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

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End of the Postcolonial State

Much of the scholarship on Bangladesh’s founding places it within a narrative of repetition. It either repeats the partitions of 1905 or 1947 or the creation of India and Pakistan as postcolonial states. This paper argues instead for the novelty of Bangladesh’s creation against the postcolonial state, suggesting that it opened up a new history at the global level in which decolonisation was replaced by civil war as the founding narrative for new states.

Beyond the Break with the Past

In the 1940s, Bengali Muslim intellectuals sought to find a new autonomy in a comprehensive break with the texts and language of the Hindu-dominated literature of the “Bengal Renaissance.” But within a few years of Pakistan’s founding, a new generation argued that disavowing the past was not...

Collision amid Collusion and Cooperation

This paper examines the history of largely understudied women’s rights activists in the early years of East Pakistan. While they collided with West Pakistani activists—and the central state—on matters of culture, identity, and political and economic issues, they actively cooperated with West Pakistani counterparts to fight gender discrimination and to demand reform in women’s rights from the state.

Dhaka 1969

A reading of 1969, the momentous year of protests against Ayub Khan’s dictatorship in East Pakistan is offered, going beyond the popular tropes of inevitability and loss. The moments when Bengali nationalism exceeded its own expectations by making michhil or procession its main focus are identified. A rumination on Dhaka, which found its present cultural and political identity through the upheaval of the 1960s is presented.

Independence, Freedom, Liberation

The idea of swadhinata (which translates as both freedom and independence), along with a novel conception of liberation (mukti), animated the founding discourse of Bangladesh in 1971. This paper explores how these ideas, and their longer histories, jostled together to shape the promise of Bangladesh’s founding. It also reflects on how the conflictual promise of 1971 underwrote the political history of post-independence Bangladesh.

Emotional World of the Bengal Renaissance

Bengal Renaissance Exploring Emotional History: Gender, Mentality and Literature in the Indian Awakening by Rajat Kanta Ray; Oxford University Press, 2001; pp xii+333, Rs 595.

Revisiting the 'Bengal Renaissance'

Print language and literature played a vital role in shaping ideas and identities in colonial Bengal from the 18th century onwards. With its adoption by the ruling class and the indigenous population, Bengali marked a site that also oversaw contests for domination across a broad social spectrum. For the latter moreover, the language also defined their cultural identity, as part of the attempt to create a new literary prose Bengali to distinguish it from earlier colloquial forms. The new Bengali became an essential tool for the urban, educated upper middle classes to establish their power over lesser privileged groups - women, the lowly classes and poor Muslims. However, commercial print cultures that emanated from numerous cheap presses in Calcutta and its suburbs disseminated wide-ranging literary preferences that afforded a space to different sections of the Bengali middle classes to voice their own distinctive concerns.

A Tribute to Sushobhan Sarkar

The birth centenary of one of India's foremost historians and teacher of history at Calcutta's Presidency College for 24 years, Sushobhan Sarkar was observed in December last year. Sarkar's contributions to the study of Indian history and its historiography remain of enduring significance - especially his writings on what after him, came to be called the Bengal Renaissance. Though a Marxist historian, Sarkar never flinched from criticising aspects of Marxism that disturbed him, as seen in his assessment of Joseph Stalin and his protest over the Soviet military occupation of Prague. The best way to pay tribute, the author feels, is to fight for democratisation in Marxism and in history writing.

Relevance of Raja Rammohan Roy

Rammohan's approach to the question of freedom and authority may suggest interesting parallels and possibilities in a society characterised by the erosion of the democratic process and the persistence of the illusion of justice and welfare. Which of these parallels and possibilities one chooses will depend on one's frame of mind. That will influence one's understanding of and reactions to both Rammohan Roy and the contemporary situation. For present-oriented utilitarian history is essentially a creative subjective process. But it too has some essence of objectivity. To that extent, whatever one's particular choice, it would not be possible for those studying the relevance of Rammohan today to ignore the threat to human freedom and welfare. For it was these that he earnestly championed and fought for under the rule of an alien and ruthless trading corporation.
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