Writing Cultural History in Colonial and Postcolonial India

Writing Cultural History in Colonial and Postcolonial India

Henry Schwarz

192 pages | 5 1/2 X 8 1/2
Cloth 1997 | ISBN 9780812233735 | Buy from De Gruyter $79.95 | €69.95 | £70.50
Ebook 2016 | ISBN 9781512806458 | Buy from De Gruyter $79.95 | €69.95 | £70.50
This book is available under special arrangement from our European publishing partner De Gruyter.
An Anniversary Collection volume

During the colonial period in India, English historians portrayed the British conquest and domination of India as the realization of a historic destiny, absorbing the particular history of India into the overarching narrative of the Empire. When Indian scholars educated in the British system began to write their own histories of the period, they had to struggle to reclaim their past and to make the Indian people the subject of their history.

Henry Schwarz explores this struggle through an analysis of Indian cultural histories written between 1870 and the present. Focusing on English-language texts written by Bengali historians on the subjects of literature and culture, Schwarz critically analyzes landmark works of the genre and compares Indian writing about cultural heritage to the dominant forms of European historiography prevalent during the colonial period.

Indian historians incorporated European aesthetic standards and theories of history into their writing, yet they managed to transform these ideas in ways that challenged British ideological domination. Schwarz shows how, in writing a distinctly Indian history of India, they produced a unique historiographical style of great complexity deploying brilliant reconfigurations of the dominant themes, styles, ideologies, and tropes that characterize acceptable modes of history writing in the West.

Moving from the late nineteenth century to the present, Schwarz identifies six distinct modes of translation and transformation produced by these writers, ranging from liberal-nationalist text to those of writers associated with the Subaltern Studies project. He analyzes the narrative modes employed during the period and traces the movement toward the metaphoric and ironic styles of the post-Independence era.

Writing Cultural History in Colonial and Postcolonial India provides a needed counterweight to the emphasis on colonial discourse that has come to dominate recent postcolonial scholarship. By examining how the colonized interpreted and transformed the experience of oppression through their own work, this book represents postcolonial studies written from the other side.

Henry Schwarz is Professor of English at Georgetown University.

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