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Portuguese India, the Politics of Print and a Questionable Modernity

Between Empires: Print and Politics in Goa by Rochelle Pinto

BOOK REVIEWEconomic & Political Weekly EPW august 16, 200831those whose languages will not even be recognised as Indian by most of the good people of Karnataka, are far less advanta-geously placed than the Kannada- speaking people in terms of every social and economic variable. Living through traumatic and violent social upheavals, some of these also face grave uncertain-ties and perils about their very being. And yet, these smaller nationalities are far less noisy and far more equanimous about their predicament than the Kannada people who seem to nurse a sense of being specially chosen for victimisation that is getting entrenched into the Kannada psyche.Exclusivism Almost EverywhereMore than globalisation which is undoubt-edly creating in India a state of several nations, rather perfunctorily touched upon in the essays on Bangalore and its IT culture that is loftily indifferent to every-thing else except profits, the political and economic policies pursued, albeit with several contradictions dictated by oppor-tunism rather than principled differences, and the grievances accumulated thereof over several decades of misrule nationally, have been central to the increasing insu-larity of almost of every language group. Karnataka is a relative latecomer to such exclusivism. Only the disdainfully viewed “north Indians”, the “bhayyas”, a truly pan-Indian working class despised by the sophisticated everywhere, seem to be free from such insularity. It is not accidental that while sub-nationalist assertions are in one way or the other present in all non-Hindi speaking states, and in many cases has been appropriated and absorbed by the so-called mainstream political parties of the centre and the right (Amra Bangali has miserably failed in West Bengal and Tripura), such exclusivist assertions are singularly absent in the Hindi-speaking states. To say that the Hindi-speaking states do not need such mobilisations because they own the whole country may be a good witticism, but utterly wrong politically.Indeed, the disturbing aspect of Kan-nada exclusivism is that unlike in other states where militant local nationalisms are to some extent marginalised even while the ruling parties seek tactical accommodation with them (the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra is a classic example of such complicity and collaboration), in Karnataka, theKRV has been very much part of the political establishment. Its colours and standard are now accepted almost across the board as Karnataka’s “national” colours and “national” flag, and are flaunted ceremoniously on public occasions. This symbolic practice could well become a truly novel way of keeping faith with the mother tongue (more appro-priately, home language) since it has already gained legitimacy in the state. Email: kamaroopi@gmail.comPortuguese India, the Politics of Print and a Questionable ModernityTeotónio R de SouzaThis book is a result of research undertaken for a PhD. Publishers however, usually impose restric-tions of space and in such situations the author is often forced to make difficult choices and bear the responsibility of fac-ing the consequences of those choices. Rochelle Pinto tells us that she seeks to explore print production in Goa, locating it within similar studies of print produc-tion in colonial India. Contrary to her own expectations, the evidence she gath-ered seemed to point to dissimilar proc-esses in Goa and in colonial India. What could explain the difference? Her answer is: The different nature and guiding prin-ciples of the two colonial systems and the relations between the colonial states and their colonial elites. The two colonialisms are seen as his-torically and conceptually different. Print production in Goa had been generally identified with the Catholic elite, and that is where it stops in most histories of Goa. Pinto admits that her study too remains very far from an exhaustive representa-tion of the responses to colonialism in 19th century Goa. She also makes a sub-stantial listing of “omissions from what would be a more complete or adequate picture of politics or (sic) print”. Whatever the acknowledged shortcomings (and other not acknowledged ones) of this study, Pinto has cast her print-net pretty wide and brilliantly, focusing upon the 19th century print as a tool used in Goa by the state, by the traditional Catholic elites, and by the non-elites (particularly non-brahmin Catholics and Hindus) in Goa and Bombay to mark their respective positions and to affirm their gains in a new modernity.Freedom from Borrowed ModelsIn the acknowledgements in the book we are told that the research was conducted at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) (London), and was funded by variousUK trusts. The result is pre-sented in this book by the Oxford Univer-sity Press (OUP), New Delhi. Such privi-leged associations have their financial and marketing benefits, but for truly dedicated researchers on subalterns, they imply some unpleasant costs, starting with the need to pepper the beginnings and the ends of every chapter with a range of “authorities” drawn pre-ferentially from the catalogues of OUP publications or other western denizens. It is the same old 19th century orientalist trend whereby SOAS and their western partners and third world coun-terparts or “peers” train their young researchers to step into their shoes! Post-structuralism (and/as after-orientalism) is presented here as a new form of vali-dating research with conceptualisations/contextualisations borrowed from a Benedict, a Habermas, a Bourdieuora Between Empires: Print and Politics in Goa by Rochelle Pinto;Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2007; pp 209, Rs 645.

