Ethnocracy, Israel and India

Following the triumph of the BJP in the last Indian election, it is appropriate to revisit ‘Hindu rashtra’ in its various manifestations: a trope, a place and a relationship between the nation and the state. This need not mean reopening the familiar trajectory of Indian politics since the 1980s. Such investigations are not exhausted, but they no longer break new ground. It is more rewarding, I think, to look comparatively at the concept of India as ‘Hindu rashtra,’ and the most productive point of comparison is the ‘Jewish state’ of Israel. Whereas Israel has featured in recent studies of Pakistani ideology, most notably by Faisal Devji, remarkably little has been essayed in the direction of India: remarkable not only because of the close relations between Israel and India since the 1993 Oslo accord between Israel and the PLO, but also because the two countries reflect forms of majoritarianism that are both different and strikingly similar. In the similarities and differences lie the possibilities of justice, peace and democracy, and the fates of ‘minorities’: Palestinians in Israel, and Indian Muslims.

That deployment of terminology is not innocent, since ‘Palestinian in Israel’ and ‘Indian Muslim’ suggest significantly different modes of minority identity, and different constructions of the democratic community of the state. Moreover, there are major – although not overwhelming – differences between how Israeli and Indian national narratives have dealt with the what might be considered the visibility of information, which is fundamental to the ability of a minority group to exist within the framework of democracy. Nevertheless, if one takes into account the practices of inter-community and community-state relations in India and Israel, the presumption of difference, which might be comforting to secular nationalists in India, begins to wear thin. We are forced then to ask how Indian nationhood can ‘work’ for minorities, and whether the contradictions between ethnic monopoly and democracy that are inescapable in Israel can be escaped in India.

The Zionist Model

The structure of the Israeli state, Nadim Rouhana has persuasively argued, rests upon three pillars: the democratic nature of the state, its ‘Jewish character,’ and its obsession with security. The second and third, Rouhana shows, severely complicate the first, making it nearly impossible, for instance, for Israel to create a constitution that might protect the rights of all its citizens. But the notion of a ‘Jewish state’ is by no means straightforward. It does not mean a binational state, since Palestinians in Israel are not recognized as a national group that has a claim upon the state. It could mean a theocracy; it does not. Zionism was a secular ideology and Israel remains for the most part a secular state, although religious parties have become a major influence upon successive governments. It could mean a Jewish-majority state that is only incidentally predisposed towards Jewish cultural markers like holidays and historical references; it does not. It could mean a state that claims (and is claimed by) all Jews everywhere and gives them an automatic right to citizenship, but that belongs also to its non-Jewish citizens; again, it does not. There exists in Israel a consensus that the state belongs to Jews alone, and that non-Jews cannot have a say in determining its priorities, objectives and ‘character’ even if they are citizens. Citizenship for Palestinians in Israel is thus limited to very specific forums: they can vote, claim the protection of the courts and even enter the Knesset (parliament), as long as these do not threaten exclusively Jewish ownership and control of the state.

That arrangement, in which one ethnic group has exclusive control over a state in spite of (or rather, because of) the presence of other ethnic groups, is what Oren Yiftachel and As’ad Ghanem called ethnocracy. In their theory of the ethnocratic state, Ghanem and Yiftachel suggested that the concept provides a way around the binary of ‘democratic’ and ‘non-democratic’ states, making it possible to account for the Israeli situation, in which a commitment to formal democracy coincides with the determination of a closed ethnic group to use the state to protect and expand its exclusive claim upon a territory. Successive Israeli governments, they pointed out, have openly pursued policies of ‘Judaizing’ a land that would otherwise be ‘Arab,’ using tactics that range from ethnic cleansing, expropriation of land, the renaming of places and the promotion of Jewish settlements to discrimination and segregation in law, education, living space and social services.

The process has not been unilinear. The 1948 war saw the expulsion of the bulk of the native population from eighty percent of Mandatory Palestine, the prevention of their return and the seizure of their lands. Some of that land was settled quickly by the same troops that carried out the ethnic cleansing, the rest came under the control of state and quasi-state agencies, earmarked exclusively for sale to Jews, or turned into state parks or forests. But restrictions on the Palestinians’ ability to move about and communicate freely were relaxed when martial law (which applied only to them) was lifted in 1966, and the expropriation of their land (especially in the Galilee, where the concentration of Palestinians was relatively high) slowed appreciably after the Day of the Land protests of 1976. As if to compensate, old Mandate-era laws of repression were retained, land-appropriation and segregated settlement were accelerated in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the politics of exclusive ethnic control came to encompass much larger populations of Jews (following the wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s) and Palestinians (in the occupied territories). Without significant checks, the ethnocratic state thus becomes more ethnocratic, compounding the problem of ‘what to do’ with the excluded population. The identity of the dominant/included ethnicity, meanwhile, becomes progressively intertwined with the state and its structures of discrimination.

When apologists for Israel are confronted with the charge of ethnocracy, or rather, with the charge that ethnocracy is incompatible with democracy, they tend to offer two broad responses. One is a form of denial, in which it is emphasized that Israel is a democracy. Arabs in Israel are, in this narrative, citizens of a democratic state, and that renders moot questions of inequality and discrimination, and of ‘belonging’ in citizenship. The other, more thoughtful, response is the acknowledgment of an ideological dissonance, the expressed confidence that the difficulty can be managed politically, and often, the implication that such problems exist in many or most multi-ethnic nation-states.  The second response can itself be viewed as a deployment of two opposed discourses: one, in which Israel is exceptional but capable of ‘managing’ that exceptionality, and another, in which there is no exception: ‘the Jews’ have a right to control their national destiny in their nation-state just as ‘the French’ or ‘the English’ do in theirs, and the problems faced by ‘Arabs’ or ‘Palestinians’ in Israel are no more unusual or intractable than those of minorities in France or England.

Since the first response (denial) is transparently unsustainable within the Israeli consensus on what constitutes a ‘Jewish state,’ let us look more closely at the second. On the face of it, the French, English or German parallels appear to make sense. There are, however, several problems with the analogy. One is that when we talk about ethnic tensions in Western European countries, we are talking primarily about anti-immigrant racism. Without taking anything away from the seriousness of such racism, it might be conceded that it is one thing to bar immigrants from full membership in the nation-state for a limited period of time, and another thing altogether when the indigenous population is treated like immigrants by a regime of immigrants. Even in settler-colonial democracies like the United States and Australia (not to mention South Africa), with their histories of extreme racial violence and dispossession, a legal, political and popular consensus has evolved after the Second World War to include the indigenous population in the community of the state.

The second problem with the ‘everybody does it’ argument is that it ignores the dramatic, although not complete, shift in the nature of ethnicity in western-European countries since the 1970s. Outside the far right, there is considerable agreement that the children of Indian, Turkish, Algerian and Indonesian immigrants can be regarded as English, German, French or Dutch; even a supra-ethnic category like ‘British’ is no longer needed to accommodate what, until recently, was simply a ‘Paki.’ For there to be an equivalent to the Israeli insistence that the state belongs to ‘the Jewish people’ rather than to its citizens, England would have to belong to the ‘Anglo-Saxon people,’ and Germany to ‘the Aryan people,’ which few would find desirable after the Second World War. This is not to say that European race problems have been ‘solved,’ or to be blind to neo-fascist phenomena like the Le Pen constituency in France and the BNP in the UK, let alone Golden Dawn in Greece, but west of the old Yugoslavia there is now an inclusive discourse of ethnicity that is at least publicly hegemonic, and that has supplanted the ‘Gastarbeiter’ model, in which foreigners will live and work in a country for generations and remain foreign.

Accompanied, not coincidentally, by the maturing of the EU, that shift informs what might be considered the partial recovery of a pre-Great-War model of the liberal European state, in which ethnicity remained subordinate to citizenship. That subordination was never as ironclad as Hannah Arendt – glossing over the limits imposed on liberalism by the nineteenth-century fetish of whiteness – made it out to be in her study of the roots of totalitarianism. But as the fetish has lost some of its public power, it has become possible to rethink European ethnicities, and in a parallel maneuver, to reaffirm the supremacy of citizenship over ethnicity. In the process, not only has nationhood been anchored firmly in the state and the community of citizens (and not in ethnic groups within the state), it has become impossible to regard the privileging of ethnicity over citizenship as anything other than aberrant, even fascist. Yet in Israel, where the Zionism of the founding generation took its cues from the militant ‘sub-nationalities’ of the era of the Great War and its aftermath, the supremacy of the nation over the state has remained normative, relegating some citizens to a status inferior to that of non-citizens who are nevertheless members of the (Jewish) nation. It has placed the state as an instrument primarily in the hands of the nation, and only secondarily in those of the citizen: an arrangement that is not accepted as democratic in any other part of the modern world, with the partial exception of Pakistan.

The third problem has to do with the idea of ‘managing’ a problem politically. If management means negotiation, then that is indeed a normal part of the politics of a democratic state. If, however, the political participation of the problem community is already limited by their exclusion from key policy-making organs, then management becomes less like negotiation and more like governmentality combined with the use of force and manipulation of information, i.e., violence and propaganda. This coercive-manipulative meaning of ‘management,’ it should be noted, fits both the ‘exceptional’ and ‘unexceptional’ models of the Israeli state, since in the first instance it carries the insistence that Israel has a special license to ‘manage’ that derives from the unique history of the Jewish people, and in the second instance, the presumption that ‘everybody does it.’

