologist Among The Historians And Other Essays-87
Specifically, I wished to rescue such negotiations and contestations of authority from their being subordinated – as insubstantial, even epiphenomenal – to the underlying determinations of endlessly economic imperatives and/or principally progressive politics, which abounded in the heroic histories of the time.Rather, at stake was the manner in which the institutions and imaginings of caste, the practices and processes of religion (in this case, Hinduism dominant and popular) could critically structure and shape the actions and expressions of subordinate communities.Quite simply, Satnami conceptions of the past were entirely coeval with modern historiography, even holding a mirror up to its conceits, rather than signaling yet another exotic exception, as dictated by the imperatives of a hierarchical but singular temporality.

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For, born to anthropologist parents, I grew up in Sagar (central India), Delhi (old and new), and Shimla (northern India).

My formative years were imbued with a lingering sense of how terrains (or times/spaces) of the “vernacular” and the “cosmopolitan” ever overlapped yet only met each other in curious, quirky, and contradictory ways.

It unravels how the author arrived at inklings and understandings of space and time - alongside those of disciplines and subjects, modernity and identity.

The chapter explores processes that braided time, space, and their enmeshments.

Thus, in his writings about the peasant insurgent in nineteenth-century India, especially through his criticism of the notion of the “pre-political,” Guha rendered this historical subject as completely coeval with and a co-constituent of processes of politics under colonialism.

On the other hand, the sensibilities of a recuperative paternalism – alongside the procedures of a somewhat salvage scholarly style – meant that within the project the meanings and motivations of these peoples appeared filtered through the master distinction between community and state.That is to say, far from the indolent opposition between folk-disputing processes and Western adjudicatory rules, which temporally and spatially segregate these terrains, at stake were incessant entanglements between everyday norms, familiar desires, and alien pathologies.In hindsight, I was exploring processes that braided time, space, and their enmeshments.Thus, seeking to understand Satnami articulations of the past, centered on their gurus/preceptors, I found in the group’s myths a modality of historical consciousness which elaborated distinct conventions.Here were to be found renderings and procedures that accessed and exceeded, in their own way, Brahman kingly and popular devotional configurations, but also imperial and nationalist representations.Soon, pursuing a (taught) master’s in (modern) history, also at Delhi University, the debates and ferment of those times led to wider critical engagements with historiographical and theoretical currents then underway across the world.Here, even as subaltern studies powerfully pointed in newer historical directions, the endeavor also appeared as privileging the spectacular moments of the subalterns’ overt rebellions over these people’s more routine, everyday negotiations of power.This suggested, in turn, inadequate, abbreviated articulations of culture and consciousness, of religion and caste, within the project.Unsurprisingly, seeking a research theme for the MPhil in history, also at Delhi University, I was interested in studying the conduct of resistance in a religious idiom.In this wider scenario, attending the history (honors) undergraduate program in St.Stephen’s College, several of my cohorts and I were insinuated in the intellectual excitement that surrounded the emergence of subaltern studies.


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