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The Postcolonial Public Sphere: Nation, Identity and Popular Discourse-making in Contemporary India

Concurrences research seminar with Anindya Sekhar Purakayastha, Professor & Coordinator, Center for Critical Social Inquiry, Kazi Nazrul University, India. Currently Visiting Guest Researcher, Linnaeus University.

This project focuses on postcolonial cultural politics, the pedagogical underpinnings of nationalist discourses and the politics of cultural identity. It empirically revisits pre-colonial social order in Bengal, its encounter with colonial systems of governance, the rise of anti-colonial nationalist imaginaries and subsequent decolonial efforts to determine the contours of the nation-state which is paradoxically modelled on colonial epistemes of nationalism and state formation. This strange concurrences or juxtaposition of colonial and postcolonial trajectories in determining the relation between the postcolonial state and its citizens impinged on subsequent forms of civil society frameworks or actualisation of postcolonial democracy. I revisit here, Partha Chatterjee`s idea of ‘Nationalist thoughts and Colonial History’ or his theory of ‘Nation and its Fragments’ to further problematise the continuing debates on cultural identity in India in terms of Hindutva nationalism. Historicising contemporary popular discourses or public sphere debates in India on secularism as the guiding principle of the postcolonial nation, I reinvestigate how the initial nineteenth century project of anti-colonial nationalist historiography in India interpreted and imagined Indian nationalism purely on religious grounds. My analytical archive measures the continuities and departures from that exclusivist religious framework during the Constituent Assembly debates (1945-49), the originary postcolonial moment in India that saw the handover of power from the colonial ruler to the nationalist elites

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