The production of India: Colonialism, nationalism and territorial nativism, 1870-1920

Author: 
Goswami, Manu
Year: 
1998

     This dissertation explores the socio-structural, historical and discursive transformations that made possible nationalist imaginings of colonial India or more specifically, Bharat, the dominant Hindu-Hindi term for the nation and the constitutional name for post-colonial India, as a bounded national space and economy. By exploring this previously unexamined question, I develop a novel account of both the origins and contradictory character of Indian nationalism. I argue that a tension between a universalist conception of national developmentalism and a particularist, specifically Hindu understanding of nationhood was built into Indian nationalism. I suggest that both the secular self-understanding of institutional nationalism and the particularist ideology of Hindu nationalism rest on a notion of a Hindu majority and a Muslim minority bound together within a single territorial whole, India. It is the very idea of India as a bounded national space and economy, as first elaborated in the late nineteenth century, that has made possible both a universalist language of development and engendered terrifying violence and social conflict.
     I argue that the conception of India as a bounded national entity was the product of three intertwined processes that operated on multiple, superimposed spatial and temporal scales. The first process is the dynamic interplay between colonial practices of spatial and economic restructuring and the ways in which they were reworked, revalued, and experienced by colonial subjects. The second is key transnational developments, especially the post-1870s emergence of an autarkic national-developmentalist model forged by political and capitalist elites in Germany, USA, and Japan, and the consolidation of a self-consciously nationalist, neo-mercantilist and developmentalist conception of political and economic space. The third process is the more proximate formation of what I call a territorial nativist conception of nationhood that led to the successively sharper crystallization of the boundaries between the emergent categorical identities of 'Hindu' and 'Muslim' during this period. This dissertation challenges 'internalist' studies of nationalism by showing how state practices of spatial and economic restructuring, in tandem with key transnational developments, generate particular forms of nationalism.

Advisor(s): 
Sewell, William, Rudolph, Susanne
Department: