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A Continuing Debate

Rosinka Chaudhuri

Edited by Harish Trivedi, Meenakshi Mukherjee, C. Vijayasree, T. Vijay Kumar
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 312, Rs. 650.00


Just when one had thought that the magic of the nation state was beginning to be superseded, in Indian academia, by the glamour and increasing relevance of empire in the new millennium—following not only from Hardt and Negri’s Empire (2000) or Nicholas Dirks’s Scandal of Empire (2004), but also from the move made by that standard–bearer straddling most discussions of Indian nationhood, Partha Chatterjee, from nations and their derivative discourses or fragments, to the terrain of empire, as evidenced by his forthcoming publication titled, as of now, The Black Hole of Empire—we are presented with the prospect of three fat Oxford University Press books on the Nation. While Gayatri Spivak and Judith Butler speculate on Who Sings the Nation-State? (Seagull, 2007), in the arena of academic publishing in India, at least, we know who has been singing it this last year—Harish Trivedi, Meenakshi Mukherjee, C. Vijayasree and T. Vijay Kumar, who together are responsible not only for the book under review, but also for the rather disappointing titles Nation in Imagination: Sub-Nationalisms and Narration (2007) and Focus India: Postcolonial Narratives of the Nation (2007). In exactly what manner the last three names on the list have contributed towards the compilation of this anthology of conference essays, however, remains unclear, for no elucidation on their respective roles has been offered to the reader in either the Preface and Acknowledgements, the Introduction, or on the jacket.   Harish Trivedi’s introduction to the concept of ‘The Nation and the World’ is a pithy summary of the origins, developments and recent trends in the study of nations; the ground covered starts from the ‘encyclopaedic’ Anthony D. Smith in Theories of the Nation to Benedict Anderson’s ‘seminal’ Imagined Communities, to Partha Chatterjee’s ‘most salient … arguments from a vast and complex body of work’. Neil Lazarus, Gayatri Spivak and Robert Young, Frederic Jameson, Aijaz Ahmad and of course, Salman Rushdie all make an appearance on behalf, perhaps, of the ‘postcolonial’ aspect to theories of nation, while Bhabha’s felicitous phrase ‘nation and narration’, predictably makes repeated entrances on the stage of this book. In conclusion, Trivedi is of the opinion that   There are more nations and histories of national formations, in the world than this volume can even begin to encompass. But it may be hoped that it will provide a substantial and varied enough contribution to the vigorous ongoing debate on the ...

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