ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Space in Assamese Literature, 1910s–1950s

The ‘Bourgeois View’

A critical understanding of space requires an engagement with the material processes that constitute it, as well as the way it is represented in works of art and literature. Moreover, understanding spatiality is also crucial for comprehending how class is constituted. In this regard, this paper explores how, between the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, the bourgeoisie in Assam conceived and represented space. The discussion is based on Lakshminath Bezbaroa’s play Jaymati (1915) and Rasna (Birinchi) Barua’s (1959) novel Seuji Patar Kahini (The Story of the Green Leaves).

 

Space comprises concrete material processes (Harvey 2001), but material processes are also connected to modes of representation of space (Levi-Strauss 1963: 132–66). In turn, the relation between the material basis of space and the mode of its representation centres on how space is conceived, and why it might be conceived in a particular way. This condition comprises a social group’s interpretation of space. In this regard, only a particular dimension is pointed out in this paper, which is the dimension of class. It will be generally appreciated that unlike spatially informed studies on other parts of the world (for example, Taussig 1987), the spatial turn vis-à-vis the geographical spectrum between the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal that are deemed to be frontiers and borderlands has generally tended to underplay the dimension of class. Yet, it is also in this dimension where lies one of the clues to understanding how spaces are conceived and represented.

As such, this paper explores how, between the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century, the bourgeoisie in Assam conceived and represented space. The bourgeoisie comprised of commercial and professional classes, the “propertied and educated” that were closely tied to Assam’s encounter with capitalism and colonialism. Further, just as Eric Hobsbawm (1989) or Franco Moretti (2013) have generally noted, the bourgeois world of Assam was not only socio-economic but also cultural in nature. It is in this context that two examples of the bourgeois construct of space in Assamese literature between the 1910s and 1950s are taken up as illustrations.

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Updated On : 2nd Sep, 2021

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