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Lineages of Political Society: Studies in Postcolonial Democracy Partha Chatterjee Columbia University Press


30th June 2012 History Books 0 Comments

Partha Chatterjee is one of the most important writers and theorists of our time, a voice as fresh and original as it is powerful and necessary.

(Nicholas Dirks, Columbia University, author of The Scandal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britain )

Partha Chatterjee is honorary professor of political science at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, and professor of anthropology at Columbia University. His books include Empire and Nation: Selected Essays; The Politics of the Governed: Reflections on Popular Politics in Most of the World; A Possible India: Essays in Political Criticism; and The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories.

Partha Chatterjee, a pioneering theorist known for his disciplinary range, builds on his theory of “political society” and reinforces its salience to contemporary political debate. Dexterously incorporating the concerns of South Asian studies, postcolonialism, the social sciences, and the humanities, Chatterjee broadly critiques the past three hundred years of western political theory to ask, Can democracy be brought into being, or even fought for, in the image of Western democracy as it exists today?

Using the example of postcolonial societies and their political evolution, particularly communities within India, Chatterjee undermines the certainty of liberal democratic theory in favor of a realist view of its achievements and limitations. Rather than push an alternative theory, Chatterjee works solely within the realm of critique, proving political difference is not always evidence of philosophical and cultural backwardness outside of the West. Resisting all prejudices and preformed judgments, he deploys his trademark, genre-bending, provocative analysis to upend the assumptions of postcolonial studies, comparative history, and the common claims of contemporary politics.

Partha Chatterjee is one of the most important writers and theorists of our time, a voice as fresh and original as it is powerful and necessary.

Lineages of Political Society: Studies in Postcolonial Democracy (Cultures of History)

The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories

[This] is a work of magisterial erudition, the product of a mind working at the fullest command of its critical and creative powers . . . destined to become a landmark, not just in its field but in that most important of histories which is the evolving narrative of our self-awareness. — The Calcutta Telegraph

In this book, the prominent theorist Partha Chatterjee looks at the creative and powerful results of the nationalist imagination in Asia and Africa that are posited not on identity but on difference with the nationalism propagated by the West. Arguing that scholars have been mistaken in equating political nationalism with nationalism as such, he shows how anticolonialist nationalists produced their own domain of sovereignty within colonial society well before beginning their political battle with the imperial power. These nationalists divided their culture into material and spiritual domains, and staked an early claim to the spiritual sphere, represented by religion, caste, women and the family, and peasants. Chatterjee shows how middle-class elites first imagined the nation into being in this spiritual dimension and then readied it for political contest, all the while “normalizing” the aspirations of the various marginal groups that typify the spiritual sphere.

While Chatterjee’s specific examples are drawn from Indian sources, with a copious use of Bengali language materials, the book is a contribution to the general theoretical discussion on nationalism and the modern state. Examining the paradoxes involved with creating first a uniquely non-Western nation in the spiritual sphere and then a universalist nation-state in the material sphere, the author finds that the search for a postcolonial modernity is necessarily linked with past struggles against modernity.

The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories










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