2012: After Subaltern Studies

Princeton South Asia 2012 poster

April 27-28, 2012

Keynote speaker: Partha Chatterjee

Since its intervention in the early 1980’s, “Subaltern Studies” has transformed the historiography of South Asia. This conference aims to examine the trajectories South Asian scholarship has taken three decades from its inception and five years since the last publication from the collective. The aim is not to debate Subaltern Studies but to engage with questions raised by the field in the aftermath of its intervention. The workshop would particularly encourage work that steps beyond the colonial period and explores both early modern and postcolonial South Asia. The workshop aims to bring the work of early career scholars (graduate students and junior faculty) in conversation with senior scholars.

We invite papers from all disciplines that engage with South Asia.

The Return of Political Economy and Capital

Subaltern Studies emerged as a critique of nationalist-Marxist historiography and challenged reductionist materialist readings of episode like peasant rebellions and at a discursive level it also contested the idea of a world history of capital. How does one re-engage with questions of political economy? Is it meaningful to shift the lens from the economy to the idea of economic life? Can we mediate between the local and the global through the category of the everyday?

The State and Legality

Ranajit Guha in an early essay described law as the state’s emissary, through which ‘the will of the state could be made to penetrate, reorganize part by part and eventually control the will of a subject population in much the same way as Providence is brought to impose itself upon mere human destiny”. The more recent turn to legal history has contested this claim and opened up new judicial archives, and brought in discussions of legal consciousness. How does law reconfigure the relationship with the subaltern and the state? Can a notion of legalities be more productive than thinking through law?

Rethinking Gender and Sexuality

Questions of gender entered Subaltern Studies scholarship fairly late, and remained confined to the position of women and the narrative of nationalism. How do we productively think through the category of gender ? How do we integrate masculinity? Can certain forms of sexualities be subaltern?

Dalit History and Experience

Although late Subaltern Studies conceived the Dalit as subaltern and made gestures in this regard, Dalit scholarship has charted its own course. How do scholars interpret Dalit history and politics in the wake of Subaltern Studies? What are the emergent categories of this scholarship?

Histories of the Secular Rationality

History by its very nature is a secularizing discipline. How do we then write histories of belief? Is it possible to explain faith within the narrative of history? How do we locate subalternity when writing about religion?

Critical Geographies

Does attention to ‘spatiality’ enable a reconsideration of political ideas like nationalism? How does spatiality square with practices of place making? Can ‘fabulous geographies’ be accommodated into accounts of space.

The organizing committee would like to acknowledge the generous support of Ishan Tankha for the use of the above photograph.  
All images  © Ishan Tankha

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