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

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The Work of Theory

Thinking across Traditions

Tackling the question of how to recalibrate the relationship between history and theory in our favour without falling into the trap of either an unqualified universalism or a naïve historicism, this article proposes that we move from the position of being a critic of Western theory to that of being a composer and assembler of a new theory from different sources and different histories.

This article is based on the experience of teaching a course on social and political theory as part of “Researching the Contemporary,” an annual teaching programme at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. We have experimented with the shape and structure of this course and explored the possibility of a somewhat different canon of theoretical readings. Much of what we write has been thought together through the last fi ve years of teaching. We have also benefi ted from conversations with colleagues and friends in other universities who have also been struggling to think theory in/from the global south in ways that go beyond the standard Western canon. We thank in particular, Sudipta Kaviraj, Arindam Chakrabarti, Nivedita Menon, Sibaji Bandyopadhyay, Chandan Gowda, Sukanya Sarbadhikary, Upal Chakrabarti, and colleagues at the CSDS.

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