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

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Subaltern Studies in Retrospect and Reminiscence

The Subaltern Studies project is now over three decades old. One of the founding members of the collective looks back at the "generative errors" which help carry the idea forward, even if the project is formally closed.

An earlier version of this essay was delivered as the opening keynote lecture at a conference held at the Australian National University in Canberra in August 2011 to commemorate 30 years of Subaltern Studies. I am grateful to Debjani Ganguly and Assa Doron who invited me to give the lecture.

A Prefatory Note: Partha Chatterjee (2012) and Hiren Gohain (2012) recently discussed the project of “Subaltern Studies” in the pages of this journal. This essay joins that discussion in a slightly roundabout and peculiar way. The bulk of what follows was actually written sometime before Chatterjee penned his essay. His essay, in fact, refers to and in part engages in a conversation with the lecture on which this present contribution is based. I thought that publishing the substance of that earlier lecture of mine would provide the readers of the EPW with some of the background to what Chatterjee wrote and instantiate at the same time the very “diversity” and “eclecticism” within the Subaltern Studies editorial group that Chatterjee mentioned.

I should also explain why I write the expression “Subaltern Studies” in two different ways. When I do not italicise the expression “Subaltern Studies”, I refer to an ongoing field of studies – not dead or extinct by any means; Subaltern Studies, on the other hand, refers to the series of publications initiated by Ranajit Guha, a series that has now closed. Subaltern Studies may have opened up a new area of academic and political investigation and I consider the field of studies to be a larger phenomenon than the series we collectively edited and published. I return to this distinction briefly in a post-script to this essay.

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