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Other titles in the Chicago Studies in Practices of Meaning series:
Producing India: From Colonial Economy to National Space (Chicago Studies in Practices of Meaning)by Manu Goswami
Synopses & Reviews
Europeans and Americans tend to hold the opinion that democracy is a uniquely Western inheritance, but in The Common Cause, Leela Gandhi recovers stories of an alternate version, describing a transnational history of democracy in the first half of the twentieth century through the lens of ethics in the broad sense of disciplined self-fashioning. Gandhi identifies a shared culture of perfectionism across imperialism, fascism, and liberalism—an ethic that excluded the ordinary and unexceptional. But, she also illuminates an ethic of moral imperfectionism, a set of anticolonial, antifascist practices devoted to ordinariness and abnegation that ranged from doomed mutinies in the Indian military to Mahatma Gandhis spiritual discipline.
Reframing the way we think about some of the most consequential political events of the era, Gandhi presents moral imperfectionism as the lost tradition of global democratic thought and offers it to us as a key to democracys future. In doing so, she defends democracy as a shared art of living on the other side of perfection and mounts a postcolonial appeal for an ethics of becoming common.
In “The Common Cause,” Leela Gandhi reconsiders the history of democracy in the first half of the twentieth century through the lens of ethics in the broad sense of disciplined self-fashioning. Gandhi recovers the stories of Indians and others who refused the spoils of anticolonial nationalism and spiritually embraced an alternative democracy, including the best that Europe itself had to offer. She identifies, on the one hand, a heroic ethic of moral perfectionism shared across imperialism, fascism, and new liberalism--an ethic notably contemptuous of the ordinary and the unexceptional. On the other hand, and the main focus of her book, is an ethic of moral “imperfectionism”--a set of anticolonial, antifascist practices devoted to ordinariness, indeed abnegation, and ranging from doomed mutinies in the Indian military to Mahatma Gandhi’s spiritual discipline. These oppositional practices, Leela Gandhi argues, made common cause both with the victims and abettors of social injustice by defending the former and reforming the latter. Her book elegantly recovers the elusive history of moral imperfectionism, offering it to us as a lost tradition of democratic thought and as a key to its future elaboration. Euro-American opinion holds that democracy is a uniquely Western property and inheritance. In contrast, Gandhi’s book claims a global provenance for democracy as a shared art of living “on the other side of perfection.” It mounts a postcolonial appeal for an ethics of becoming common.
When did categories such as a national space and economy acquire self-evident meaning and a global reach? Why do nationalist movements demand a territorial fix between a particular space, economy, culture, and people?
Producing India mounts a formidable challenge to the entrenched practice of methodological nationalism that has accorded an exaggerated privilege to the nation-state as a dominant unit of historical and political analysis. Manu Goswami locates the origins and contradictions of Indian nationalism in the convergence of the lived experience of colonial space, the expansive logic of capital, and interstate dynamics. Building on and critically extending subaltern and postcolonial perspectives, her study shows how nineteenth-century conceptions of India as a bounded national space and economy bequeathed an enduring tension between a universalistic political economy of nationhood and a nativist project that continues to haunt the present moment.
Elegantly conceived and judiciously argued, Producing India will be invaluable to students of history, political economy, geography, and Asian studies.
About the Author
Manu Goswani is an assistant professor of history and East Asia studies at New York University.
Table of Contents
1. Geographies of State Transformation: The Production of Colonial State Space
2. Envisioning the Colonial Economy
3. Mobile Incarceration: Travels in Colonial State Space
4. Colonial Pedagogical Consolidation
5. Space, Time, and Sovereignty in Puranic-Itihas
6. India as Bharat: A Territorial Nativist Vision of Nationhood, 1860-1880
7. The Political Economy of Nationhood
8. Territorial Nativism: Swadeshi and Swaraj
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History and Social Science » Asia » India » Ancient and General