Social Scientist. v 12, no. 137 (Oct 1984) p. 3.


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Subaltern Studies II: A Review Article^

RANAJIT GUHA, in "The Prose of Counter-Insurgency",1 has tried to analyse the historiography of peasant movements in colonial India. His basic argument is that historians who have studied these movements have not considered the specific consciousness of the peasantry. They have cither characterised the revolts as spontaneous uprisings or have studied only their social and economic background. Guha's complaint is that these historians regard rebellion as ^external to the peasant's consciousness" (p 3). According to him, this problem arises not only because of the uncritical use of official sources by the historians, but also because of the historians' projection of their own consciousness into the subject they are examining. However, despite these criticisms, Guha does not provide us with an alternative framework, and the very problems he poses can in fact be questioned.

To establish the peasants' own subjectivity as the valid object of historical enquiry, Guha attempts a critique of the view that ascribes spontaneity to peasant rebellions. He can do so only by caricaturing it. Spontaneity is equated with hysterical, irrational, apocalyptic outbursts. This however is not the commonly accepted meaning of spontaneity. Spontaneity is not unpremeditated action but political action based on the actually existing consciousness of the people. Gramsci,

*This review article incorporates the contributions of Sangeeta Singh, Minakshi Menon. Pradeep Kumar Dutta, Biswamoy Pati, Radhakanta Barik, Radhika Chopra, Partha Dutta and Sanjay Prasad,

Sangeeta Singh teaches History at Lady Sri Ram College, Delhi University. Minakshi Menon is a research student of the Department of History, Delhi University. Pradeep Kumar Dutta teaches English at Bhagat Singh College, Delhi University. Briswamoy Pati teaches History at Shri Venkaterswara Collage, Delhi University. Radhakanta Barik teaches Political Science at Zakir Hussain College, Delhi University. Radhika Chopra is a Resarh Scholar at the Department of Sociology, Delhi University. Partha Dutta is a Research Scholar at the Department of History, Delhi University. Sanjay Prasad teaches History at Hindu College, Delhi University.



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