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The Subaltern as Subaltern Citizen Author(s): Gyanendra Pandey Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 41, No.

46 (Nov. 18-24, 2006), pp. 4735-4741 Published by: Economic and Political Weekly Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4418914 . Accessed: 01/09/2013 06:53
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The Subaltern as Subaltern Citizen

The "re-presentation" of the subaltern(a relationalposition in the way power is conceptualised)as subalterncitizen is not about the technical questionof citizenship;ratherthe claim is about historicalagency, and about belonging - in a society and in its self-construction. For 200 years and more, the struggles waged by the oppressedand subordinated,i e, the subalterns,were seen as strugglesfor recognitionas equals. The historyof these efforts appearedas a history of sameness. However, in the later decades of the 20th century,this struggle was extendedto encompass

existence of a variety of differences that explainedthe diversity, densityand richness of humanexperience.It is this paradox that needs to be answered, while debating the constructionof a subaltern'citizen: how is the long-standingstrugglefor equalitysupposedto be folded into this newly asserted right to the recognitionof difference?
GYANENDRA PANDEY his essay begins with a provocation in its juxtaposition of terms from two very differentdiscourses: "subaltern",a relationalposition in a conceptualisationof power,a space without identity, as Gayatri Spivak has recently described it;k and "citizen", a juridical figure in a pronouncement of autonomy and rights. I need to clarify the reason for this juxtaposition. The subalternis, by definition, a political category. Citizen is not the ideal term for a rendering of the inherently pplitical character of subalternity. But, until we think of anothermore suitable alternative, let me work with this. For the purposes of the present statement, it is "citizen" that qualifies that qualifies subalternity,not "subaltern" (or describes) the statusof citizenship. My use of the phrase "subalterncitizen" is not primarily intended to suggest the subordinate status of certain citizens, though of courseit can be usedprecisely to describe such a condition in particular times and places. Nor is it used to describe a historical process of moving from a status of

another demand - the demandfor a recognition of difference - the

the termcitizen appears Unavoidably, in two differentsenses in the pages that follow. The first is that of the bearerof the legal right to residence, political statesupport andprotection participation, in a given territory. The second is this more diffuse sense of acceptance in, and acceptance of, an existingorderand existing social arrangements. Oneimmediate of the use of advantage the term "subalterncitizen" is that it preventsthe easy erection of a barrier between us (citizens, the people with history),andthem(thesubalterns, people aswell as thatbetweenourtimes without), (the time of equality, democracy, the of humanworth)and earlier recognition times (the time withoutsuch reasonand such understanding). "Not so very"long ago, the earth numberedtwo thousand millioninhabitants: five hundred million fivehundred million men,andonethousand natives". That was Sartrein his 1961
preface to Fanon's Les Damnes de la


tooneof citizenship, subalternity although againsucha processmayindeedbe traced in differentpartsof the world,not least in thecontextof theanti-colonial struggles of the 18th to 20th centuries.I am concernedwith a somewhat different propothat sition,havingto do withthepotential the subaltern s/he possesses(orthe threat of the poses) of becominga full member thevillage,theneighbourhood community, and the polis. of Thus,thepointin my re-presentation the subaltern as subaltern citizen is not centrallyaboutthe technicalquestionof oranticipated, of the citizenship, statutory kind that has been accessible in democraticor quasi-democratic societiesover the lasttwo centuries. Forthishasplainly not been an issue for mosthumanbeings forthemajor The partof recorded history. claim is ratherabout historicalagency broadlydefined, and aboutbelongingin a society and in its self-construction. That is to say, it is about the living of individualand collective lives, and the limitations on that living: about the potentialfor life and creativity,in given historical and therestriction circumstances, of that potential.

Terre.2 Yet we know how persistent the has It been. is therefore thought salutary to emphasisethatthe subaltern citizen is a necessary elementof all social arrangeandthat thecondition ments, ofsubaltemity exists in the age of reasonandenlightenment no less than in that of barbarism; in the advanced,capitalist,supposedly liberalnorth,as surely as it does in the illiberal societiesof poorer, "developing", the south. Thatsaid, let us return to the figureof thesubaltern ass/hehasappeared inrecent of history andsociety classed investigations underthe rubricof subaltern studies. The Peasant Paradigm For a quarter of a centurynow, in this of a new criticalhistorythatorigiproject natedin southAsia, the archetypal figure of the subaltern has been the thirdworld peasant.FromRanajitGuha'sinsurgent to labour; peasantandBagdi agricultural MahaswetaDevi's poor tribal peasant women(translated to by Gayatri Spivak); Amin's 'otiyars'or peasantvolunteers of Chauri Chaura, Skaria's bhils and Hardiman's patidars; toChatterjee's "fragments of the nation"in which as one reviewer notedtheindustrial class working was conspicuouslyabsent;and even in

