Saturday, August 25, 2007

Chakrabarty's Thesis of Sarojini Naidu

Dipesh Chakrabarty is a prominent Indian scholar generally subscribing to a Post-Colonialist critique, whose ideas are partially informed by Edward Said's Orientalist depictions of traditional Western (mostly British) scholarship of the Orient and Foucaudean notions of the multiplicity of discourses, and a founding member of the Subaltern Studies Group. In 1992, he wrote the article Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History: Who Speaks for "Indian" Pasts?6 where he outlined both the goal of the Subaltern historians as well as engaging in self-criticism for not achieving these very same goals.
Chakrabarty's main goal in the article was to problematize the idea of Indians representing themselves in history. He believed that within History, as a discourse produced in University academia, Europe (as a meta narrative) remained the sovereign and theoretical subject of all histories. Subsequently, all these "imagined" histories tended to become a variation of the master narrative that he termed "the History of Europe." Therefore, Indian history itself was in a position of subalternity, or inferiority. He observed, for example, a tendency by Indian historians to describe versions of Indian history in terms of an absence or incompleteness. He also cited the need of these historians - like many of his compatriots in the Subaltern Studies Group - to refer to European history in their own works, bestowing upon it the only genesis of modernity and progress.7
Chakrabarty's thesis is not new off course, notwithstanding his focus on the Indian Academe, and the notion of the Colonial Nationalist gaining his freedom using Colonialist discourse and therefore subverting his own identity represents a recurrent theme in the critique of Sarojini Naidu's work. Nonetheless, it remains a powerful critique.

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