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 liberalisman 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.
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.
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.
In The Politics of Islamic Law political scientist Iza Hussin offers a genealogy of contemporary Islamic law, a political analysis of elite negotiations over religion, state, and society in the British colonial period, and a history of current Muslim approaches to law, state, and identity. Hussin argues that Islamic law as it is legislated and debated throughout the Muslim world today is no longer the shariandrsquo;ah as it previously existed. She shows that shariandrsquo;ahandmdash;an uncodified and locally administered set of legal institutions and laws with wide-ranging jurisdictionandmdash;was transformed (not eradicated as some have argued) during the British colonial period into a codified, state-centered system with jurisdiction largely limited to law regarding family, personal status, ethnic identity, and the andldquo;privateandrdquo; domain.and#160; As a result, the practices, beliefs, and possibilities inherent in law, changed, and so did the strategies, attitudes and aspirations of those who used this changing system. Its present institutional forms, its substantive content, its symbolic vocabulary, and its relationship to state and societyandndash;in short, its politicsandndash;are built upon foundations laid during the colonial encounter, in struggles between local and colonial elites. The Politics of Islamic Law undertakes a cross-regional comparison of India, Malaya, and Egypt which illustrates that Islamic law is a trans-global product shaped by local political networks. The rearrangement of the local elite combined with the new reach of the state made possible by colonial power gave local elites a vested interest in this twinning of the centrality of Islamic legitimacy and the marginalization of its legal content. These processes are traced through close examinations of debates over jurisdiction, the definition of Islamic law, and in turn the nature of the state. This work makes an important contribution to critical debates in comparative politics, history, legal anthropology, comparative law, and Islamic studies.
About the Author
Leela Gandhi is professor of English at the University of Chicago. She is the founding coeditor of the journal Postcolonial Studies and the author, most recently, of Affective Communities: Anticolonial Thought and the Politics of Friendship.
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