Nationalism and Post-Colonial Identity: Culture and Ideology in India and Egypt

Nationalism and Post-Colonial Identity: Culture and Ideology in India and Egypt

Nationalism and Post-Colonial Identity: Culture and Ideology in India and Egypt

Nationalism and Post-Colonial Identity: Culture and Ideology in India and Egypt

Synopsis

This book argues that the seemingly intractable political problems that face India and Egypt today have their origins in the ideological and political crises of the early 20th century.

Excerpt

Some years ago, during what must have been a less than inspiring graduate seminar, I began leafing through a copy of Edward Said's Orientalism and happened to notice his reference to Gramsci's 'inventory' of the self. What, I remember thinking, would such an inventory look like for me? Some 6 years later, as I was typing up the first version of the manuscript, I realised that this book represents such an inventory of sorts. What seemed, at the outset, to be an interesting set of questions concerning literature in modern India and Egypt - questions which I do not recollect as being motivated by any conscious personal investment other than academic interest and curiosity - became in the end a reflection on deeper currents in world history and my relationship to them.

As a child born of mixed religious heritage in India but who left with his parents for Britain at a tender age, my 'identity' has constantly been a wonder, a worry and a problem. Not that I dwelt on it too much as a child, but there were moments when issues of 'identity' surfaced and took on a significance that began to grow as I grew older. Incidents of racial tension and abuse - though, luckily, they were few - collectively grew into an archive of memories that signalled a disturbance in my relationship to what I was accustomed to calling 'home', namely Britain; my adolescent rebellion against my father's religion - which continues to this day - has grown into a distinct unease about the place of Islam in the contemporary world; and my growing knowledge that in the country of my birth relations between the two sides of my cultural inheritance, the Hindu and the Muslim, had not always been harmonious - and, indeed, had led to a holocaust - have all shaped my sense of relative distance from certain aspects of my 'identity' and have led me to question the narratives of 'belonging' that constitute it.

These troublesome narratives all seem to converge, for me, on the concept of 'nationhood'. In 1992 a new anxiety appeared on my radar screen as I witnessed for the first time the communal carnage being unleashed upon Muslims in India by the Hindu nationalist-inspired mobs who had been whipped into a frenzy by L.K. Advani, the BJP, and their Sangh Parivar henchmen. It was my first taste, albeit heavily mediated, of communalism in India and struggles over the 'identity' of India. Officially classified as an 'ethnic minority' myself, I instinctively felt sympthy towards the Muslims in India, a feeling sharpened by the fear that my

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