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Writing and Identity

Maria Aurora Couto

By Rochelle Pinto
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 299, Rs. 645.00


Relief and pleasure should greet the work of Rochelle Pinto in the area of Goan studies. Finally we have serious academic research being published and reviewed by mainstream publishers and periodicals. For too long Goan studies have been confined to the periphery unless noticed in seminars or publications devoted to Indo Portuguese studies. Pinto has also been retrieving some of the recent work on Goa for a wider readership.   Between Empires – Print and Politics in Goa covers in depth a whole range of issues that illuminate the difference between societies, nationalist struggles and print culture that evolved in areas under British and Portuguese rule. With the advent of Constitutional Monarchy in 1822, an educated elite influenced by the liberalism of the European Enlightenment emerged; it was a time when ‘old ideas were violently thrust aside in favour of the new, and when the proclamations of the French Revolution and the principle of popular sovereignty had proved victorious.’ Goans experienced the potential for self expression including in issues of governance and responded with a flurry of publications. Rochelle Pinto points out that print was immediately politicized ‘to consolidate oppositional identities of language, class, and caste rather than forge unities across them.’ The title suggests, that Goa was left undefined between the two empires, with writers and readers perceiving their society in relation to the one and then to the other. Goans had been granted limited franchise since mid 18th Century on the basis of income and religious affiliation. They were citizens whereas people in British India were subjects of the imperial power. They had received the spirit of the law, the spirit of equality and individual rights – a subliminal sense still marks Goan society today. This idealism energized the intelligentsia of the time who expressed their vision and hopes in the polemics of 19th century journalism. They strode and wrote as equals of those in power. For a brief period, a Goan, Bernardo Peres da Silva held the position of Prefeito, Chief Administrator in 1923; he tried to introduce radical reforms before vested interests within the local Portuguese officials and army, dislodged him. Soon enough people became aware that Goa lacked the modern apparatus of government and the state set in place by the British system. Unemployment and unwillingness on the part of manipulative or weak administrations to realize the human potential enshrined in visionary legislation led to disillusion and migration to British ...

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