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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:23 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #239: June 26, 2006

Modern Asian Studies

Journal Name: Modern Asian Studies: Volume 40 - Issue 02 - May 2006
Print ISSN: 0026-749X Online ISSN: 1469-8099

Cutlets or Fish Curry?: Debating Indian Authenticity in Late Nineteenth-Century Bengal (pp257-272)
ROSINKA CHAUDHURI (Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta)
Current discussions on the development of modern literary genres and aesthetic conventions in nineteenth-century colonial Bengal have tended, perhaps because of its relative neglect in the modern day, to ignore the seminal role of poetry in formulating the nationalist imagination. In academic discourse, the coming together of the birth of the novel, the concept of history and the idea of the nation-state under the sign of the modern has led to a collective blindness toward the forceful intervention of poetry and song in imagining the nation. Thus Dipesh Chakrabarty, in a chapter devoted to poetry in Provincializing Europe, ironically elides any mention of it at the crucial instance of the formulation of national modernity, when he takes his argument about the division between the prosaic and the poetic in Tagore further to say, without mentioning the seminal role of poetry, that: 'The new prose of fiction—novels and short stories—was thus seen as intimately connected to questions of political modernity'. Partha Chatterjee discusses, in the introduction to The Nation and Its Fragments, the shaping of critical discourse in colonial Bengal in relation to drama, the novel, and even art, but ignores completely the fiercely contested and controversial processes by which modern Bengali poetry and literary criticism were formulated. 'The desire to construct an aesthetic form that was modern and national', to use his words, 'was shown in its most exaggerated shape' not, it is my contention, in the Bengal school of art in the 1920s as he says, but long before that in the poetry of Rangalal Banerjee, Hemchandra Bandyopadhyay, Madhusudan Dutt, and Nabinchandra Sen, and in the literary criticism and controversy surrounding their work.

Notions of Nationhood in Bengal: Perspectives on Samaj, 1867–1905, (pp273-302)
SWARUPA GUPTA (Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta)
This paper explores and re-defines notions of nationhood as reflected in the Bengali literati's expressions of an empowered identity in tracts, pamphlets and articles in periodicals during the late colonial period. It shifts the focus from existing assumptions of the nation as an artefact of modernity by demonstrating that though ideas about nationhood acquired a coherent and articulated form in the late nineteenth century, its roots are to be traced back to the pre-modern era. By interrogating the relatively unexplored conceptual category of samaj (social collectivity) deployed by the literati, this essay demonstrates how a connection was forged between the modern nation and the historical community from whence it emerged. Ideas about nationhood articulated by the literati had indigenous origins, which were oriented to a tradition of a shared world of values and conduct. In highlighting such origins I seek to qualify existing academic models that regard colonial nationalisms as 'borrowed' or 'derivative', and stress the tremendous difficulty in transcending western paradigms. The notion of a nation in colonial Bengal was produced through a complex interaction between re-orientations of indigenous ideas of past unities and the historical circumstances of the modern period. The latter included influences emanating from the late colonial situation, specifically the development of print technologies and the emergence of a civil society in India after 1800.

Gandhi, 'Truth' and Translatability (pp303-332)
JAVED MAJEED (Queen Mary, University of London)
This essay considers the role of translatability in Gandhi's project of 'Truth'. I will argue that translation as a category and a mode of thinking grounds what Gandhi's autobiography refers to as 'the Story of My Experiments with Truth.'

Power, Hegemony and Politics: Leadership Struggle in Congress in the 1930s (pp333-370)
JAYABRATA SARKAR (Deshbandhu College, University of Delhi)
The decade of the 1930s provided a near perfect backdrop for a leftist surge in Indian national politics whose trajectory so far had been mapped under the political leadership of Gandhi. It had its moments of excitement, glory and disappointments. Although ample opportunities presented themselves to the Left to decisively influence the nationalist struggle during this period, it failed in its endeavour to play a historical role, beaten by a smarter, tactful, opportunist 'Old guard', the 'right-wing' leadership of the Indian National Congress, who, as events indicated in the later years, left behind all scruples to cling to political power.

Key Words: Left-wing (LW); Right-wing (RW); Congress Socialist Party (CSP); Gandhi; Subhas Bose; Jayaprakash Narayan.

Committed Mothers and Well-adjusted Children: Privatisation, Early-Years Education and Motherhood in Calcutta (pp371-395)
HENRIKE DONNER (London School of Economics and Political Science)
This article explores new definitions of good mothering among middle-class families in Calcutta and the way early years education, which has become popular over the last two decades has reshaped women's lives as daughters-in-law and mothers of successful future white-collar workers. Through a detailed ethnography of mothers attitudes to preschool education and the parenting practices associated with it the article explores their roles as consumers within a highly competitive local educational landscape, and argues that it is in through preschool education and the related practises that these women actively shape discourses of politics and modernity.

