Biblio 1999 review.
From Subaltern Studies 10 (1999), p. v-vi.
This volume represents Subaltern Studies' longstanding commitment to highlight subaltern themes in South-Asian history. In recent years, this has meant not only publishing articles on the historical practices of subaltern groups, but also pressing our inquiries into subalternity beyond conventional boundaries. Thus, we have expanded our critical focus to include élite texts and practices, our interests have ranged beyond the discipline of history, and we have tackled issues of contemporary politics and politics of knowledge. These moves have not pleased our critics who wish us to place the subaltern firmly within a clearly-defined domain. They look unkindly at our audacity to subject éite practices to critical scrutiny, and object to our straying beyond the strictly defined disciplinary practices of history. On our part, however, we have always conceived the presence and pressure of subalternity to extend beyond subaltern groups; nothing - not élite practices, state policies, academic disciplines, literary texts, archival sources, language - was exempt from effects of subalternity. In keeping with this conception, recent volumes have sought to expand our inquiry, exploring new directions and tackling fresh issues. The present volume exemplifies this effort.
The articles by Ishita Banerjee Dube, Indrani Chatterjee, Kaushik Ghosh, Sundar Kaali, and Vijay Prashad deal with the intractable presence of subalternity in dominant formations and representations. Banerjee Dube locates subaltern cultural practices on the borderlines of the religious and the secular; Chatterjee traces the constitution of the gendered subaltern in the slave- concubinage practised by the representatives of the East India Company during the late eighteenth century, Ghosh analyzes the place of aboriginality in the construction of the nation; Kaali describes the subaltern carnivalization of the temple space; and Prashad locates the historical limits of the nation-state in its turn to coercion as it confronts the Dalits. Christopher Pinney deals with the contentious presence of 'Indian magical realism', and [++page vi] throws critical light on the institution of art in colonial India. Sudesh Mishra's contribution resists an easy characterization, for it navigates between history and memory, and raises questions about how we should represent the dislocating experience of transplantation and disenfranchisement experienced by the Indian indentured labourers in Fiji. Can the discipline of history and its forms of writing, which have traditionally depended upon notions of a located subject, deal adequately with the experience of dislocation and dispossession? Finally, we have handed over the 'Discussion' section to Rosemary Sayigh who uses the concept of subalternity in understanding the practices and conditions of Palestinian women.
It took the collaborative effort of the Subaltern Studies Editorial Collective to produce this volume, though three members undertook the task of editing it on behalf of the Collective. We thank Oxford University Press for its continuing support to our project.
Webber Philip McEldowney