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Chakrabarty'sstudy of the Calcutta working class, which underlinedthe persistence of feudal values, networks and practices in the activities of the jute mill labourers, to take a few prominentexamples from the writings in Subaltern Studies,3 it is this figure - superstitious, illiterate, illequipped, isolated andnon-political as s/he had appearedin much of the received social science and historical literature - that emerges again and again as the paradigm of the subaltern. "Historiography has been content to deal with the peasant rebel merely as an empirical person or member of a class", wrote Guha, "but not as an entity whose will andreasonconstitutedthe praxiscalled rebellion".4 The task of subaltern historiography was to recover this underdeveloped figure for history, to restore the agency of the yokel, recognise that the peasant mass was contemporaneous with the modern, part of modernity, and establish the peasant as the maker of his/her own destiny. "Whatdistinguished the story of political modernity in India from the usual and comparable narratives of the west", as Dipesh Chakrabartyput it in a retrospective account of the Subaltern Studies project, "was the fact that modern politics... was not founded on an assumed death of the peasant. The peasantdid not have to undergo a historical mutation into the industrial worker in order to become the citizen-subject of the nation."5 This was an insightful and important departure. The peasant was modern no less than the working class or the insurance agent. The peasant archetype itself was confounded in many respects. Large numbers of peasants became part-peasant/ part-worker, moving between the "rural" and the "urban"on a regular or cyclical basis, and even between continents, owing to colonial displacement, economic imperatives and tax structures. The societies of the "third world" were contemporaneous with those of "Europe", not a relic from the past, produced in tandem with the advanced industrial west, productive of it. Once the argument about the peasant is made for south Asia, its application to the historical experience of other parts of the world (including Europe) is readily evident: and colleagues working on Africa and Latin America have generously cited the south Asian initiative as they have pursued some of the same questions in relation to the histories of their continents.

Looking back at our attempts to rewrite the subaltern experience, and with it the whole colonial construction of history, one might suggest that we have had to contend with an insufficiently acknowledged obstacle. This has to do with a subterranean faith that persists, perhaps even in the writings of many subalternist scholars, in the lack of fit between the peasantry and industrialised bourgeois society, in the "incipience" of peasant political (hence, historical and cultural) consciousness, and the belief thatpeasants need to advance - towards modernity and full cultural and political citizenship of the modern world. There is another dimension to this difficulty. Many (one might even say, most) modernpeasantsandagriculturallabourers do not wish to remain peasants or agricultural labourers. They seek to be in the cities, with the amenities of modern civic existence - comfortable homes and jobs; running water, electricity and access to power (of all kinds); motorised transport; good schools and hospitals; and leisure time that they may organise in a variety of ways.6 That was the burden of Ambedkar's argument against Gandhi's romanticisation of "village India",and the significance of his choice of the western gentleman's suit and hat over Gandhi's peasant loin-cloth. The attempt to recover the peasant as a contemporary of modernity, and a maker of the modern, thus runs up against the common sense of the age, that the peasant, for all his or her heroism, has remained at the receiving end of larger forces of historical change and progress. Whatever its achievements, the attempt to recover the peasant subalternfor history has had to live with an enduring view of peasants as passive objects, or what one might call the inertia of modern political thought, premised to a large extent on the passing of "traditional"society. Seen as the pre-political survival of a pre-industrial social order in a whole variety of social and political analyses, from Marx's Eighteenth Brumaire to Gellner's discussion of the passage from an agrarianto an industrial age,7 the peasant has been the object of all kinds of radical social engineering throughoutthe 19th and 20th centuries. Peasant, "the adjective used for describing the masses", still stands for backwardness in society and state, as various commentators have noted.8 It is in this context that I propose the recasting of the figure of the subaltern subject into

the deliberately paradoxical, not to say oxymoronic, category of the subaltern citizen.

