Social Scientist. v 10, no. 111 (Aug 1982) p. 55.


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BOOK REVIEW Review Article

Missing Correct Perspective

RANAJIT GUHA(ED.), SUBALTERN STUDIES I: WRITINGS ON SOUTH ASIAN HISTORY AND SOCIETY, Oxford University Press, 1982, pp241.

THIS volume of modern Indian history was particularly welcome to us as it promised to deal with the subject from a perspective generally abjured by Indian academic historians: the perspective of the subjugated and toiling masses—"the subaltern classes" according to Gramsci—whose disjointed and sporadic struggles acquire a cohesion over the years which exhibits a logic of its own, culminating in the formation of a state dominated by the former subaltern groups. We hoped to see a study of peasant upsurges, of the formation and development of the Indian working class movement, the struggle and compromise resorted to by the Indian bourgeoisie which broke the anti-imperialist front formed in the struggle for national independence and created a bourgeois-landlord state.

We had ourselves made efforts in Social Scientist in the late 1970's to redress the unbalanced view put forward by bourgeois histo-riograhers of the national movement. And it was in Social Scientist that we first spelt out the relevance of Gramci's methodological schema as presented in Notes on Italian History to the study of our national movement. 1 In fact, the topics we dealt with in detail forms the subject matter of Gyan Pandey's article in the volume under review, "Peasant Revolt and Indian Nationalism: Peasant Movement in Awadh, 1919-22", whose critique of bourgeois historiography that it "faithfully reproduces the Congress leaders' assessment of the peasant movement in Awadh" is similar to ours. But there are many points of difference that require elaboration if we are to develop a genuine school of'subaltern studies'. For example, while the editor of this volume acknowledges his debt to Gramsci, his approach and that of the latter differ considerably so that it is better to give the Gramscian perspective in some detail. With regard to the study of subaltern social groups, Gramsci points out that their history "is necessarily fragmented and episodic. There undoubtedly does exist a tendency to



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