Interrogating modernity : culture and colonialism in India
'Indian Culture' has inevitably meant in our Context the monuments of antiquity, the temple sculpture of a glorious past, the texts of ancient scriptures, all 'the wonder that was'-but if we were to recognize culture as comprising a variety of signifying practices, perhaps we would begin to make sense of the astonishing proliferation of seemingly disparate contemporary phenomena : Hindi cinema and its star system, the rath yatra and the demand for a temple at Ayodhya, the devotional fervour aroused by the Ramayana on television, Madonna and Michael Jackson in middle-class homes, the folklorization of 'rural India' for elite consumption. And not so insistently visible : The demands for regional autonomy; the growth of the women's movement; the Oalit struggles for the invention of alternate traditions, both cultural and political; the non-conventional left's attempts to consolidate a lower class/caste base; the questioning of the concept of 'secularism' from both right and left; or even the formation of 'modern' communal identities.
This collection brings together some of the most interesting work being done today by scholars writing on cultural practice in colonial and post-colonial India. Interdisciplinary and theoretically informed, these essays have, in their own specific ways, tried to come to terms with our modernity. They have done so by looking at cultural forms, formations, and institutions as practices that have 'impure' beginnings and heterogeneous articulations; and emphasize the materiality of cultural production and the relationships between society, culture and ideology. They deal with questions of culture and colonialism; nationalism and the contemporary world; constructions of the feminine; and the politics and aesthetics of language and translation. A variety of cultural forms-popular as well as elite, from commercial cinema to widow burning to high literature-are brought under close scrutiny.
Taken together they contribute to the elaboration of a politically sensitive mode of cultural analysis that will enable us to begin mapping the complex path of colonial pasts as they are transformed into post-colonial futures.
Niranjana, T., Sudhir, P., & Dhareshwar, V. (1993). Interrogating modernity: Culture and colonialism in India. Calcutta: Seagull Books.