Dominance Without Hegemony / Edition 1

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What is colonialism and what is a colonial state? Ranajit Guha points out that the colonial state in South Asia was fundamentally different from the metropolitan bourgeois state which sired it. The metropolitan state was hegemonic in character, and its claim to dominance was based on a power relation in which persuasion outweighed coercion. Conversely, the colonial state was non-hegemonic, and in its structure of dominance coercion was paramount. Indeed, the originality of the South Asian colonial state lay precisely in this difference: a historical paradox, it was an autocracy set up and sustained in the East by the foremost democracy of the Western world. It was not possible for that non-hegemonic state to assimilate the civil society of the colonized to itself. Thus the colonial state, as Guha defines it in this closely argued work, was a paradox--a dominance without hegemony.

Dominance without Hegemony had a nationalist aspect as well. This arose from a structural split between the elite and subaltern domains of politics, and the consequent failure of the Indian bourgeoisie to integrate vast areas of the life and consciousness of the people into an alternative hegemony. That predicament is discussed in terms of the nationalist project of anticipating power by mobilizing the masses and producing an alternative historiography. In both endeavors the elite claimed to speak for the people constituted as a nation and sought to challenge the pretensions of an alien regime to represent the colonized. A rivalry between an aspirant to power and its incumbent, this was in essence a contest for hegemony.

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Editorial Reviews

Amartya Sen
Ranajit Guha is, arguably, the most creative Indian historian of this century. His works have deeply influenced not only the writing of subcontinental history, but also historical investigations elsewhere, as well as cultural studies, literary theories, and social analyses across the world.
Edward W. Said
Aside from its obvious relevance to Indian history, Guha's book is a brilliant example of revolutionary historical method, new perspectives on nationalist history, and theoretical inventiveness in the procedures of historical research.
Journal of World History

Over the years, the result of this endeavor has been the production of an eclectic brand of ideological theories, an incisive critique of the existing Indian historiography, and a renewed theoretical fervor, as this book itself epitomizes, for retrieving the history of the
"subaltern" past – their revolutionary political moments and cultural class consciousness.
— Amalendu K. Chakraborty

Journal of World History - Amalendu K. Chakraborty
Over the years, the result of this endeavor has been the production of an eclectic brand of ideological theories, an incisive critique of the existing Indian historiography, and a renewed theoretical fervor, as this book itself epitomizes, for retrieving the history of the
"subaltern" past – their revolutionary political moments and cultural class consciousness.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674214835
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/1998
  • Series: Convergences: Inventories of the Present
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 268
  • Sales rank: 1,020,577
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Ranajit Guha held various research and teaching positions in India, England, the United States, and Australia before his retirement in 1988. He is the founding editor of Subaltern Studies and the author of A Rule of Property for Bengal and Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India.
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Table of Contents


Note on Transliteration

PART 1: Colonialism in South Asia: A Dominance without Hegemony and Its Historiography

I. Conditions for a Critique of Historiography

Dominance and Its Historiographies

Containment of Historiography in a Dominant Culture

Where Does Historical Criticism Come From?

The Universalizing Tendency of Capital and Its Limitations

The General Configuration of Power in Colonial India

II. Paradoxes of Power

Idioms of Dominance and Subordination

Order and Danda

Improvement and Dharma

Obedience and Bhakti

Rightful Dissent and Dharmic Protest

III. Dominance without Hegemony: The Colonialist Moment


Colonialism as the Failure of a Universalist Project

The Fabrication of a Spurious Hegemony

The Bad Faith of Historiography

IV. Preamble to an Autocritique

PART 2: Discipline and Mobilize: Hegemony and Elite Control in Nationalist Campaigns

I. Mobilization and Hegemony

Anticipation of Power by Mobilization

A Fight for Prestige

II. Swadeshi Mobilization

Poor Nikhilesh

Caste Sanctions

Social Boycott

Liberal Politics, Traditional Bans

Swadeshi by Coercion or Consent?

III. Mobilization For Non-cooperation

Social Boycott in Non-cooperation

Gandhi's Opposition to Social Boycott

Hegemonic Claims Contested

IV. Gandhian Discipline

Discipline versus Persuasion

Two Disciplines- Elite and Subaltern

Crowd Control and Soul Control

V. Conclusion

PART 3: An Indian Historiography of India: Hegemonic Implications of a Nineteenth-Century Agenda

I. Calling on Indians to Write Their Own History

II. Historiography and the Formation of a Colonial State

Early Colonial Historiography

Three Types of Narratives

Education as an Instrument of Colonialism

The Importance of English

III. Colonialism and the Languages of the Colonized

Indigenous Languages Harnessed to the Raj

Novels and Histories

Beginnings of an Indigenous Rationalist Historiography

An Ideology of Matribhasha

IV. Historiography and the Question of Power

An Appropriated Past

The Theme of Kalamka

Bahubol and Its Objects

V. A Failed Agenda




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