ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Of Crime in Colonial Calcutta

The Wicked City: Crime and Punishment in Colonial Calcutta by Sumanta Banerjee (Hyderabad: Orient BlackSwan), 2009; pp ix + 643, Rs 795.

Revisiting the 'Bengal Renaissance'

Print language and literature played a vital role in shaping ideas and identities in colonial Bengal from the 18th century onwards. With its adoption by the ruling class and the indigenous population, Bengali marked a site that also oversaw contests for domination across a broad social spectrum. For the latter moreover, the language also defined their cultural identity, as part of the attempt to create a new literary prose Bengali to distinguish it from earlier colloquial forms. The new Bengali became an essential tool for the urban, educated upper middle classes to establish their power over lesser privileged groups - women, the lowly classes and poor Muslims. However, commercial print cultures that emanated from numerous cheap presses in Calcutta and its suburbs disseminated wide-ranging literary preferences that afforded a space to different sections of the Bengali middle classes to voice their own distinctive concerns.
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