Subaltern Studies

Topics: Sociology, Social class, India Pages: 8 (2789 words) Published: August 22, 2013
The Subaltern in India
The ground breaking text Orientalism written by Edward Said widened the arena for the post-colonial thinkers to consider the text with a new mechanism in Third World context. Orientalism has developed a purported approach of binary opposition to dismantling the East/West dualism in relation to Eurocentric edifice. The focal point of Said’s study is the ‘West’ and its observation of the ‘East’. The former having all positive traits: white, brave, dynamic, civilized, cultured, educated, rich of the ‘Empire’ identifies the ‘Eastern countries’ as the ‘Other’ with all the negative attributes: black, coward, static, barbaric, natural, uneducated poor people of the ‘Colony’-subjected to their contempt. The post –colonial intellectuals challenge the Eurocentric view by drawing the attention towards the ‘people’ of the ‘decolonized nation’ in which the ‘Other’ belonging to the elite or bourgeoisie sections of the society emerges as the neo-colonizers to exploit its other (the subaltern or other’s other) who are inferior to them in terms of caste, class, office and gender. Post- colonial India has taken a lead in probing the issue of subaltern in all the existent field of knowledge. It has promoted the interdisciplinary researches clubbing history, economics, politics, psychology and anthropology to re-read those dynamics of Indian civilization and history that caused and perpetuated the regime of an unequal society. Initially the term ‘subaltern’ was a military term used to refer to the officers under the rank of captain. The Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, in the Prison Notebooks used the term to refer to the unorganized groups of rural peasants based in Southern Italy, who had no social or political consciousness as a group and were therefore susceptible to the ruling ideas, culture and leadership of the state. (Morton 2007, p. 48) In its current usage drawn from Gramsci, Ranajit Guha with other Subaltern Historians have employed the term for those who are at the lowest in terms of class, caste and gender and thus the ‘people’ become the central point of contention in the cultural studies across the world. Subaltern studies has drawn in its ambit more significantly political and economic history to understand and expose how the distribution of power and wealth throughout ages supported and promoted the interest of social group having political and economic power. Moreover by circulating the myth of the inferiority of the colonized and getting it reinformed through the education system, the colonizers get internalized by the natives. Once that is done, this myth acquires a dimension in which the colonized views his status through the mirrors of the colonizers. Therefore, it becomes essential for the subaltern studies group to include all the post- colonial intellectuals to recognize how certain social group has the position of advantage and the ‘other’ has been remained disposed. Ranajit Guha, Partha Chatterjee, Sumit Sarkar, Gayatri C. Spivak and other contributors to the Subaltern Studies represent their engagement with a new kind of history writing that tries to identify with the ‘subaltern’ in sociology, history and politics prevailed in India from colonial age to independence and after. Therefore, the post-colonial academic scholars collectively and individually excavate and underscore that the narratives of discrimination and injustice against the deprived segment of India has ingrained in power relationship since th ancient times. They testified that the traditional history has been the representative of imperialist history because it has allied itself with the concern of ‘elite’ classes. They raise questions about the truthfulness of history, “how can history claim to speak the truth about past when it has focused its attention on the dominant group of society, the elite?” Substantially with the subaltern studies a new field of cultural studies comes into being that claims to...

Bibliography: Bahl, Vinay. Relevance or (Irrelevance)Of Subaltern Studies, Economic and Political Weekly, vol.32, Print.1997
Chatterjee, Partha. The Nation and its Peasants, The Nation and Its Fragments. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Print.1994
Das, Veena. “Subaltern as Perspective” Subaltern Studies VI:Writing in South Asian History And Society, ed. Ranajit Guha New York Columbia University Press. print1988
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