History at the Limit of World-History

History at the Limit of World-History

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by Ranajit Guha
     
 

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The past is not just, as has been famously said, another country with foreign customs: it is a contested and colonized terrain. Indigenous histories have been expropriated, eclipsed, sometimes even wholly eradicated, in the service of imperialist aims buttressed by a distinctly Western philosophy of history. Ranajit Guha, perhaps the most influential figure in… See more details below

Overview

The past is not just, as has been famously said, another country with foreign customs: it is a contested and colonized terrain. Indigenous histories have been expropriated, eclipsed, sometimes even wholly eradicated, in the service of imperialist aims buttressed by a distinctly Western philosophy of history. Ranajit Guha, perhaps the most influential figure in postcolonial and subaltern studies at work today, offers a critique of such historiography by taking issue with the Hegelian concept of World-history. That concept, he contends, reduces the course of human history to the amoral record of states and empires, great men and clashing civilizations. It renders invisible the quotidian experience of ordinary people and casts off all that came before it into the nether-existence known as "Prehistory."

On the Indian subcontinent, Guha believes, this Western way of looking at the past was so successfully insinuated by British colonization that few today can see clearly its ongoing and pernicious influence. He argues that to break out of this habit of mind and go beyond the Eurocentric and statist limit of World-history historians should learn from literature to make their narratives doubly inclusive: to extend them in scope not only to make room for the pasts of the so-called peoples without history but to address the historicality of everyday life as well. Only then, as Guha demonstrates through an examination of Rabindranath Tagore's critique of historiography, can we recapture a more fully human past of "experience and wonder."

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
In three lectures delivered at Columbia University in October and November 2000, along with an epilogue written for the volume, Guha argues that the total dominance of Britain in India required the appropriation of the Indian past and its use to construct a colonial state. Indians themselves, he concludes, must try to recover their past by means of an Indian historiography of India. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Homi Bhabha
A new book by Ranajit Guha is both an important event for South Asian Studies and a significant occasion for the humanities....This is a deeply stirring work.

Amartya Sen
Guha's 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.

Itinerario
...the Tagore essay...is a gem and Guha's eloquence usefully prods every reader to rethink his/her methodical toolkit.

— Gabriel Paquette

Journal of Contemporary History
Combining acute theoretical and political insight with empirical substance and prescription for enriching historical practice, this is an exemplary postmodern intervention.

— Patrick Finney

Journal of World History
This book is definitely worth a read for those interested in questions pertaining to everyday life and also in recent postcolonial efforts to rethink the practices of disciplinary history.

— Bernardo A. Michael

Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa & the Middle East - Haider A. Khan
Guha has been one of those rare creative spirits whose works continue to light our path towards this common humanity by honestly exploring our historical differences.

Itinerario - Gabriel Paquette
...the Tagore essay...is a gem and Guha's eloquence usefully prods every reader to rethink his/her methodical toolkit.

Journal of Contemporary History - Patrick Finney
Combining acute theoretical and political insight with empirical substance and prescription for enriching historical practice, this is an exemplary postmodern intervention.

Journal of World History - Bernardo A. Michael
This book is definitely worth a read for those interested in questions pertaining to everyday life and also in recent postcolonial efforts to rethink the practices of disciplinary history.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231505093
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
06/19/2012
Series:
Italian Academy Lectures
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
128
File size:
16 MB
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This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Ranajit Guha is founding editor of Subaltern Studies and author of a number of celebrated books, including Dominance Without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India. He has held various research and teaching positions in India, England, the United States, and Australia. He currently lives in Austria.


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