The Wretched of the Earth

What do we gain in our exploration of subalternity by the pairing of the terms "subaltern" and "citizen"? Here is my submission. The term citizen helps to underline - in a way that the word "subject" perhaps cannot, even with a recognition of its split meaning, as "subjectof" and "subject to" - the fact of historical agency and political arrangement(or "persuasion"). It underscores the necessary presence of the subalternfor the existence of dominance, not to say of society. It indicates also the necessity of choice (however limited), and the ongoing negotiation of lives and worlds. For the struggle to reproduce even the bare minimum conditions of survival (or humanity) in an oppressed "everyday"has been an important aspect of social existence through the centuries. The words subalternand subalternityof course reinforce what the quest of a critical historiography - Marxist, feminist, anticolonial, subalternist, minority - has long been about:the endeavour to recover lives, and possibilities, and politics that have been marginalised, distorted, suppressed and sometimes even forgotten. They allow us to reinforce the point that not all "citizens" (or human beings) are born equal, thatmany remain"secondclass"even when granted the formal status of citizens, and that many are denied formal citizenship altogether- today, and of course over most of human history. The aim of such an intervention, as the south Asian Subaltern Studies project has made amply clear, is not simply to recover a neglected underside of human experience, andto announcethatsubalterngroups also counted in the unfolding of history, but to rethink the pattern of historical development as a whole, grasp the contradictions that lie at its heart and outline political possibilities that have been lost to view or remain to be elaborated. As mentioned at the beginning of this essay, I have put forwardthe term"citizen" as a qualifier for the "subaltern" an indicator of the political quality of all subalternity (and all dominance). To explicate the argument a little, it will help to turn for a moment to perhaps the most influential philosophical explanationof the motor of human history and the sources


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of socialchangefromearlytimesto today, namely, Hegel's short discussion of andBondage". I borrowfrom "Lordship WilliamE Connolly'sexcellentsummary account9 in presenting the followingoutline of the argument. ForHegel, the saga of historyis theunfolding of thespiritand the development of self-consciousness. It is in theformation andconsolidation of the lord/slaverelationship that the seeds of self-consciousness aresown.Thepolitical scientist quotes the philosopher:"Selfconsciousness existsinandforitselfwhen, andby thefactthat,it so existsforanother; that is, it exists only in being acknowledged". Theconsciousorunconscious desirefor takesthe formof a struggle. recognition In this battle,if the one kills the other, is notpossible. Butif thevictor recognition sets himself/herself as master,forces the into slaveryand service,and vanquished forces the latterto recognisehis or her lordship,then(in Connolly'swords)"the fatefuldialecticof self-consciousness has been set into motion". Yet, this is only the beginningof the irony. "The servile one, becausehe has beenforcedintoservility, lives in circumstancespropitious to the seed of self-conas Connolly sciousness," putsit. Thelord, remainsresthaving gainedrecognition, of recognition fromanequal, less,desirous aboutit for fear yet unableto do anything of losing an establishedsuperiority. Not so the slave. "Theprospect of deathleads one to concentrate the mind,to plumbthe prioritiesof one's life and the depth of one's commitment to life. By examining these prioritiesin explicit knowledgeof thecontingency andfinitude of one's own life one beginsto give shapeto one's self, forsakingthose goals because they are or not expressive of one's unimportant best potentialities, accentuating these because they are fundamental to one's highestpurpose."10 As is clear from the above, for Hegel both the masterandthe slave are vulnerable, given thatthe selfhoodof each depends on the other. That vulnerability, whichis also implicitlychangeability and historicalcontingency, in the positionof lord and bondsman,needs to be underlined.Forit is the historyof thatvulneraand attemptsto bility and changeability, thwartchange,thatprovidesthe content of humanhistory. ForHegel,as forMarx,theslavehasthe greaterpotentialto thinkbeyondcurrent conditions,to achieve a higher level of

andconceiveandbuild self-consciousness, new worlds.For Hegel, it is not the lord but the bondsmanwho will performthe taskof transcending historically necessary theconditions of his/her existence. present absolute fearandenforced work "Through he... [begins] to acquire a coherent self and an enhancedconsciousnessof it. He can thinknow aboutwhatfreedommeansfor theindividual andwhatkindof worldwill enablethatfreedomto be."11For Marx, in a parallel move,it is notthebourgeoisie but the proletariat that is the universal class, the sign of the future,in the age of Thesubaltern is theseedof progress capital. - in life and, crucially,in thought. Thereis an idealismhere,in Marxas in Hegel, that will not easily survive the of recenthistory. Butthereis also, ravages in the inherently irresolvable character of the dialectictheypostulate, muchfoodfor thought about historical development, and aboutourunderstanding of subaltern conditions. Subalternity and Citizenship