Since it can be shown without great difficult that not everybody ‘does it,’ it is the discourse of exceptionalism that has generally been more central to the justification of Israeli ethnocracy. In this discourse, the Holocaust is described as being both unprecedented, and a link in a long historical continuum of ant-Semitism. The ‘unprecedented’ (i.e., unique) dynamic generates the exception, placing the Nazis and their Jewish victims beyond the circle of history, its norms and judgments, in a quasi-religious minefield of sacrilege where comparison is blasphemy. The dynamic of a continuum extends the exception into the future, producing the permanent ‘existential threat’ that justifies Israeli actions autonomously of any rational assessment of political and military realities. It is, however, mainly through comparison – through emphasizing the ordinariness of racism and the urge to make ethnic groups disappear, and the interconnectedness of discourses and practices – that we can demystify the Holocaust and its continuing aftermath, returning both Germany and Israel to the history of the modern state, its organization of power and its relationship with ethnicity, in which India, the United States, postwar Europe and the old colonial powers are also located and implicated.

To grasp the impact of ethnocracy on the excluded, it is useful to look at Patrick Wolfe’s brilliant work on the nature of settler-colonialism. Beginning in Australia, Wolfe extended the scope of his  analysis to South Africa and Israel, comparing the relationships in each place between settlers, natives and the state. In the process, he re-examined the common (and for Zionists, scurrilous) comparisons made by critics of Israel between the Israeli treatment of Palestinians and apartheid in South Africa. The Israeli situation shares with other settler-colonialisms what Wolfe described as the superfluity of the native: the indigenous population has no place in the scheme of things. Wolfe rejected the parallel with apartheid, but for reasons that are quite different from those offered by Zionist apologia. In South Africa, he pointed out, the dominant/settler community preserved a substantial ideological, economic and even geographic space – a need – for the dominated/natives. In Israel and the occupied territories, there is no corresponding need and space for Palestinians, who exist largely to be wished into invisibility or oblivion.

One can find fault with Wolfe’s assertion of superfluity. In settler-colonialism, it might be argued, the native retains a vital importance as a racial sign: even when indigenes have mostly been killed off, as in Australia and North America, they continue to function as a boundary of the settler’s own identity, and as a justification of colonization. There can be little doubt that ‘the Arab’ in Israel and its neighborhood was assigned those roles in a recognizably Orientalist colonial enterprise: not only was Israeli policy informed by a cadre of ‘Arab experts’ (i.e., white experts on Arabs), the Arab world was and remains the cultural desert in which – and against which – Israel has ‘bloomed’ as a garden and outpost of European civilization. But the idea of superfluity is very useful in understanding a process of disappearing, in which information and people have both been removed from the domain of public knowledge.

The most striking part of this vanishing is the effective redaction of the history of the 1948 war (Israel’s War of Independence, and the Palestinians’ Nakba or Catastrophe), which saw the Palestinian population subjected to ethnic cleansing, massacre, rape and dispossession. The suppression of that knowledge – and its replacement by a spurious popular history peddled by hack novelists like Leon Uris – is inseparable from the articulated texts of Israeli self-justification, ranging from the Zionist trope of Palestine as ‘a land without a people for a people without a land,’ to Golda Meir’s claim that there is no such thing as a Palestinian (which persists in the Israeli regime’s insistence on using the generic term ‘Arab’ to refer to its Palestinian citizens, and refusal to acknowledge that they are a ‘nation,’ like the Jews, in a binational society). It is inseparable from conversations in academia and the media in which invisibility itself becomes invisible, such as the liberal and not especially anti-Palestinian Leon Wieseltier telling Edward Said that not only did ‘intelligent’ Americans know all about the misfortunes of the Palestinians, that knowledge had become clichéd. It is inseparable, finally, from the arbitrary governance, violence and dehumanization with which Palestinians in Israeli-controlled territories have lived since 1948 with or without the knowledge of Americans, and with or without the consciousness of Israeli Jews: a reality that can best be understood as Giorgio Agamben's state of exception, in which the objects of state power inhabit a ‘camp world’ that is normatively excluded from normalcy.

Under those circumstances, minority subjectivity can no longer be reconciled with citizenship. Regarding Palestinian citizens of Israel, Sammy Smooha complacently noted that they were becoming ‘Israelized,’ i.e., converging with Jewish citizens in their perspectives and priorities. As Rouhana has shown, however, those converges are limited and contextual, lacking any affective identification with the Israeli state. Palestinian citizens of Israel generally see themselves as Palestinian-in-Israel, not Israeli or even Palestinian-Israeli; the ‘Jewishness’ of the state has accentuated their Palestinian-ness, limiting their ‘Israeliness’ to purely instrumental transactions with the state. That failure to identify themselves with the state is, of course, then held against them by Jewish Israelis as evidence of disloyalty and other civic shortcomings, although to expect the excluded group to ‘love’ and identify themselves with the state is clearly unreasonable. It is not uncommon for Israelis to complain that Palestinian citizens do not serve in the military, and to use that complaint to justify various forms of discrimination, but the Israeli military does not want to train, equip and deploy Palestinian soldiers, except those recruited from sub-groups like the Druze and the Bedouin, and that has not saved the Bedouin in the West Bank and even the Negev (inside Israel proper) from being subjected to arbitrary controls on their movement and residence. Under the best of circumstances, ethnocracy compels even ‘assimilated’ individuals from the ‘wrong’ ethnicity to remain permanent Gastarbeiters in their own homeland.

Ethnocracy and Right-Wing Thought in India

While the concept of ‘Hindu rashtra’ has its direct roots in the political ideology of V.D. Savarkar and then the RSS, Hindu majoritarianism, or the idea that a particular ‘community’ has a special claim on the Indian state and another particular community is the designated outsider, is both older and more complicated than Hindutva. It also predates Tilak and the Congress Extremists of the 1890s, among whom we might locate the beginnings of a modern Indian government. The earlier strands of Hindu nationalism had room for minorities, and specifically for Muslims; they were, as such, alternatives to what became the better-known discourses of Indian nationhood: liberal-secular ideology, the nation-of-communities narrative, Gandhian Ram-rajya, the Two-Nation Theory, and of course Hindutva.

The earliest example of a non-ethnocratic Hindu nationalism can be found in the writings of Bhudeb Mukhopadhyay, who between the 1860s and 1890s produced a substantial body of fiercely polemical essays about a crisis of nationhood and society in colonial India. Bhudeb explicitly identified himself as conservative (rakshansheel), but his was a modern conservatism, informed by Comte, Darwin and Malthus. A well-connected official in the education bureaucracy of Bengal, Bhudeb was clear about his own identity as a Brahmin and his investment in Brahmin privileges and specializations, but he was not the passive recipient of any precolonial understanding of shastra. He sought, rather, to reinterpret shastra for the late nineteenth century as the text of restructured familiality, racial health and national rejuvenation, compensating for the biological and cultural degeneration that Hindu self-hate and unthinking mimicry of Europe had apparently brought about. His project was more a prescription for change than a plea for continuity, progressive in spite of itself: he showed little interest in the establishment of an independent state, but his vision of a healthy and confident nationhood was implicitly a prefiguring of citizenship.

The nation Bhudeb wanted to ‘conserve’ was primarily Hindu and only secondarily Indian, although the two categories were also interchangeable. When he wrote about the place of Muslims in this nation and its geography, he proceeded from an assumption of separateness: culturally and socially, Hindus and Muslims were distinct peoples. The distinctness, however, was not formulated either as a clear hierarchy, or as a permanent or even important political reality. Bhudeb had begun his career as a teacher in the madrasas, and emerged with an open respect for the maulavis who also taught at those schools. They had impressed him not only as learned colleagues, but as recognizable members of a shared Indian society, whose sensibilities of right and wrong, propriety and impropriety, wisdom and foolishness, were much closer to those of the conservative Hindu than those of the Anglophile Hindus he disdained. He was not untouched by Orientalist histories of Muslim oppression, but he was not locked into them, preferring to seek out areas of convergence between Hindus and Muslims. He acknowledged not only the colonial educational milieu that had drawn pandits and maulavis together, but mutual adjustments of habit brought about by India itself. Deeply immersed in a reconsideration of the Indian family, Bhudeb deployed a familial metaphor: Hindus were the natural children of India, he wrote, but Muslims were her adopted children, and the difference of origin was less important than the kinship and commonalities that history had established.

Thus, unlike his more famous contemporary Bankim, Bhudeb suggested that it was possible to be a conservative Hindu and Indian nationalist without being a Muslim-hater, and to make room for Muslims as Muslims within an Indian nation. Some of this outlook found its way into the thinking of Benoy Kumar Sarkar in the next generation of Indian nationalists of the right. Sarkar was, of course, a very different intellectual from Bhudeb: uninterested in the conservation of the religious community, unafraid of ‘mimicry,’ contemptuous of traditional hierarchies, and directly invested in the independent state. He wrote from the perspective of an anti-communist admirer of authoritarian-militarist regimes in Europe and Japan, disdainful of the apparent spinelessness of the Congress. But he shared Bhudeb’s assumption that Indian nationhood was ‘naturally’ Hindu in its boundaries and content: Hindu identity was the default position from which the self-liberating Indian articulated other, negotiated and experimental, identities and political structures.

In Sarkar’s earliest writings, penned during the Swadeshi agitation of 1905-11, we can find traces of an anti-Muslim animus that was part and parcel of militant nationalism in contemporary Bengal. He gradually left the prejudice behind; by 1922 he was not only defending Aurangzeb as emperor of all Hindustan, but issuing blistering attacks on those (like his friend Lajpat Rai and the historian Vincent Smith) who suggested that Muslims were aliens and oppressors in India. Going further than Bhudeb, Sarkar argued that what was considered ‘Hindu’ culture would have been impossible without Muslim contributions, and that all Indians were Hindu-Muslim hybrids. Between the 1920s and the Second World War, he developed a second polemic: he pragmatically advanced a construction of Indian nationhood as a partnership between Hindus and Muslims, and tried hard to be inclusive in his choice of symbols, icons and even language. When this vision of partnership failed and the country was partitioned, he became less generous towards Muslims, but even then he refused to see the truncated state of India as a country for Hindus.

