Loyalty and the Making of the Modern Political Subject

AHA Session 31
Thursday, January 3, 2019: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Williford A (Hilton Chicago, Third Floor)
Tracie Matysik, University of Texas at Austin
The Audience

Session Abstract

This panel examines the idea of political subjecthood by bringing together three case studies from colonial South Asia, mid-twentieth century Africa and mid-century Latin America. How do state and non-state actors ascertain and secure loyalties through the use of language and racial-religious classification? What overt and tentative pronouncements of allegiance do such processes anticipate and what forms of dissident collaboration do they inspire? What affinities do they stimulate on the part of the political subject, and what privileges do they require them to eschew? By foregrounding such questions, this panel speculates as to the productive possibilities of reading assertions of political subjecthood in different regional and temporal contexts under the singular sign of loyalty. Abhilash Medhi attends to the colonial construction of the disloyal indigene on the Indo-Afghan frontier, both in terms of how it informed particular systems of governance and as a historiographical condition that casts a long shadow over historical writing on the region. Abikal Borah revisits the history of racialization in pre-apartheid South Africa through an exploration of the contingent and competing loyalties produced by discourses concerning race, nation, and empire. Amy Kerner considers entanglements between language and ideology in light of an incipient Israeli state’s attempts to cultivate Jewish national loyalties among Argentine Jews while navigating the latter’s preference for Yiddish over Hebrew. Together these papers aim to facilitate a trans-regional conversation on the oppositional and complementary energies animated by loyalty, as well as the multiple sites of collusion and implication that it encompasses, but which remain equally significant for our understanding of the making of the modern political subject.
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