Wemayreturn atthis tothequestion point of subalternityand citizenship. In an analysisof themassnationalist campaigns of the 1920s to 1940s in India, Ranajit Guhainvokesthe idea of a dualpolitical move on the partof the nationalist elite: andmobilise". "Thethemeof "discipline mobilisationhas a tendencyto figure in all modes of dominantdiscourseas the nationalist elite's entitlementto hegeis highlighted in mony",he writes."What such discourseis that aspectof the phenomenon whichspeaksonly of the enthusiasm of the mobilised.But as shouldbe clear fromour survey,therewas another side to it - thatis, the rigourand extent of thedisciplineusedto b,ingit about."12 - and necessarily - potential equals. Guha's concernis with the discipline Without thatpotential, the slavecannot thatwas deemednecessaryin the course be thereto recognisethe master.That is of popular mobilisation. Thereis no doubt theconundrum classes. facingthedominant about theimportance of thisaspectof mass How to deny this potential its full possiof politics.However,I wantto turntheterms bilities, and maintainthe subalternity withoutwhich dominance "discipline"and "mobilise"around,to the subaltern, lost? How suggest not only that such mobilisation andprivilegeare immediately mustalso be followedby disciplining, but to perpetuate his or her disenfranchisealso thatthe dyadused herefor an expo- ment,usingthattermin itsbroadest sense? sitionof Gandhian tacticsin anti-colonial It is the struggle and overthe multifarious civil disobediencemay well serve as a ever-changing forms of enfranchisement I suggest,thathas descriptionof a centraltheme in world anddisenfranchisement, Thishistory becharacterised constituted thepolitical of theworld, history. might history as an extended campaign to mobilise past and present. - not the leastof anddisciplineresources Two propositions hereneedto be carewhich are human resources- for pro- fully underscored.First, subalternis a duction, conquest, political advantage, position in a relationship, and one that 4737

the establishmentand reinforcement of privilege. The historyof humanachievementis also a historyof exertionto maintain or alterconditionsof production andreprocomfort andwant,dominance and duction, subordination. It is a struggle betweenthe andtheunprivileged, "citizens" privileged andthose who would be "citizens", over the rules of appropriation, accumulation, of resources, (and destruction) preservation power,prestigeandmore.It is a struggle to institute andperpetuate subalterity, or in otherwords,relations of dominance and subordination: andit is marked bycontinually changingmodes of mobilisingand disciplining. Thefactof citizenship, anticistatutory, into patedor feared,is in my view written thecondition of subalternity. Overthelast 300 yearsandmoreduringwhichmodern political thinkershave celebratedor lamentedthe passingof the ancienregime and the arrival of a new regime of the view has gainedgroundmodernity, howevergrudginglythis may have been conceded(andmay still be conceded)in theeraof colonialism, and neocolonialism that human imperialism beings are created that equal, theydeserve equal rights and are, at least theoretically, entitledto citizenshipof the city and the nation. The subaltern as potential citizen is the conditionof the historyof these times.In earlierages too, I am arguing,the subalternswerepotential resource andpotential On the boundaries of thecommudanger. nity and the polis: whetherbarbarians, Huns, Tartars,Mongols, or conquered forest dwellers, populations,"untamed" women and servants.People who could, and sometimes did, threatenand even In a word subvert theestablished order.13

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describes the situation of many who are not at the bottom of one giant social heap. Secondly, dominance and subordinationthe relation of subalternity - is produced historically, and therefore may also be altered historically. In terms of referent, of the touchstone if you like, the popular understanding of the subaltern as the down and out, the impoverished, oppressed, humiliated and scorned, makes a good deal of sense. Subalternhistory would lose its moorings without the attemptto understandthe lives andstrugglesof the most marginalised and oppressed.14 Yet the condition of subalternity,of wretchedness and humiliation, attaches to individuals and groups and who are not obviously poor and downtrodden, and even to some who might be described as subaltern elites. The second caveat is equally important. The relationof subalternityis, necessarily, always negotiated. It is the struggle to overcome the marks of an inherited subalternity on the one hand and to reinstitute it on the other that lies at the heart of subaltern history. 'Les damnes', to be sure, but in a repeatedly negotiated and renegotiateddamnation.

The Institution of Subalternity

The perspectiveoutlined above may help to amplify and complicate the notion of subaltem/ity, and the ways in which we attempt to understandthe history of subaltern groups and classes. It brings back to the subalterndomain the differentiated character, the contradictory forces and tendencies, shall we say the complexity that was central to the initial "Subaltern Studies" proposition. It restores to the subalternthe position of being a two-part subject-object,15 and recognises the layered and intricatecharacterof the political structures, institutions and opportunities within which subalternity has been located, reinforced and re-inscribed at different times and in different places. The histories that subalterist scholars have sought to engage are the histories of the underprivileged and disenfranchised: religious, ethnic and sexual minorities; marginalnationalities;dispossessed indigenous communities; immigrant labourers, the ruralpoor, urban squatters and working peoples of numerous other descriptions; African-American and dalit women in the US and India (to refer to the two countries I work on); African-Americans, dalits and women. What are the resources