By the time of Sarkar’s death in 1949, however, his vision was obsolete: those who cared to identify themselves politically as Hindu had, by and large, adopted the exclusionist postures of Savarkar and Golwalkar. Even there, it should be noted, there is a gradation: whereas Savarkar was willing, albeit reluctantly, to include within the nation Muslims who Hinduized themselves, Golwalkar’s more straightforward racism closed the door entirely. On the other hand, the secularism of the left had closed the space for political self-identification as Hindu, limiting inclusive nationalism to those who are easily caricatured as ‘pseudo-secular.’ To be very clear about this point: I do not suggest that indifference to Hindu identity, or its treatment as a purely private matter, or the rejection of the deeply flawed Orientalist historiography of an existential conflict with Muslims – in other words, being ‘pseudo-secular’ – is without value in Indian democracy. A basic problem of the Indian national narrative is that the left and the right have both tended to accept the same history of ‘alien oppression,’ in which content that does not support the narrative of oppression has been systematically buried, and whereas the left has downplayed religious identity and wanted the nation to ‘move on,’ the right has wanted revenge, and revenge is the more compelling political motivator in nationalism. Here, even the tactical adoption of Hinduness as place to begin might provide a better, more pragmatic, position from which to negotiate inclusion – and secularism – in a nation that has already been so infused with Hindu content that de-Hinduization, desirable as it may be, is unlikely to succeed.

The given realities of Indian society show both the presence and absence of ethnocracy: India is not Israel, but it is like Israel in some ways, both ideological and practical, and it has become more so as Hindutva has gained legitimacy and electoral ground. The differences are crucial: they explain, for instance, why the current government, since coming to power, has done little that might be construed as extraordinarily ‘communal,' and has even made occasional gestures of inclusive citizenship. While remaining cognizant of the record of Narendra Modi and the BJP, the rise to national prominence of a politician like Amit Shah, and the recent violence in Baroda, it is reasonable to say that any party that appoints M.J. Akbar as its spokesman (and accepts Syed Akbaruddin as the nation’s spokesman on foreign affairs) is going to be somewhat constrained by those choices. This is not merely the behavior of pragmatic politicians, it reflects the operation of a structure of inclusive citizenship that cannot be discarded without precipitating a constitutional crisis that only the most radical Sangh activists would contemplate with equanimity. No part of Indian territory or the state, including the highest ranks of the military, is closed to Muslims, the cultural and academic visibility of Muslims remains fairly high, and just as pertinently, the discourse of Otherness is not racialized like it is in Israel. There is no tendency to consume the misery of an ‘inferior species’ as an aesthetic experience, which we saw recently in Israelis who sat on lawn chairs, beer in hand, to watch the bombing of Gaza. That aesthetic consumption of murder is not a peculiarly Israeli phenomenon: it is a performative aspect of whiteness (recall Meursault killing an Arab as a meditative exercise, or the culture-industry beginning with Conrad in Africa) and the other side of a better-known coin, on which Europeans consume their avowedly superior morals and conscience, shedding a tear or two on occasion.  Indians are not there yet.

In other ways, however, the gap is small. Hindu emigrants, well-heeled citizens of the United States in particular, have increasingly followed a model of diasporic nationalism and civic action in which they, and not Muslim citizens of India, have the stronger claim upon the Indian state. Meanwhile, in every Indian city, discrimination against Muslims in housing is endemic, discrimination in employment is not far behind, Muslim parents worry that their children will be turned away by private schools, and Muslims are disproportionately the targets of police violence and harassment, which, as in Israel, is coded as ‘security.’ The last dynamic erodes what would otherwise be a major difference between ethnocratic tendencies in the two countries, which is the Israeli insistence – self-serving and insupportable, but axiomatic to believers – that they have peculiar security concerns because of the Holocaust, pervasive and permanent anti-Semitism in the world, and the hatred of their neighbors. Indians may point occasionally to a Chinese threat or a Pakistani threat, but few would say that the existence of India itself is in jeopardy.  If, however, the Indian Muslim population is itself perceived by the majority as a threat to security, then ethnic paranoia is not so much eschewed as shifted inwards, enabling undemocratic responses by the state that are not significantly different from those produced by the fear of external enemies.

Indeed, an element of ‘existential fear’ is visible in the concerns with racial degeneracy that surfaced in India between the 1880s and 1930s. Driven by their colonized condition, British jeers about ‘effeminacy,’ endemic malaria, epidemic cholera and plague, high infant mortality, and various nineteenth- and early-twentieth century discourses – Gobineau, Darwin, Galton, Spengler – of a ‘healthy’ population, Hindus as different as Bhudeb, Harbilas Sarda and G.S. Ghurye worried about being outcompeted by racial Others and inferiors. But it was only later, in the time of Golwalkar’s RSS, that this demographic anxiety became focused on Muslims threatening to outbreed Hindus in their own country. In recent times, that ‘threat’ has merged with the perception of ‘Muslim appeasement’ (i.e., Nehruvian secularism) and given us not only the rhetoric of Hum panch, hamare panchis, but also the absurdity of ‘love jihad,’ in which the old trope of the sexually predatory Muslim male has been dressed up as a new demographic danger with overtones of terrorism.

There is, in Israel, an almost identical discourse of ‘their boys’ seducing and converting ‘our girls,’ and the consequent threat to the dominant ethnic group’s majority status and control over the state. There are also highly governmentalized disincentives to intermarriage between Jews and others (there is, for instance, no provision for civil marriage in Israel) which, to date, have no Indian counterpart. But as if to compensate for the failure in the bedroom, the Indian state has passed anti-conversion laws that serve no purpose other than to maintain and highlight the majority status of a particular ethnic group, which is not in jeopardy by any reasonable mathematics. Not coincidentally, the Hindu nation and the Jewish nation are both beset by the fear of the treasonous Self – the ‘pseudo-secular’ Hindu, the ‘self-hating’ Jew – that refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the existential menace, and of the exceptions that menace allows within the ‘normal’ politics of the democratic state. It is worth noting that both allegations of self-hate were born within older discourses of impotence: the cowardly Jew, the effeminate Hindu. Ethnocracy is highly gendered: a vision of the community closed like a fist as a source and a sign of manhood, in which disloyalty is emasculating.

It need not be surprising that Hindu nationalists in the period before the Nazi ascendency almost universally admired Jews, seeing them not only as a race that had preserved its identity through great adversities (dispersal, discrimination, persecution, minority status everywhere), but also as people who had embarked upon a bold, if quixotic, national adventure in Palestine. In the 1930s the Nazis replaced the Jews as the objects of admiration: they were, after all, able to demonstrate the actual functioning of an ethnocratic state. That approval has, since then, been redirected back to the Jewish nation: where Indians from Golwalkar to Bal Thackeray (and even Benoy Sarkar, albeit half-ironically) spoke admiringly of the German ‘management’ of the ‘Jewish problem,’ the Hindu right now sees the Israeli treatment of Palestinians as a model for the management of troublesome minorities and neighbors. The rise of the management-school graduate as the icon of middle-class aspiration, overshadowing the engineer (and before that, the lawyer), is an under-explored phenomenon in the history of Indian liberalism, with serious implications for democratic institutions. Government is increasingly regarded as a problem of management, not politics.

There can be no doubt that those who advocate ‘Hindu rashtra’ in India face greater challenges than do advocates of the ‘Jewish state.’ The Jewish state is a done deed, with overwhelming support from the nation both within and without the state, which functions as a point of coalescence for the nation even beyond its boundaries. Hindu rashtra, on the other hand, is perched on thinner ice, not least because its meanings are still open to debate. If it is interpreted to mean a state that possesses a Hindu majority, that has borrowed most of its symbols from that majority, that engages actively in the Sanskritization of national culture, but that has not formally excluded minorities from fundamental claims and contributions, then a Hindu rashtra already exists. Such a state will be majoritarian, in the sense that it will privilege the majority by default and  frequently tolerate the oppression of minorities, but it will leave open the doors of political contestation, and privilege and oppression will fluctuate with the normal process of politics. It can be argued, on the basis of the last election, that there is considerable if not overwhelming support in India for this vision of nationhood, which appears to fit a ‘common sense’ understanding of democracy in an ideological environment in which liberal principles are not especially influential. If, however, Hindu rashtra is to mean formal, exclusive and permanent control of the state by an organized Hindu nation, then it is still a fantasy, countered not only by the subalternity of much of the electorate, but also, paradoxically, by a powerful ideology of Indianness in which ethnicity (or community, in Indian jargon) is conceived as being either subordinate to citizenship, or coterminous with it, but not superior. Citizenship itself provides a second, and in many cases primary, level of ethnicity. The two understandings of Hindu rashtra should not be understood as being mutually exclusive. It is more accurate to regard them as two Hindu-nationalist poles – one maximally ethnocratic, the other minimally so – between which Indian majoritarianism continuously moves.

