Selected Subaltern Studies

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

More on Modes of Power and the peasantry

PARTHA CHATTERJEE

In an earlier article1, I had presented a set of concepts of modes of power and forms of state organization, along with the outlines of an analytical framework, in the context of a study of peasant movements and ideologies in twentieth-century Bengal. The historical problem discussed there was the following.

There were several instances of what are called 'communal riots' between Hindus and Muslims in different parts of Bengal since the 1890s. With the launching of the Khilafat-Non-cooperation movements in 1919-20, however, the dominant mood became one of remarkable 'communal' solidarity and massive participation in the anti-colonial movements launched by the Congress. This mood was then replaced, again with astonishing suddenness, by widespread political hostility between Hindus and Muslims. From 1925-26 to the partition of the province in 1947, the principal feature of Bengal's politics was a mounting 'communal' antagonism, marked by 4 series of 'riots' of unprecedented spread and intensity.

There are two kinds of explanation of this phenomenon in current historiography. One may be called the 'colonialist' explanation which suggests that 'communal' identities, and hence 'communal' cleav-

____________________
1
Partha Chatterjee, "'Agrarian Relations and Communalism in Bengal, 1926-1935'" in Ranajit Guha (ed.), Subaltern Studies: Writings on South Asian History and Sooety, vol. I ( Delhi, 1982).

-351-

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