UNDER THE MAGIC SPELL OF THE HINDU MIDDLE CLASS 83
the British. In fact, the shift to researching different regions followed a struggle itself, which questioned New Delhi's prerogative to 'be India5. Issues related to the working class, share-croppers, peasants, adivasis (tribals), gender, dalits (outcastes) and the environment charged the world of the Indian historians, generating a lot of excitement and debates. Intellectual interactions also implied interdisciplinary research and its rigours. Many of the ways of looking at the 'world5 were questioned/critiqued and fresh ideas and paradigms developed. Thus, the 1980s saw a serious progress made by historians, and many were going 'against the grain5 as it were, with agendas of research that were rooted outside any received framework. The blossoming of this scholarship in the 1980s co-existed with a decline of the nationalist school. In this sense at least the discipline itself proved to be a great leveller. This phase also saw the advent of 'subaltern' historiography onto the scene — a feature celebrated by most south Asianists, and this included even some of the critics of the 'subaltern5 method.
Gyan Prakash, the author of Another Reason identifies himself as a part of the 'subaltern collective5. Nevertheless, as one proceeds to review the book one gets a feeling that Indian historiography seems to have completed one full circle in the last 50 years or so, especially when it comes to building historic blocks of elites, more specifically of the middle class and its discourses. In fact this retreat has become a noticeable feature of many 'subaltern5 or 'ex-subaltern5 historians/ non-historians in the 1990s. What seems to be attempted is to draw upon these and generalise about south Asia. This world seems to be autonomous and untouched by everything, excepting the discourses of power/knowledge. Everything else — including the human agency — seems to be static and in a state of stupor. What has in fact happened is a recreation, in many ways, of a highly sophisticated and technocratised impact/challenge/response model, with the tradition/ modern binaries as an important constituent. Interestingly in their simplistic form both had failed to make much headway in Indian history in the past. And, unlike in the days of the nationalist historians, or the earlier 'subaltern5 attempts that concentrated on Calcutta, the city centres and the world of the 'elites5 have expanded in the present work.
One can speculate about the reasons for this retreat endlessly, but what is significant is the serious undermining of the discipline, with a severe narrowing down of its borders. The first chapter of Another Reason projects a rough idea of the author^ method. The