Exit Strategies

Majoritarianism, perhaps obviously, is only secondarily a problem of the majority: it affects the minority much more immediately. The irony of the Israeli case is that here, minority-ness and majority-ness have been blurred in more than one way. It came out of the European Jews’ consciousness of themselves as a disadvantaged and vulnerable minority, a people without ‘a state of their own,’ who  would be safe only as a majority in exclusive control of its state. Even when they were the majority in their own state, therefore, Zionists continued to function in the mode of a beleaguered minority: this was the natural consequence of a nationhood that was not contained by the state it managed to acquire. Majority-ness in the state did not compensate adequately for minority-ness in the world, but for that very reason, it became even more important. That, however, is not the only political model that has been available historically to modern minorities, including Jews in Western Europe and America, and Muslims in undivided India. Both groups have, for instance, often perceived themselves as  standing partially and contextually outside the larger society, uniquely positioned to serve a moral function as observers, examples, and voices of caution and conscience. This was, of course, not appealing enough to Muslim Leaguers or the Zionists, both of whom opted to become majorities, creating serious problems for minorities that were already there. In India, however, they also added to the problems of a minority within the minority, i.e., Muslims left behind.

Unlike ‘world Jewry,’ who could identify with Israel even if they lived in the US or France, Indian Muslims could not identify with Pakistan without severely compromising their position in India: the historical circumstances were such that they had to choose. That element of ‘choice’ provided the majority with a political tool, which is the threat or act of expulsion. In Israel, Palestinians who protest too much are invited or compelled to ‘go there,’ ‘there’ being the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, England, or a putative Palestinian state located beyond the Green Line of 1967. It is the reflexive reaction to criticism of the ethnocracy: even the novelist A.B. Yehoshua, who once organized a  writers’ union with mixed Jewish and Palestinian membership, resorted to it in a debate with the Palestinian author Anton Shammas, who had written – in Hebrew – about the atrocities of 1948 and criticized the ethnic structure of the Israeli state. Again, we have the bizarre spectacle of immigrant and indigenous ethnic groups switching roles.

In India, the equivalent response is ‘If you don’t like it, go to Pakistan,’ and Indian Muslims are commonly accused of being disloyal, crypto-Pakistani. Even on Kashmir, two distinct lines of thought have developed among critics of the insurgency, who wish to retain the rebel state within India. One insists that Kashmir and Kashmiris are both Indian, and want the latter to accept that identity. The other, increasingly palpable, tells Kashmiris that if they do not see themselves as Indian, they can leave, but without taking Kashmir along, because the land belongs to India. The second, obviously, is a quasi-Israeli outlook on a population whose very existence is seditious. The availability of a ‘solution’ – a second state, in which the minority is the majority – only exacerbates the insecurity for the minority, which can be ‘legitimately’ and ‘reasonably’ deported to this readymade ethnic receptacle.

The second state, in other words, is not unambiguously an exit from the problem of ethnocracy: it  is quite compatible with the extension and expansion of ethnocracy. This is precisely why the ‘two-state solution’ is more palatable to Israelis than the PLO’s older objective of a single secular state. Even a notorious dissident like Uri Avnery balks at the idea of a single state, declaring that such a state would not only immediately cease to be ‘Jewish,’ but soon become ‘Arab.’ Avnery’s position is particularly interesting, since he is not invested in the idea of Israel as a ‘binational’ state either, in which there is a Jewish nation and a Palestinian one. He has moved from envisioning a Hebrew nation-state (on which world Jewry would have no automatic claim) to advocating an Israeli nationhood that belongs to all its citizens, Jewish and Palestinian, and to no one else. But this inclusive nation-state is contingent on the emergence of a sister-state with a Palestinian majority: which would, in other words, contain most Palestinians. Someday, Avnery dreamed, the two states might form a federation, or even become the nucleus of a pan-Semitic entente. If there is an echo here of Jinnah’s dream, it is not a coincidence. In each case, the inclusive, liberal, democratic impulse was curtailed by the desire for membership in the ethnic majority. But even that curtailed vision of inclusion - which the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians in Israel, Palestinians in the occupied territories, and even Hamas now accept (through the hudna mechanism of an extended peace) – is anathema to a majority of Avnery’s compatriots, many of whom regard him as a traitor.

The demand for a separate state, where control by a particular ethnic group would be assured and exclusive, is one thing it is voiced by a dominated minority, but it is something else entirely when articulated by the dominant majority. The latter situation, in which the majority acts as if it is an aggrieved minority, is a foreshadowing of fascism. In India, that sense of grievance is fundamental to Hindutva, which, like the major strand of Zionism, has sought to occupy simultaneously the positions of the dominator and the dominated, converting a narrative of past oppression into a permanent state of war, or at least a permanent crisis of ‘pride.’ But in India, the state continues to function as an obstacle to the institutionalization of such projects, resisting capture by a ‘community’ or ethnic sub-nationality. That was a basic function of the Nehruvian state, and it is hardly a coincidence that Hindutva has waxed as the regulatory functions of the state have waned and all things Nehruvian have come to be seen as obsolete or ill-considered.

The regulatory state, however, is not just an artifact of the left in India. I return briefly, here, to Benoy Sarkar, and his clashes with Congress-led Indian nationalism in the 1930s and 1940s. Sarkar gleefully dismissed the nationalists’ favorite fetishes: Hindu-Muslim unity was not an urgent priority, he argued, and even a unified nation-state was not especially important. What mattered, he declared, were independence and sovereignty, and multiple independent states would ensure freedom and dignity for all Indians as effectively as a single, unified nation-state. He was immediately criticized for this sacrilegious indifference to the reality of Indian nationhood, but Sarkar was attempting something that was both innovative and pedigreed. On the one hand, he was articulating his growing pessimism about whether the political project of ‘Hindu-Muslim unity’ would succeed in the short term, and setting aside that unity as a prerequisite of independence. Given the stalemate in the relationship between the Congress and the Muslim League by 1937, this was not unreasonable. On the other hand, he was disconnecting nationality and citizenship. While that appears similar to the Zionist maneuver, it is critically different: Sarkar was giving priority to citizenship in the sovereign state. He was suggesting that nationality and ethnic relations could be a private matters that would look after themselves, and it did not matter whether this happened in one state or in several, in India or in Pakistan. It was akin to Jinnah’s proposal for Pakistan, but without the insistence on a permanent Muslim majority.

The state alone, obviously, is not enough to protect minorities consistently, nor can it always reassure anxious majorities. It is all too often itself the instrument of oppression. That, however, is precisely why it must belong, at least rhetorically, to all its citizens. Otherwise oppression becomes existential, not episodic, and defeats the possibilities of civic – and civilized – contestation. Citizenship and nationality can legitimately be separated, as they were in the Soviet Union, only when nationality is detached from any particular identification with the state. Constitutionally and polemically, the USSR was not the state of the Russian people, even if Russians were the predominant nationality. A state that openly declares itself to belong to only some of its citizens and their co-ethnics beyond its boundaries, but not to its indigenous population, does not need anybody to delegitimize it; it delegitimizes itself.

But apart from the Kafr Qassem massacre of 1956 and the killing of a dozen-odd protesters in October 2000, the Israeli state has not killed its Palestinian citizens in large numbers. In India, on the other hand, even the occasional pogrom produces a body count reminiscent of the Palestinian predicament in the West Bank and Gaza. The Indian case is a sharp reminder that even formally ‘open’ and civic nationhood is often conceived with a particular ethnicity at its center, and that in such cases, formal citizenship – while a necessary foundation – is not an adequate guarantee of democracy, in the sense of a demos that is bound together by ties of affect and equal membership as well as the franchise. Several things must happen that are not all ideologically consistent, but that are politically intertwined. Citizenship must remain both independent of ethnicity and function as the sign and source of ethnicity. The national historiography must be continuously revised, but at the same time, the underutilized possibilities within the dominant narrative must be identified and deployed strategically. Hindu nationalism is not a monolith; there are ways of being a ‘Hindu nationalist’ that are quite different from Hindutva, and that do not include the exclusion and victimization of non-Hindus.

Nationalism by its very nature involves a measure of bigotry, but bigotries are not equally virulent. Many, if not most, Indians who find the BJP acceptable may find it appropriate that schoolchildren sing Bande Mataram and coconuts be broken at the launching of warships, and see a natural relationship between their Indianness and their sense of themselves as Hindus. They may wish that Prithviraj Chauhan had won the second battle at Tarain, or that Jinnah had died three years sooner. But beyond such fantasies, which are common to every nationalism founded on a narrative of defeat, they are not unrealistic: they do not believe that their local butcher is Mahmud of Ghazni, and they reject the idea that India and ‘Indian culture’ are exclusively Hindu. Indians who adhere to a purer form of secularism must find ways of talking to that demographic, recognizing that a politically viable secular democracy must use all available resources.

September 29, 2014


There was something farcical about the drama that unfolded this month in Ferguson, MO, and that may not have ended yet. Between the initial killing (that of Michael Brown) that triggered the protests against the police, and the most recent death (that of Kajieme Powell, also shot on the sidewalk by the cops), both sides in the confrontation followed recognizable scripts, although neither failed to surprise. The protestors, with their militancy and resilience, were remarkable in the history of relations between police and black Americans since the 1970s. Black men are shot by the police with sickening frequency in this country; it is the norm, not the exception. Sustained protest and media glare are the exceptions. It may be impossible to reach a neat explanation for this turn of events, since none of the factors that can be identified in Greater St. Louis  – the history of police violence, the racial divide between a mostly-white police force and a mostly-black community, the economic decrepitude of the inner city, the calamitous ‘life prospects’ of young black men – are unique to this particular place. We could call it a ‘perfect storm’ of variables, or simply random.

