Nationality, temporality, and agency after the 1947 partition of Bengal

Author: 
Ghosh, Gautam
Year: 
2000

     This dissertation operates at three interrelated levels. First, it is a study of the Partition of India in 1947, the population displacement precipitated by it and its contemporary consequences. The Partition and "its" population displacement have been understudied over the years. Although there has been some redress of late, the focus of these recent studies have typically been on either (i) the "high politics" of the Partition, (ii) the Punjab "wing" of the Partition, rather than on Bengal, or (iii) Hindu-Muslim relations. This thesis focuses attention on the experience of Partition at a more "popular" level and, moreover, highlights the process in Bengal. More precisely, attention is given to the upper-class, upper-caste Bengali Hindu bhadralok who were displaced by the Partition.
     Second, scholars have argued that bhadralok nationalism was characterized by an "inner" and "outer" dichotomy. Taking this argument as a point of departure, the thesis examines the protean nature of this relation between the "inner" and the "outer" over time and in various contexts. How is the inner domain constituted before Partition, and during the peak of the nationalist movement? How are the inner and outer reformulated during and after the Partition, especially in the context of the displacement of the bhadralok , and their consequent loss of status? Attention is given to how representations and practices of temporality are deployed in the process of constructing (or contesting) the inner/outer dichotomy.
     Third the dissertation explores the relationships between human agency, human consciousness, and human science. Following R. G. Collingwood it is argued that cultural (re)production should be seen as a product of human agency. Human agency refers to the capacity of people to formulate and pursue their ideals and, in doing so, effecting and affecting social reality. Agency entails the possibility of choosing between different courses of action, and in the course of action altering their own content. Thus, a focus on human agency yields an analysis which foregrounds forms of action rather than states of being.

Advisor(s): 
Inden, Ronald, Kelly, John
Department: