Saturday, January 8, 2011: 9:00 AM
Boylston Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
This paper examines the question of historical subjectivity for those who hoped to overthrow the colonial state by using political violence: revolutionaries, anarchists, terrorists, and militants. By reading their histories, memoirs, and autobiographies, I follow the ways in which revolutionaries and militant nationalists created an alternative national archive by narrating their sense of their own historical importance often before professional or official history accorded them this privilege. From the 1920s onward, revolutionaries produced a series of didactic autobiographies, histories, and accounts that were intended to educate and recruit students into revolutionary activity. In the postcolonial period, these histories have aimed toward commemorating a part of the Indian nationalist movement that has (in the minds of former revolutionaries) received insufficient attention from Marxist and liberal historians.
Using arguments by Reinhart Kosselleck, Hannah Arendt, and David Scott, this paper follows how historical narratives that demonstrated one’s modernity and engagement with political thought intersected with uncivil acts of disobedience that involved throwing bombs, planning assassinations, and robbing government institutions. The tension between modernity and violence was never fully resolved in the militant nationalist movement in late colonial India, but history became an important domain for negotiating and renegotiating who belonged to the newly constituted nation.