But the protests were also quite restrained. It cannot be denied that they went beyond the brainless sloganeering that makes street protest in America almost unbearably embarrassing. (“Hey hey, ho ho, the occupation has got to go!” Hey ho? Are the Seven Dwarves marching again?) But the idiom of respectable protest and its specifically American pedigree were not tossed out in Ferguson, in spite of the presence in the shadows of men with guns and Molotov cocktails. The crowd did not take kindly to attempts by old, Church-based, Civil Rights leaders to take charge of the protests, but Black Panther and Nation of Islam types surfaced more successfully as voices of reason, authority and crowd-control. And quite surprisingly, the protests did not spread beyond the immediate locality, in spite of the prevalence of similarly provocative circumstances in every large American city. Except in slogans, it fell short of a ‘revolution’; it was, rather, a miming of revolution, not least for a television audience.

But it is the reaction of the police that was truly bizarre. Much has been made of the militarized response of the St. Louis County authorities, and justifiably so: mechanized, heavily armed and armored police are a new cancer in American society. That the police now functions in the mode of the SWAT team is not a surprise, of course. The revelation is how this army of warrior-cops, with their us-against-the-animals mentality of occupiers among natives, behaved given the chance to go to war. We saw camouflage uniforms, mine-resistant vehicles and the conspicuous pointing of automatic weapons, but we saw neither shooting nor effective crowd-dispersal. The police, for the most part, just posed with their guns and battle-dress, caught between preening and bewilderment. Again, there was that element of television drama, except that it was unintentional farce, scripted by morons.

Very quickly, therefore, the references in the media (including social media) to ‘police brutality’ against protestors wore thin. Yes, tear gas was used, and beanie rounds and wooden projectiles were fired. But in the worldwide repertoire of techniques for dealing with angry crowds, this was almost non-violent. No live rounds were fired into the crowd, and not even the truncheon saw much use. This was not the Egyptian counter-revolution, Tiananmen Square, Gaza, Chicago 1968, or an Indian city on a bad day. Here, the theater of militarized policing seemed to paralyze the police themselves, subjecting them to the scorn of the audience. After the first day, when the camera turned out to be hostile to the police, there was no doubt about who was on the defensive. Very quickly, the crowd – black men and women whose everyday relations with the police are marked by fear – lost their fear. They taunted, name-called, video-recorded and laughed, while rifle-pointing policemen (like the now-famous Officer Go-Fuck-Yourself) found themselves escorted from the scene by supervisors, like chastised schoolboys.

That effective fearlessness was a significant victory not just for the crowd, but for victims of racist policing in general. The limits of that victory are also significant, judging by the murder of Powell in another part of St. Louis. It is not clear that Powell, muttering incoherently and waving a knife at no one in particular, was a part of the Michael Brown protest, but there can be no doubt that by killing him in that moment and in that extraordinarily cavalier manner, the St. Louis police connected him to Ferguson. They sought to reassert their dominance and the fear on which it rests, but they did it on another stage, away from the carnival of cameras and jeering crowds on Florissant Avenue. On Florissant, the police had already lost. But that loss was contained by the theater of the protest itself, which was too ritualized and isolated to pose a wider threat to the ‘establishment.’ That may yet change, especially if Michael Brown’s killer is not charged with murder, but it seems unlikely.

It is interesting to think about the ordinariness, as well as the peculiarity, of what happened in Ferguson. The history of modern policing is inseparable from the history of race. Robert Peel’s innovations in Victorian Britain are entwined with anxieties about the Irish and urban “street Arabs,” the antecedents of the Indian police lie in colonial nightmares of Thugs, ‘criminal tribes,’ terrorists and the native crowd, and big-city police forces in America are rooted in two great race-migrations: the arrival of off-white Europeans in the later 19th century, and blacks moving north after the First World War. But beyond the common dynamic of race-control, there are distinct mythologies of policing: the polite and unarmed English constable, the brutal but servile Indian daroga, the American cop who combines the machismo of the gunslinger with the awesome authority of the state. These distinctions reflect, and to some extent determine, the level of danger the police pose to citizens of democratic states.

The Indian example is the outlier. It is a nakedly unreformed colonial apparatus, loosely bound by law but almost devoid of legitimacy, a delinquency essential for the protection of class privilege but disliked intensely even by the classes it protects. Not surprisingly, its use of lethal force is casual and often indiscriminate, in a way unthinkable in the United States or Britain. The English constable, by contrast, retains a certain appeal not only in his own country, but also among Anglophiles in the two other countries, from readers of Enid Blyton to watchers of Monty Python. He is the displacement of a civilized ideal. That constable, if he ever existed in Britain, did not survive the racial tensions that gave us the Guns of Brixton and another Powell in the 1970s, the riots of the Thatcher era, and the murder of a Brazilian electrician on the London Underground. But as a fantasy, he lives on, not least among Tories who cling to a soothingly white idea of Englishness. And because fantasies are not powerless, the use of guns and truncheons by the police in Britain falls into a grey area of legitimacy: everybody understands that it happens in places like London and Bradford, but London and Bradford are already a compromised England.

In America, however, violence itself constitutes the legitimacy of police action. The non-violent cop hardly exists in the imaginary of law-enforcement beyond enclaves like Mayberry, which were consigned to pure nostalgia as soon as they were imagined. And even in lily-white Mayberry, the nice policemen came attached to guns. (This was, after all, the geography of Cherokee expulsion.) This means that episodes like Ferguson are particularly vexing: there is a widely shared conviction that the state is normatively an armed presence in civilian life, but simultaneously, the sight of police with rifles (common in India) makes Americans uncomfortable, because rifles blur the distinction between ‘over here’ and ‘over there.’ In a country that worships soldiers, in which all combat veterans are ‘veterans of foreign wars,’ and in which warfare has been charged from the outset with the language of race, the intrusion of the abroad into the home – or rather, the regular presence of the abroad in the home – is intolerable: oppressive, self-alienating, the appearance on the doorstep of one’s own murderous twin and his victims. That, I think, is at least partly why St. Louis County police quickly became paralyzed by their own militarization. The “regular,” non-camouflaged police were less inhibited. They screeched up to the raving black man when they could have kept their distance, drew their guns and yelled when they could have talked instead, and fired nine times at point-blank range within thirteen seconds of their arrival. This was the state going about its everyday business of authority, and it will continue even when the armored cars have been returned to the Department of Defense. Hey ho.

August 22, 2014

Nature and the Family in Colonial Bengal

The scholarly, artistic and popular imaginaries of late-nineteenth-century Bengal are inseparable from the emergence of a new model of the respectable family. Indeed, that fascination and the awareness of a problem – the conviction that respectability and novelty are both intertwined and in conflict within the family – have been markers of Indian, and perhaps especially Bengali, modernity. Satyajit Ray’s cinema and the literature on which it is based are only the best-known signs of this cultivated identity: immersion in the problem itself constitutes an ideologically desirable subjectivity. The Rabindranath/Bibhutibhushan/Ray discourse, in which recognizably modern women and men walk out of the ‘old’ family and into new arrangements that are less stifling, is however also a resolution of the problem of Indian domesticity. It gives us bhadralok families of quite diverse economic circumstances in which the patriarch is weak, the extended clan is threadbare, religious and caste restrictions are absent or obsolete, and men as well as women possess an undeniable individuality.

That essentially liberal resolution is obviously misleading, since a ‘universal’ Indianness, which underlies the appeal of Ray and even Rabindranath beyond India, can hardly be said to be hegemonic at any point in the history of modern India itself. Dipesh Chakrabarty has quite rightly argued that the modernity that emerged in nineteenth-century Bengal was substantially different, in its emphases, from bourgeois society in contemporary Europe.[1] Indian modernity, Chakrabarty pointed out, retained the patriarchal family at its center; the European insistence on the autonomous individual was anomalous in the bhadralok world. It cannot, however, be denied that this anti-reformist, anti-individualist nationhood, which reached a climax of sorts during the Age of Consent debates of the early 1890s, secreted considerable restlessness and, indeed, reform.[2] The patriarchal family of conservative nationalism was not an unreformed patriarchy: shaken by the economic, professional and political circumstances of colonialism, it was a house in disarray.[3] For patriarchal authority to remain hegemonic within that disarray, which was often characterized as sickness, it needed to adapt and improvise. Thus, the patriarch need not be imagined as an atavist bludgeoning every challenge to his authority. Nor is it necessary to imagine him as a decadent relic, sliding uneasily into obsolescence. Attempts to articulate a vital new familiality could come from within his troubled regime, or even from the patriarch himself.

This essay examines one late-nineteenth-century attempt to deal with the ‘sick’ patriarch and his restive brood. The defense of Hindu patriarchy in the nineteenth century has an established and impressive historiography, which generally agrees that even as respectable men – especially in Bengal –  sought to assert their masculine credentials and political agency, they marked the domestic domain as an inviolable site of their authority, firmly subordinating women, the young, servants and assorted dependents.[4] While this project is generally understood as conservative, I want to suggest that it was a more complicated attempt to engineer, within the domestic nation, an Indian family that was also recognizably modern, and in which the authority of the patriarch was reimagined: both reinforced and destabilized. Improvising a conservative didacticism that borrowed eclectically from indigenous, colonial and metropolitan notions of domesticity and nature, it would incubate and teach an essentially new idiom of health, in which to be healthy was to manage, rather than deny, individual claims on wholeness, dignity and happiness.