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BOOK REVIEWEconomic & Political Weekly EPW august 16, 200833Portugal: As damas nativas eram ainda inferiores em número às descendentes, e se não poderam vencer estas em elegancia e coquettismo, deslumbraram-nas na riqueza dos toilettes confeccionados em Bombaim com o maximo esmero e riqueza (“The native ladies were inferior in number to the white descendants and did not excel them in elegance and coquetry, but sur-passed them in quality and wealth of their make-up acquired in Bombay”, p 156). It should not be forgotten that the Portu-guese Republic of 1910 was a direct conse-quence of the British ultimatum of 1890 to Portuguese pretensions to thwart British plans in Africa by linking Angola and Mozambique internally. Political moder-nity was forced upon Portugal, just as England had forced the start of a cultural and constitutional modernity by pressing for the closure of the inquisition and the introduction of a constitutional monarchy at the end of its occupation of Portugal during Napoleonic invasions. The concept of “subalterns”, made fashionable throughOUP since the not-so-recent past, is brought in as a key concept to emphasise the role that print played in giving voice to the Hindus as well as the non-elite (non-brahmin and non-Chardó) castes among Goan Catholics. Pinto points out to the relatively limited extent of the press impact in the 19th century outside the capital and major towns of Goa, point-ing to disparities of client markets and printing costs in Goa and Bombay. Two incidents that have been analysed at greater length to claim the impact of the press upon the rural and non-elite groups, both Hindu and Catholic, are related to a rebellion of native soldiers of Satari in 1895 and a clash between brahmin and shudra ‘ganvkars’ (villagers)in Aldona. In both cases, the point sought to be made is that literacy was no longer an elite pre-serve, and non-elites had learnt to link and manipulate documentation as legal evidence. In these cases, as well as elsewhere in this book, there is much that remains to be documented, such as the chains of subalternities and their interde-pendence or mutual exploitation, and the need to provide statistics and identifica-tion of the so-called non-elites that are said to be the great winners in the print age, be it in Goa or in Bombay. This I see as the Achiles’ heel of this study. It is con-sequently presumed that a great majority of the poor Goan Catholic migrants living in Bombay clubs (kudd) were non-brah-min or non-Chardo Catholics. There is no evidence adduced to identify who were the producers and major clients of the newspapers, novels, or cook books pro-duced in Bombay and listed in this study. No amount of high falutin’ conceptual models and theorisations that character-ise many west-imitating scholarship can compensate for the lack of a painstaking checking of historical evidence.Pros and ConsWe came across some questionable state-ments: On p 11 it is stated that Christian priests were tried, persecuted and “killed”, or on p 122 that “No printing press was allowed to function in Goa” (during 1754-1821). I have yet to know of any priest killed by the Portuguese administration in Goa, unless they were Hindu priests. There were also many decrees issued by the Marquis of Pombal, but hardly any were really enforced, excepting one expel-ling the Jesuits. Is there any proof that an order of 1754 about the printing press was really enforced? Particularly after 1759, when there were no Jesuits in Goa who could be feared for using it? Is Pinto’s statement drawn from A K Priolkar with-out any critical checking? Between Empires: Print and Politics in Goais one book where a reader can gulp in a wealth of information about the vari-ous genres of print production by Goans in Portuguese, Konkani and Marathi. It includes a detailed analysis of a couple of novels in Portuguese (Os Brahmanes and Jacob e Dulce) and one in Konkani (Battcara), revealing the impact of the print as an aid to self-representation and social contestation by different social groups. The author is a promising scholar of her generation in Goa, writing both in the mainstream press and academic jour-nals. No criticism in this review, however harsh it may sound, takes away any merit from this young scholar who has shown extraordinary ability to absorb so much in so many languages in such a short span of time. The book would need a much more detailed commentary than it has been possible within the space limitations of this present review. Forced to conclude, I shall refer back to the “omissions” that were so honestly admitted by the author in the preface. One major omission is the ‘padroado’ (the privilege of patronage extended by the Pope to the king of Portu-guese over three episcopal jurisdictions in India) issue. If it was a conscious omission it deserved a justification, because it is central to the Portuguese empire which has been classified in the study, by adopt-ing Pagden’s Romanist model of empire, as characterised by Christian universal-ism. Even after Portugal handed over Bombay to the English East India Company in 1661-65, the strong link of Portuguese Christianity continued, for a couple of centuries before the Goan emigration enhanced its church connection to that region. In the absence of its political influ-ence, the Portuguese tried to sustain its cultural presence through padroado in British India, in an attempt to hang on to its Romanist model of empire within the British colonial empire. If much print was involved in the 19th century in Goa- related issues, it was in the war of pam-phleteering for and against padroado, before and after the papal brief Multa Praeclara of 1838, involving Goan elites and non-elites from Goa and Bombay in acrimonious debates till about the Con-cordat of 1950. Beneath the cover of eccle-siastical jurisdiction the real issues were of a cultural-political nature. It is a com-plex and challenging issue of 19th century print and politics related to Goa, and Goans beyond Goa, drawing in castes, classes and nationalities, elites and non-elites. On that and on the ‘East Indians’ (also a silenced group in Rochelle’s “omissions”) we could look forward to further treats from Rochelle Pinto in the very near future.Email: teodesouza@gmail.comNEWEPW Index 2006Readers can download the complete author and article index (PDF files) for 2006 from the EPW web site.The index for 2005 is also available on the same page.

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