Selected Subaltern Studies

By Ranajit Guha; Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak | Go to book overview

On Some Aspects of the Historiography of Colonial Indial1
RANAJIT GUHA
1. The historiography of Indian nationalism has for a long time been dominated by elitism--colonialist elitism and bourgeois- nationalist elitism.2 Both originated as the ideological product of British rule in India, but have survived the transfer of power and been assimilated to neo-colonialist and neo-nationalist forms of discourse in Britain and India respectively. Elitist historiography of the colonialist or neo-colonialist type counts British writers and institutions among its principal protagonists, but has its imitators in India and other countries too. Elitist historiography of the nationalist or neo-nationalist type is primarily an Indian practice but not without imitators in the ranks of liberal historians in Britain and elsewhere.
2. Both these varieties of elitism share the prejudice that the making of the Indian nation and the development of the consciousness--nationalism--which informed this process were exclusively or predominantly elite achievements. In the colonialist and neo-colonialist historiographies these achievements are credited to British colonial rulers, administrators, policies, institutions and culture; in the nationalist and neo-nationalist writings--to Indian elite personalities, institutions, activities and ideas.
3. The first of these two historiographies defines Indian nationalism primarily as a function of stimulus and response. Based on a
____________________
1
The author is grateful to all the other contributors to this volume as well as to Gautam Bhadra, Dipesh Chakrabarty and Raghabendra Chattopadhyay for their comments on an earlier version of this statement.
2
For a definition of the terms 'elite', 'people'. 'subaltern'. etc. as used in these paragraphs the reader may kindly turn to the note printed at the end of this statement.

-37-

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