The Nature of a Pedagogy

In one of his examinations of change and continuity in the contemporary Bengali family, the nineteenth-century essayist Bhudeb Mukhopadhyay alighted upon the subject of family pets. The presence of animals in the household was not of course new in India, but keeping essentially useless animals as named, domesticated, affectively integrated members of the family – dogs answering to Tommy and cats not answering to Pussy – was a cultural novelty borrowed from the colonizers. Bhudeb expressed his support for the development: the household pet was not only a sign of human mastery over animals, but also an index of European power in the world.[5] He believed that animals obeyed Europeans more readily than they obeyed natives. (Colonial whites were convinced that the opposite was true.[6] Insecurities over the allegiance of pets deserve more attention from scholars of colonialism.) Indians, he argued, ought to cultivate domestic habits that would build up and also demonstrate their command over nature.

Bhudeb is reasonably familiar to social historians of colonial India.[7] A classmate of Michael Madhusudan Dutta and a (less dazzling) contemporary of Bankim, he wrote voluminously on the inner world of colonial Bengal, i.e., the world of family, custom and negotiations over cultural identity. He positioned himself as an observer of a troubled society; he also saw himself as engaged in a pedagogical enterprise that might be characterized as defensive but is, I think, better seen as a cautiously innovative conservatism.

As an Indian nationalist, Bhudeb believed the Indian nation was real, readily perceptible, lamentably colonized, comprehensively degraded and in need of restoration.[8] He did not care much for an independent Indian state; his national restoration was mainly a cultural project that could proceed within the political framework of colonialism.[9] He described himself as a conservative: literally, rakshansheel.[10] As the term suggests in the colonial-Indian context, he was hostile to meddlesome whites, and even more so to Indians who criticized Hindu society from positions associated with the Enlightenment or seemed to invite the colonial government to intervene in ‘social’ matters. He insisted that the ‘traditional’ Hindu family, in which there were clear hierarchies of age and gender, caste rules were observed, selflessness and deference were the norm, and attitudes towards conjugality, sex and celibacy were generally anti-reformist, was the key to national identity itself. At the same time, he was irresistibly drawn to discourses of efficiency, science and quantification, and sought to incorporate them into his conservative family. Much like Bankim, he was drawn to Comte and positivism, although his hesitations were more pronounced.[11]

Bhudeb matters not because he indicates the self-defeating contradictions of anticolonial reaction, but because he illuminates the viability and flexibility of a modern Indian conservatism, which – as much as the efforts of Brahmos and other liberals – supported the emergence of Apu, Charulata and their kin as modern Indians. He was not an apologist for the status quo, open to change only in ‘practical matters,’ as Tapan Raychaudhuri has suggested.[12] That is too literal a reading of Bhudeb. Not only did the ‘practical changes’ he desired rest on other desired transformations, the desire itself indicates that those transformations were already at an advanced stage. For Bhudeb, fairness, regularity and the potential for improvement mattered more than any rigid adherence to hierarchies of age or status when it came to the exercise of authority in the family.[13]  For those enjoined to submit to authority, he differentiated between good and bad subordination: whereas bad subordination was associated with colonial relations of power, the good variety was identified as self-discipline and racial discipline.[14]
       The family that Bhudeb had in mind was, of course, what is commonly understood as ‘joint’ (as opposed to ‘nuclear’). In theory, there would be a patriarch, presiding over a gaggle of sons, their wives and children, assorted widowed aunts, unmarried daughters, unemployed cousins, overstaying in-laws, and, of course, servants. The joint family was not a primordial or particularly stable institution in nineteenth-century Bengal; it was itself shaped by changes in landholding, migration from rural areas to cities, and the emergence of new patterns of bureaucratized education and respectable occupation that generated unprecedented constraints and opportunities.[15] Under the circumstances, although it was important for a conservative nationalist to point to the joint family as a locus of stable essence, it was also patently a dynamic arrangement, constantly and normatively renewed. That dynamism mattered to Bhudeb, who saw the joint family as a technology of civilization: it provided insurance against unemployment, illness and death, i.e., not only the dangers of man’s animal nature, but also the unpredictability generated by constantly changing circumstances.[16]

Bhudeb’s family was quite overtly a pedagogical institution. It taught its members subordination and the pooling of individually-earned resources.[17] Without that didactic and disciplining work, there could be no community. Affect, Bhudeb argued, did not grow on trees; it had to be produced, nurtured and shaped.[18] The joint family taught, moreover, the basics of administration. Within the joint household could be found taxes, budgets and a theory of social responsibility versus individual rights: both had to be taken seriously, although the former had to be prioritized. It was, finally, a mirror of the crisis of a colonized people whose peoplehood was constituted as much by decay as by resilience. Bhudeb admired, for instance, the frugality and self-discipline of the Marwaris of Calcutta, whose joint families were apparently more robust than that of Bengalis, but he noted that laziness and self-indulgence were proliferating even among the sons of Marwaris.[19] The ‘working’ family itself had to be an object of work, which might be described as management and continuous experimentation. Indeed, Bhudeb’s patriarch was more a manager than a king.
             As a writer of didactic essays, Bhudeb can appear to be out of step with the idiom of modern social commentary, not to mention social science. His writing has more in common, on the surface, with the modalities of moral and religious education, both Indian and European/Christian. In its ‘preachy’ tone and emphasis on the restraint of impulses and desires, it represents a strain within Victoriana that is relatively subdued in Bankim, but not in Gandhi. Bhudeb adapted the idiom, converting moral instruction into a variation on the secular advice column, which emerged in the colonial press – women’s journals in particular – at roughly the same time.[20] Bhudeb addressed primarily men, and he used the idiom to teach a sprawling vision of harmony within the family and in its surrounding society that was rooted in self-abnegation and devotion, most directly but not exclusively on the part of women.[21]

That self-abnegating harmony should not be mistaken for an aversion to material pursuits. Although Indian nationalist discourse has generally emphasized the spiritual superiority of India over materially superior Europe, the search for a viable and alternative materiality has also been persistent within assertions of Indian nationhood, and not for leftists alone.[22] From Bhudeb through the Ramakrishna Mission, Indian nationalists who wrestled with the question of the everyday life of the citizen understood that while asceticism was a useful critique of Europe, it could not be the substance of nationhood.[23] Bhudeb advocated self-denial not as a good in itself, but as an appropriate response to the deprivation and humiliation of colonial rule: self-indulgence and conspicuous display in such circumstances were fine for the English, but unseemly for Indians.[24] He put forward, accordingly, formulae for living in the world as a grihastha:  the propertied householder who was nevertheless not a bourgeois European, and who, while not an ascetic, was nevertheless restrained by self and society. The conservative family would teach the life of a better grihastha, one fit for the late nineteenth century.

Women and Children First

       Women were central to this vision of the restrained and restraining household. Remaining comfortably within the bounds of mainstream Victorian discourse, Bhudeb declared that whereas animal nature was a powerful determinant of manhood, women were relatively divine (daivya).[25] What set humans apart from animals was their capacity for shame, and shame was the basis of civilization; since women felt shame more readily than men, women were an essential civilizing force.[26] While this is easily recognizable as a version of the confining English narrative of the ‘angel of the home,’ it could recuperate other, arguably more egregious, confinements of women’s agency. In the wake of Vidyasagar’s activism in favor of widow remarriage, Bhudeb remained firmly opposed to such apparent violations of the permanence of the marital bond.[27] Clearly, while Vidyasagar had won the legislative battle, Bhudeb was on the winning side in the war over marriage and women’s bodies in colonial India.[28] A widow in the family should be kept under the personal supervision of the patriarch, he wrote, and if childless, should share her bed with any children the family could spare. While the arrangement was overtly intended to stimulate the widow’s maternal instincts, it is difficult to miss the implication that the loaned children would serve a policing function in her bedroom, preventing sexual mischief.

In a similar vein, Bhudeb waded into the politics of child-marriage and the legal age of consent. This time accusing reformers of being shallow mimics of European habits, he insisted that early marriage was essential to the development of a resilient conjugal bond. Societies with a high age of marriage, especially for girls, were also marked by high rates of failed marriages and divorce, he argued, providing statistics in support.[29] Similarly, he took the position that daughters should not directly inherit parental property (aside from dowry); that would only create disharmony within the family. Daughters, in fact, represent a marked tension within the new family and affect that Bhudeb was engaged in imagining. They undoubtedly had some claim upon their fathers’ wealth and affections, and Bhudeb cited Comte on the universal relevance of intergenerational bonds and responsibilities.[30] But he felt compelled to qualify Comte: daughters, who rightfully belonged to their husbands’ families, represented the past, to be looked upon with affection but also detachment (bairagya). Only sons carried the future in which one might invest emotionally or financially.
         Bhudeb’s conservative didacticism was very clearly a reaction to the tensions he perceived in the society around him: specifically, various kinds of mobility (economic, geographic, professional and ritual) that had exacerbated conspicuous expenditure and, concomitantly, anxieties about social status.[31] He was, for instance, ‘for’ dowry – already a contentious issue in colonial marriage-politics and the policing of infanticide, because of the burden it placed upon the fathers of girls – as a customary right of Indian parents, but it was a decidedly half-hearted endorsement. He called for restraint in demands and payments, noting wryly that colonial education and professions had turned dowry into a new field of social competition, threatening the status of families that were respectable but not rich: i.e., the core constituency of modern conservatism.[32] In this new context, the autonomy-seeking individual – with his lightened sense of responsibility but insistent demands – was a manifest threat to the beleaguered edifice of kinship. The conservative family might contain those dangers and also function as a refuge from them.

