Subaltern Studies and Beyond: History and Historiography for Modern South Asia

History 275F

Fall 2017
3104 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
Tu 2-4pm
Class Number: 

Subaltern Studies as a collective was brought together by Ranajit Guha in the late 1970s with the explicit aim of generating a new kind of history writing which would, in the immediate context of Indian nationalist history, put the peasant back into the narrative of a nationalist history s/he had actively produced. However, this proved no meagre task. Within India Subaltern Studies had to challenge not just bourgeois elite (and conventional) Indian nationalist historiography that focused on the great nationalist figures (Gandhi, Nehru) to the exclusion of all else, but also take on a dominant Marxist orthodoxy in India and its grip on rural and economic history. Outside India, Subaltern Studies located itself in opposition to the vastly influential Cambridge School that saw all of Indian nationalism as a “loaves and fish” contest for local power and patronage, as well as the hegemonic understanding within the professional world of the discipline of history, of both the concept of “history” and the concept of the “archive.” At the same time, Subaltern Studies borrowed a great deal from the critical scholarship that had emerged at the intersection of the disciplines of history and anthropology, in particular the work coming from the so-called Chicago School. Subaltern Studies brought together a group of scholars who combined theoretical acumen with interdisciplinary methodologies, borrowing from the work of social history, social anthropology, structuralism, linguistics and semiotics in particular.