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

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Widening the Frames of Subaltern Studies

Widening the Frames of Subaltern Studies

New Subaltern Politics: Reconceptualizing Hegemony and Resistance in Contemporary India edited by Alf Gunvald Nilsen and Srila Roy, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015; pp x + 318, 850.

The book under review, New Subaltern Politics: Reconceptualizing, Hegemony and Resistance in Contemporary India aims to widen the frames of the most influential Subaltern Studies project by critically engaging with the original Subaltern Studies to analyse state and popular resistance in postcolonial India. The Subaltern Studies initiative was started by Ranajit Guha in the early 1980s in response to the teleology of Marxist, nationalist and imperialist scholarship on the colonial state power and the resistance of subaltern communities. The aftermath of the national Emergency in 1975 indeed provided the context for this initiative, which spurred popular movements against the Indian state across the country, particularly by peasants, Adivasis and Dalits. It was from this vantage point that the Subaltern Studies project re-examined the subaltern resistance and insurgency in colonial India. However, it failed to expand its project to the postcolonial period. New Subaltern Politics has endeavoured to fill this gap. A set of sociologists and anthropologists (except for David Arnold and Rashmi Varma, who are a historian and literary theorist respectively) have taken on this task by bringing forth rich and illuminating studies on politics and forms of resistance in postcolonial India.

The volume is divided into three thematic sections, and each section has, again, three chapters, besides a thought-provoking introduction by the editors and a wonderful postscript by David Arnold, which illustrates the contributions and limitations of the original Subaltern Studies project. The editors of the volume have reconceptualised the concept of subalternity, hegemony and civil society explicitly. Underlining the shortfall of the use of subaltern as an empirical category and subalternity as exclusion and marginality in the early Subaltern Studies, the editors take an expansive, relational and intersectional account of subalternity that locates it in a wide social field of power relations to address a plurality of contexts-specific manifestations of power.

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Updated On : 24th May, 2017

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