Yet Bhudeb was far from being an absolutist against the transformations he observed. As a nationalist intellectual who was persuaded that nationhood required significant revisions within native subjectivity, he was more dedicated to artifice than to nature: not only had the artifices of colonialism already warped the nature of the native, the positive revision of nature was possible only through the deployment of artificial regimes of health and education.[33] That sensitivity and openness to modern artifice, indeed, is why Bhudeb can be considered one of the first Indian social scientists, although he never became entirely comfortable with the language of social science. (It was, after all, an alien narrative, inseparable from the disempowerments of colonialism.) Marriage, for Bhudeb, was not a natural institution. It was an antidote to nature, teaching modes of living that were resisted by the essentially selfish, undisciplined instincts of males as well as females.[34] A working marriage indicated the successful containment of the instincts, and the molding of new social individuals. The social scientist’s family was therefore open to intelligent interventions and adjustments. Bhudeb was particularly alert to the emergence of new norms of kinship, and to the need to improvise new norms for socializing with strangers as well as relatives, who were not always fully distinct.[35]

Wives (and husbands) were the most ubiquitous such stranger-relatives; it was here that the need to improvise and innovate was most acute. If we look below the surface of Bhudeb’s ‘confining’ vision of women in the family, it becomes clear that he was engaged in imagining confinement and liberation simultaneously. Bhudeb’s analysis of the notoriously contentious relationship between the wife and her mother-in-law, and especially the conjugal relationship, should be seen in the context of a new/changing family in which there were unmistakable new expectations of individuality in both women and men.[36] Wives had needs that went beyond the ‘social,’ Bhudeb acknowledged, and even widows, those diminished persons who might not remarry, were granted a certain wholeness. He did not demand that widows be shunned or subjected to the innumerable punishing restrictions; rather, he urged that they be treated by in-laws with affection and kindness, kept fully involved in household activities, encouraged to cultivate their domestic skills, protected from abuse and despondency, and taught Sanskrit.[37] While the last was intended as a means of shastric indoctrination, it also exposed widowed women to a substantially new educational possibility. Similarly, Bhudeb’s support for child-marriage was phrased in terms that are no different from the discourse of companionate marriage.[38] Marriages must be happy, he wrote; unhappy marriages made for unhealthy men and women. Happiness in marriage was possible only if husband and wife were linked by the deepest ties of affection and mutual understanding; such ties could develop only in childhood, among spouses who would literally grow together. Adults were too hardened for it, which is why marriages contracted in adulthood were more vulnerable to failure.[39]

       The template of conjugality that Bhudeb put forward was, of course, far from radical; it was not a vision of equality. The husband remained a figure of reverence, the wife committed to obedience.[40] Within those constraints, however, it was very much a vision of partnership. Bhudeb described the conjugal relationship as dampatya, which is a recognizably modern concept of being a ‘couple.’[41] There was considerable reciprocity. Bhudeb’s opposition to widow remarriage was balanced by his opposition to polygamy and the remarriage of widowers: those, too, were violations of dampatya.[42] And while his advocacy of celibate widowerhood sought its justifications in indigenous discourses of sannyas and vanaprastha, the wife for whom he advocated was not simply her husband’s shadow. She possessed a unique personhood that could not be replaced. That stance sat awkwardly with his conservatism, but it was consistent with his articulation of marriage as a permanent and exclusive emotional bond for both spouses.

It was consistent also with Bhudeb’s promotion of active financial roles for women in the household: wives should not only understand and manage household finances, but also influence and advise their husbands when it came to earning, spending and saving money. Bhudeb thus played a part in the development of a vital icon of ‘respectable’ Bengali femininity and social well-being: the housewife with the keys to the storeroom knotted to her anchal. But he arguably went beyond that, because by encouraging women to regard their husbands’ wealth as their own and to actively manage and increase that wealth, he not only put the Lakshmi in the grihalakshmi, he insinuated a notion of conjugal property that was ahead of the law.[43] What he called the grihakartri – effectively, co-master  – owed more to the late-Victorian discourse of the mistress of the house than to formulations of passive angels.[44] From her location within the patriarchal family, the wife became, in a sense, a home-owner and a semi-autonomous agent: an assistant manager, to extend a metaphor.

Husbands were themselves transformed by such ‘assistance.’ Bhudeb’s vision of a new Indian conjugality was, among other things, a hands-on, do-it-yourself domesticity in which husbands and wives were both less reliant on hired help. Husbands should possess basic carpenter’s and mason’s tools and know their use, he declared.[45] This is, perhaps obviously, a typical late-nineteenth-century protest against the novelty of what might be called the Charulata lifestyle, with its distracted husbands and frivolous wives: it suggests a desire to ‘return’ to a past when housewives actually did housework.[46] But the vision of respectable husbands with saws and hammers also foreshadowed Benoy Kumar Sarkar’s insistence that mistrification, or a mechanically-adept individuality across the classes, was a necessity of modernity and independence in India, both as a ‘spirit’ and as a useful capability.[47] Like Sarkar, Bhudeb was articulating a relationship with technology and efficiency that was both natural and new. He was also positing a notion of self-motivated work at home that liberated the native: men from the demoralizing, white-supervised work of the office, and women from suffocating anonymity and wasted personhood.[48]

The willingness to innovate familiality is highly visible also in Bhudeb’s vision of children and childhood. Children, for him, represented the pristine and not especially desirable nature of the human animal; they were, he wrote, the repositories of infinite selfishness.[49] For such animals, Bhudev reserved neither the sentimentality of mid-nineteenth-century Victorians, nor the indulgence of Indian worshippers of the child-God.[50] He was distinctly current and ‘global’ in his insistence upon the plasticity of the child, which qualified his ‘old-fashioned’ adherence to a Hobbes-inflected vision of juvenile wickedness.[51] As a set of norms, ‘respectable’ Bengali child-rearing was substantially reinvented in the second half of the nineteenth century, and disseminated by new forms of children’s literature and adult autobiography. To remember childhood as a life apart, distinct from the limited life of the colonized grown-up, became increasingly central to the imaginaries of adulthood and freedom.[52] The changes were fundamentally schizophrenic, framed by the expectations of continuity – articulated as culture – even as culture was itself redefined.[53] For Bhudeb, then, there was no stable child to conserve. The task, as with women, was to assert agency and ownership over unstoppable and not altogether unappealing changes.

Education was central to these transformations of Bengali childhood: not only did it teach a redefined culture, Tithi Bhattacharya has shown that it increasingly became synonymous with culture.[54] (Rabindranath, as a writer, educator, autobiographical child and cultural icon, remains the most impressive symbol of this convergence of concepts.[55]) For Bhudeb, children’s education was both all-encompassing and precisely targeted: it was diffused through the life of the child, and intended to produce better Indians.

In a racially based colonialism, the diffusion of culture cannot mean indifference to the need to compartmentalize. Bhudeb maintained a remarkable silence on schooling, which in his writings remains external to family life. Even as Rabindranath  experienced the Macaulayan curriculum as a torment that had invaded his domestic sanctuary, Bhudeb tried to build a wall between the native home and the colonial school. The wall, however, was full of holes, and by design. Bhudeb’s pedagogy was undergirded by a distinctly Utilitarian relationship of need between a society and its traditions.[56] His conservative emphasis on telling children what not to do was quite compatible with the new-fangled experiential teaching he claimed to disdain. Education must make the same student into two people, he wrote: one a policeman, the other policed, operating seamlessly and unobtrusively.[57] He evidently understood and valued the panoptic principle in modern schooling and subject-formation.

At the same time, Bhudeb showed little interest in the formation of universal subjects. He emphasized a pedagogy that was explicitly racialized and anti-humanist, corresponding to colonial discourses of sahibs and natives: it took into account the effects of climate upon bodies and habits, the ‘great powers of memory and imagination’ of the native child, and his physical weakness and tendency towards cowardice. A racially-sensitive Indian education must produce good Indians, just like English education produces good Englishmen.[58] In other words, the policeman and the policed must both be Indian, and not just in a crude ethnic sense. He was, in this regard, in the vanguard of a political project that, in various permutations, would extend through National Education and the Anushilan Samiti to the Ramakrishna Mission and the RSS.[59] The reimagined conservative-bhadralok family was the most basic such project.

Family Health

                The children Bhudeb imagined were instruments of national progress, imbedded within a vision of self-improvement that would have been quite foreign to a ‘traditionalist.’[60] His desire for ‘more accomplished’ children (who surpassed their parents’ achievements) reflected not only the priorities of competition in colonial society, but also the seepage of Darwinian discourse into homely advice.[61] Progress and positive evolution could not be taken for granted. Bhudeb harbored a sharp fear of a general decline in native society brought about by an all-too-evident mismatch of power and circumstance: the subjugation of Indians to a foreign people at their historical zenith.[62] Indian institutions would atrophy from obsolescence and irrelevance, and English power would rub off on their subjects, degrading them racially even without pernicious intentions. Particular aspects of colonial life – such as new mealtimes required by office and school routines – were especially degenerative, having disrupted the natural patterns of native bodies and families.[63] Even as Bhudeb agreed with the premise of racial progress, he voiced his alarm about the ‘quality’ of contemporary youth, who, he wrote, were inferior to their predecessors in almost every way.[64]

           That anxiety about content and its value was part and parcel of the youth-worship that would become central to Indian nationalism a generation later, when swadeshi agitation fixed rebellion firmly in the schools and colleges of colonial Bengal. The conflicting discourses of a resurgent ‘Young Bengal’ and the effeminate native male were already well established in the 1880s, of course, and for nationalist adults, youth – the national Self, the national disappointment and a challenge to their authority to boot – were almost definitively déclassé.[65] For Bhudeb, the educational remedy could not be limited to textbooks; it had to encompass a much wider lesson about health in a colonized society. Healthy child-rearing, reproductive health and shastric exhortations  became connected in his prescription for a reeducated Bengal, with shastra functioning more as a source of justification than actual guidance. Guidance came from medical science. Thus, even when Bhudeb conservatively ‘taught’ child-marriage and early child-bearing, he articulated what was clearly a science of prenatal precautions, including instructions on the ideal spacing of pregnancies (four to five years).[66] Correct spacing would produce healthier children, healthier mothers and a healthy nation.

