SUBALTERN STUDIES

October 31, 2006 at 8:44 pm | Posted in Asia, Books, Globalization, History, India, Literary, Third World, United Kingdom, World-system | Leave a comment

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Subaltern Studies

The Subaltern Studies Group (SSG) or Subaltern Studies Collective
are a group of South Asian scholars interested in the postcolonial and post-imperial societies of South Asia in particular and the developing world in general. The term
Subaltern Studies is sometimes also applied
more broadly to others who share many of their views. Their approach is one of history from below, focused more on what happens among the masses at the base levels of society than among the elite.

The term “subaltern” in this context is an implied reference to an essay by Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci (1881ā€“1937). Literally, it refers to any person or group of inferior rank and station, whether because of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or religion.

The SSG arose in the 1980s, to attempt to formulate a new narrative of the history of India and South Asia. This narrative strategy most clearly inspired by the writings of Gramsci was explicated in the writings of their “mentor” Ranajit Guha, most clearly in his “manifesto” in Subaltern Studies I and also in his classic monograph ‘The Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency.’
Although they are, in a sense, on the left, they are very critical of the traditional Marxist narrative of Indian history, in which semi-feudal India was colonized by the British, became politicized, and earned its independence. In particular, they are critical of the focus of this narrative on the political consciousness of elites, who in turn inspire the masses to resistance and rebellion against the British.

Instead, they focus on non-elites ā€” subalterns ā€” as agents of political and social change. They have had a particular interest in the discourses and rhetoric of emerging political and social movements, as against only highly visible actions like demonstrations and uprisings.

People associated with Subaltern Studies

The Subaltern Studies group was founded by Ranajit Guha.
In more recent times, many have been disillusioned with the post-modern turn that the group has taken (notably Sumit Sarkar who left the group).

Other scholars associated with Subaltern Studies include

External links

Further reading

  • Young, Robert, White Mythologies. Routledge, 1990, reissued 2004. Several associated ISBNs, including ISBN 0-415-31181-0, ISBN 0-415-31180-2.
  • Ludden, David, ed., Reading Subaltern Studies. Critical History, Contested Meaning and the Globalization of South Asia, London 2001.
  • Chaturvedi, Vinayak, ed., Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial. London and New York 2000.

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