Provincialism in Modern India: The Multiple Narratives of Education and their Pain (pp397-423)
NITA KUMAR (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)
'Provincialism', or the separation of inferior spaces from normative ones, is seen in this essay as a key trope for interpreting modern Indian history. Provincialism, or provinciality, is a space recognizable instantly. It is marked by slowness, by absence of the new and recent, by what is seen on the national level as a brake-effect in an otherwise promising march forwards. Cities, which is what I concentrate on in this essay, are characterizable as provincial by a certain appearance: a topography of narrow streets, by the sloppy merger of the inside and outside, by an absence of discrimination between the jungle and the civilized as animal life proliferates on the roads. Their space is marked by a lack of discipline, and this lack is further exacerbated by an attitude almost aggressive, at any rate stubborn, that seems to embrace every other dimension of life. The provincial citizen is one whose body identifies with the provincial space. It revels in an indifference to the rules of obedience to arbitrary external exercises of power. The provincial space and its citizen are marked in the use of languages by the dominance of regional language over English. Overall, the provincial space is signified in the state as an obstacle, political, economic, and most of all cultural, to what could otherwise be the smooth march forward of unfettered forces of rationality and order. But it signifies itself by an alternative code. That which is indiscipline to the center is freedom to the margins; that which is coarse, is cultured; that which is backward, is rich; that which is alien is intimate; and that which is unable to keep step with a march forward is precisely the intelligent and crafty that refuses to play a non-reflexive, mechanical game.

Indian Labour, Labour Standards, and Workers' Health in Burma and Malaya, 1900–1940 (pp425-475)
AMARJIT KAUR (University of New England, Armidale)
Indian labour migration to Burma and Malaya in the late nineteenth century was an important dimension of British colonial rule in Southeast Asia and coincided with the region's greater integration into the international economy. Compared to the Chinese, Indians formed an important minority only in these states where they filled a critical need in the urban manufacturing sector (Burma) and the plantation sector (Malaya). Their importance declined after World War Two, both in absolute and comparative terms. There were fewer millionaires and traders among them and their emigration to these territories was largely regulated by law. Moreover, the specific political and economic relationship between the Colonial Office in London and these territories determined recruitment patterns and influenced employment relations and working conditions. In turn, these impacted on the living conditions and mortality suffered by workers and shaped the structure of health services.

Philology in Viet Nam and its Impact on Southeast Asian Cultural History (pp477-515)
RICHARD G. THOMAS (University of Western Sydney)
The current paper is part of an interdisciplinary project focusing on the intellectual dimensions of the French colonial experience in colonial Viet Nam, particularly in relation to the archaeology of Southeast Asia. As such, the work presented here is intended as a follow-up to the recently published exploration of intellectual movements under colonialism in French-ruled Viet Nam produced by Susan Bayly. Its wider aim is to contextualise the work of the Ecole Française d'Extrême Orient in order to better understand why its product, the cultural history of Viet Nam, is now so far out of step with the rest of mainland Southeast Asia that despite more than thirty years of post-colonial fieldwork by Vietnamese scholars, and more than fifteen years of collaboration with Western institutions, our understanding of Vietnamese protohistory has advanced little since, in a now famous review of the then current state of Vietnamese archaeology, Jeremy Davidson opined that 'our knowledge of Champa remains so fragmentary, vague and inaccurate that the whole subject must be reworked'. The current work has many points of concordance with Bayly's interdisciplinary study. Here too it is argued that the distinctive understandings of race, culture and polity brought to the colony by French scientists, profoundly affected the thought and actions of Vietnamese as well as Europeans, and that the effects of their work were felt both within and beyond the French empire.

Colonial Hong Kong as a Cultural-Historical Place (pp517-543)
JOHN M. CARROLL (Department of History, Saint Louis University)
In July 1997, when Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty, this former British colony became a new kind of place: a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China (PRC). In the several years leading up to the 1997 transition, a sudden outpouring of Mainland Chinese scholarship stressed how Hong Kong had been an inalienable part of China since ancient times. Until then, however, Hong Kong had rarely figured in Mainland Chinese scholarship. Indeed, Hong Kong suffered from what Michael Yahuda has called a "peculiar neglect": administered by the British but claimed by China, it was "a kind of bureaucratic no-man's land." Only one university in all of China had a research institute dedicated primarily to studying Hong Kong. As part of this new "Hong Kong studies" (Xianggangxue), in 1997 China's national television studio produced two multi-episodic documentaries on Hong Kong: "One Hundred Years of Hong Kong" (Xianggang bainian) and "Hong Kong Vicissitudes" (Xianggang cangsang). The studio also produced two shorter documentaries, "One Hundred Points about Hong Kong" (Xianggang baiti) and "The Story of Hong Kong" (Xianggang de gushi). The "Fragrant Harbor" that PRC historians had generally dismissed as an embarrassing anachronism in a predominantly postcolonial world suddenly found its way into millions of Mainland Chinese homes.

Modern Asian Studies (2006)
Copyright ©2006 Cambridge University Press

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