Thursday, 20 September 2012

Subaltern Studies and Postcolonial Historiography

by Dipesh Chakrabarty, 2000

Subaltern Studies: Writings on Indian History and Society began in 1982 as a series of interventions in some debates specific to the writing of modern Indian history. Ranajit Guha (b.1923), a historian of India then teaching at the University of Sussex, was the inspiration behind it. Guha and eight younger scholars based in India, the United Kingdom, and Australia constituted the editorial collective of Subaltern Studies until 1988, when Guha retired from the team. The series now has a global presence that goes well beyond India or South Asia as an area of academic specialization. The intellectual reach of Subaltern Studies now also exceeds that of the discipline of history. Postcolonial theorists of diverse disciplinary backgrounds have taken interest in the series. Much discussed, for instance, are the ways in which contributors to Subaltern Studies have participated in contemporary critiques of history and nationalism, and of orientalism and Eurocentrism in the construction of social science knowledge. At the same time, there have also been discussions of Subaltern Studies in many history and social science journals. Selections from the series have been published in English, Spanish, Bengali, and Hindi and are in the process of being brought out in Tamil and Japanese. A Latin American Subaltern Studies Association was established in North America in 1992. It would not be unfair to say that the expression “subaltern studies,” once the name of a series of publications in Indian history, now stands as a general designation for a field of studies often seen as a close relative of postcolonialism.

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