It is worth noting that unlike later nationalists who saw a growing population as a sign of national health, Bhudeb effectively recommended fewer children.[67] A Malthusian understanding of population is evident here, although it is better understood as a colonial-Indian adaptation of Malthus. While Bhudeb was highly aware of the extreme poverty of the nation (desh) and its connection to the crisis of national health, he was not driving explicitly at starvation in the family, or even the outstripping of food resources by a fast-growing population. He was, rather, outlining a notion of sufficiency: relatively few children were enough, just as the disciplined grihastha’s habits of consumption could express a sense of what was enough. Fewer children undergirded a new familiality that was consistent with both health and happiness. Within the avowedly joint family, thus, we see the emergence of quasi-nuclear tendencies, with children as the carriers of a national education.

The modern family thus became the nursery of the healthy nation Bhudeb imagined. Health was a sign of triumph over nature; it was, as such, a measure of civilization. He therefore placed an unmistakable emphasis on the medicalization of everyday habits and predicaments. Fasting and caste-based restrictions on promiscuous touching and eating, for instance, were now rendered not as superstitions but healthy precautions against disease.[68] Eugenic advantages justified the consideration of caste in marriage.[69] The statistics of mortality were deployed to defend the preferential treatment of sons at home: girl children were hardier than boys, Bhudeb claimed.[70] At a time when bhadralok families were beginning to force their sons into wrestling akharas,[71] Bhudeb emphasized physical exercise for both girls and boys, although he also warned that exercise should not be such that it hardened female bodies or endangered child-bearing.[72] (Exercise for girls could take the form of domestic chores like sweeping and husking, he added helpfully.)
Three intertwined projects are evident in this health-conscious family. One, as noted earlier, was articulating a national population. Health could not be a narrowly ‘private’ concern in a time of growing public alarm over malaria in Bengal, where, after the 1860s, new railway lines had destroyed natural patterns of drainage and produced a plague of fever and mortality.[73] Bhudeb’s polemic shows a keen awareness of the devastating effect of malaria upon ‘the race’ (jati), and of the wider contests over public health and sanitation in British India.[74] Forms of power were needed that compensated for the dangers faced by a population seemingly constituted by unhealthiness itself. Bhudeb advanced, here, an alternative morality of procreation and celibacy. In spite of his acceptance of a link between enhanced health and fewer children, having children remained a moral imperative, and refusing to marry and procreate (like some Englishmen) carried the taint of selfishness and indiscipline.[75] Celibacy – for a few – was a source of moral power, in a clear nod to the indigenous discourse of brahmacharya. That power was vicariously available to grihastha society, but householders – in the process of reifying their nationhood – nevertheless had to regroup as a population, salvageable through statistics and healthy new habits.[76]

The second function of family health was political competition with the white power, which in the later nineteenth century was itself tied up with the authority of an increasingly disciplined allopathic medicine.[77] Indians of Bhudeb’s class and educational background now commonly brought white doctors into their homes to treat sick family members. They understood, however, that this not only violated a sanctuary of their sovereignty, it also amounted to an admission of defeat in the politics of knowledge in the colony. Doctors making ‘house calls’ were often supercilious, unwilling to leave their racial status at the door. For Indian patriarchs, dealing with white doctors could thus be highly charged with issues of dignity and humiliation. Conscious of those dynamics, Bhudeb recommended a mode of interaction that was both confrontational and cooperative. He was, he wrote, so rational, systematic and self-possessed, not only in his own treatment of the sick relative but also in his role as an informant to the visiting doctor, that the doctor’s arrogance usually gave way to a grudging admiration.[78] Thus, Bhudeb neither closed the door against the doctor nor sulked in defeat; he sought, instead, to assert control over what he recognized as an effective and desirable resource in the pursuit of a healthy family.

That was consistent with Bhudeb’s vision of colonial rule as a confrontation but also a negotiation between two forms of government: a government of the state (alien, oppressive), and a government of society (national, legitimate), which had systems of knowledge, law, judgment and punishment that were distinct but mutually comprehensible.[79] It amounted to a medical posture that, while domestic in its scope, was nevertheless scientific and enumerative; it was, moreover, semi-alternative, contributing its own body of eclectically-derived diagnoses, causes, therapies, restrictions and allowances. In these determinedly moral narratives of health and sickness, Bhudeb again underlined the importance of self-discipline on the part of care-givers, who must be brave, patient, self-sacrificing, and above all self-controlled, not letting their own distress show, and balancing the knowledgeable fear of contagion with love and courage.[80] There is, here, a foreshadowing of Gandhi’s (and Günter Grass’) vision of nursing as an alternative medical practice: partaking of the authority of doctors and hospitals, but also distinct from the masculine priorities of a public domain.[81]

Accordingly, the third part of Bhudeb’s project was the establishment of the Indian family as a scientific institution. He urged detailed record-keeping in household expenses by husbands as well as wives, and gave financial advice with easily recognizable Victorian middle-class overtones, emphasizing self-reliance, responsibility, delayed gratification and saving money. [82] Marriage itself was a science, he insisted.[83] He recognized the value of science as a method, an idiom and an iconography: references to Darwin and Newton pepper his writing.[84] He came out strongly and provocatively in favor of sex education for children. The content of this education emphasized restraint, but was framed almost completely in terms of health, scientific validity and the importance of accurate information.[85] Vyasa and Darwin were both referenced for support. Bhudeb was quite aware that he was proposing something novel, a transformation that went beyond the knowledge of birds and bees. He knew, for instance, that the sex education that he had in mind – and that his wife apparently encouraged him to give their children – involved a reimagined, more intimate, less formal, parent-child relationship, as well as a modern conjugal partnership.[86]


In Bengal in the late-nineteenth-century, the patriarchal home at the heart of the nation was transformed by the ‘conservative’ experiments in health and education, articulated in terms of everyday matters like work, record-keeping and simply living. Mealtimes, for instance, were described (or rather, prescribed) by Bhudeb as occasions of cultural negotiation: the development, within the joint family, of healthy new patterns of congregating, conversing, sitting, serving and eating, quite apart from the question of the food itself, which interested him also.[87] As domesticity became a curriculum, its privacy was fatally breached. Snippets of Bhudeb’s own family life kept finding their way into the public domain through his essays, serving a didactic purpose. He was, in a sense, living didactically, theatrically.[88]

A remarkable feature of the essays Bhudeb wrote in that didactic mode is the frequent interpolation of dialog. He would narrate conversations he had supposedly had with whites, as well as imagined conversations with Indians. His partners in conversation were typically skeptical or resistant to his advice and analyses, although not unwilling to listen and learn. Other Indian nationalists of the period – most famously, Gandhi in Hind Swaraj – did this too.[89] Reminiscent of melodramatic novels, such exchanges might be read as attempts to conjure up dialog within a racially-enforced silence. They are ‘unnatural,’ but that only reflects the unnaturalness of the subjectivity that anti-European moralists sought to project in the colony. Bhudeb tells us that when he wrote in English (with some difficulty), he would find himself writing in the voices of his imagined critics, as his own enemy.[90] Colonial prose could be an out-of-body experience, alienating the speaker from himself. Yet that alienation was not something to abjure. It was to be confronted and wrestled with, as part of a process of the re-naturing of the native.

Indian responses to colonial rule in the final decades of the Victorian era necessarily included a reformulation of the human relationship with nature. The nature of the native could not simply be ‘natural’: to compete with the power of imperial Europe, it had to demonstrate a mastery over nature itself. Nature, then, had two levels; one innate, and one transcendent. The family was the site at which these levels were manifested and reconciled. That reconciliation was based on an intertwined understanding of ‘health’ and ‘tradition.’ The traditional family, which was the sovereign space of the nation, was reimagined as an artifice that set the civilized and self-liberated Indian apart from animals as well as from Europeans. Bhudeb suggested that while all civilization was founded on the production of artifice, tradition was the production of specific artifices that would both reflect and constitute the nature (health) of the race.[91] As the basic incubator of tradition, the ‘conservative’ family had to be a healthy, dynamic and teachable institution.

The family had to be teachable because the society in which it was imbedded was not standing still. Much of Bhudeb’s polemic is about confronting the effects on Hindu society of a subjectivity and norms that had been irrevocably transformed by colonial rule.[92] Conservatism must therefore begin with self-awareness, i.e., the recognition that you have already been altered. You could then adapt intelligently. He believed such self-conscious adaptation was possible: he admired Jews as a race that had tied self-awareness to the maintenance – not ossification – of traditions, and thus conserved themselves even without a country of their own.[93] It was not a coincidence to him that Jews were ‘clean’ and ‘hygienic.’[94] To be healthy was to comprehend your nature and take control over it. Indians had to recognize that colonial subordination was self-reinforcing: it derived from disempowerment itself. The weakened native had to compensate institutionally, morally and physically.[95] That compensation enabled the continuities that are the most obvious aspects of conservatism. Bhudeb remained determined to defend a vision of governance in which the national ‘community,’ with or without the support of the state, policed the errant individual. It was precisely because that control was precarious in the context of alien rule and a rapidly changing society that individuality came close to being errant in India.[96] The individual was not, however, rejected in all circumstances. If acknowledged, individuality could be subordinated and dedicated to the well-being of the community.[97]

June 26, 2014

Work in progress - endnotes redacted