thathave been available to differentclasses of people, to different constituencies and assemblages in the past, to live their lives and have their being? What are the resources available to individuals andgroups in this era of globalising nation-states, in which societies continue to be very carefully monitored by the state, yet consist of populations thatare far more summarily mixed, and often deracinatedand baffled? What kinds of traditions and histories and senses of community have dislocated and vulnerable populations invoked, in earlier times and in our own? Over the course of the 20th century, subaltern groups have commonly been grantedformalcitizenship across the globe. Even where they have not - as in the case of illegal immigrants, refugees, "guest" workers and floating assemblages of many other kinds - their existence as relatively stable populations has been secured (not to say necessitated) by the essential character of many of the services they provide, and they have been able consequently to make certain kinds of claims on state and quasi-state resources. How do these conditions of legal and quasi-legal residence, voting or various welfare rights for subaltern groups, or simply the impossibility of doing without ill-paid and sometimes unregistered labour, affect the business of subalternpolitical mobilisation on the one hand, and of governance on the other? For recent times, one might examine the history and politics of elite groups linked with historically subordinatedpopulations: the African-American and the dalit middle classes for example, the "black bourgeoisie" and "dalit brahmins"as they have been called, white but not quite (in Homi Bhabha's powerful and widely travelled phrase), groups that are under pressure simultaneously to be citizens of the modem world (national, meritrocraticand middle class) and to speak for their still under-privileged communities: in other words, "not to forget where they come from".16 At another level, one could take up for investigation what ParthaChatterjee has called "political", as distinct from "civil", society: populations of slum dwellers, domestic servants, cheap labour in hotels and small businesses, construction workers, road builders, seasonal labourers on farms, whose legal standing remainsuncertain,who may seek andobtain a degree of protection and support from the state and ancillary institutions,but who can still scarcely be counted as members of civil society.17

In one frame, these are histories of the the uninsured and the homeless, marginalised (and I repeat that these terms are not to be understood in a merely literal way; they are always relative, as we know very well); in another, of materially more comfortable citizens who are even so not allowed to be part of the polis, that is to say, citizens in the classic sense. The figure of the subaltern citizen, and my proposition about changing modes of disenfranchisement, allows us to investigate the shifting structures and practices of dominance and subordination in quite distinctive contexts with a renewed attention to contending epistemes, inheritedconstraints and unexpected opportunisms. Two very brief ex;mples will help to make the argument more concrete. Considler, first, the litany of exclusions that were:meant to be suffered by the adidravidas (the "original inhabitants", long consigned to the status of outcastes or -untouchables) in Ramnad district, south India, in the early 20th century. According to what representatives of the locally dominant kallar caste told the census commissioner in 1931, the adi-dravidamen were not supposed to wear clothing below the knees or above the hips, or cut their hair short; the women were not to cover the upper parts of their body, nor to wear flowers in their hair. Adi-dravidas were not allowed to use anything but earthen vessels even in theirown homes, or to wear gold or silver jewellery, or wear sandals, cover themselves with cloaks, or carry parasols or umbrellas. In 1931',following a serious conflict between the kallars and the adi-dravidas in the previous year, and pe,rhapsfurthermotivated by the gathering of information for the decennial census, the kallars drew up an even more stringent list of prohibitions, which included a ban on learning to read or write (which suggests thatsome of the adi-dravidaswere now beginning such learning), on playing music at their own weddings and other ceremonies, on using horses or sedanchairs in these weddings, and so on.18 An appreciation of the obvious cultural and symbolic value of clothing and public display, in all societies, will help to set this in context. Being denied the right to wear the same clothing or jewellery as other people is a sign of subordination and humiliation. In India, for a man to remain bare-chested at all times was an indication of poverty and humility. Many temples requiredmale worshippers to remove their shirts before entering the inner precincts.


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In the famous breast-cloth controversy of the mid-19th century, sparked off in part by colonial and missionary propaganda against existing customs, the lower castes in Kerala demanded the right for their women to wear blouses or breast-cloths, at a time when in the countryside even high-caste women did not cover their breasts. Not surprisingly, the struggle for the right to cover one's upper body and head, or wear shoes, or carry umbrellas, or to stand erect while talking to a "superior", or to sit down on a chair or a cot in his or her presence, has been a central part of the struggles of the lowest castes and classes in colonial as well as postcolonial India.19 For a very different case, I want to turn to the history of race relations in Atlar.ta, Georgia in the era of the civil rig[hts movement and after, as told by the historian Kevin Kruse in his White Flight.: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism.20 A booming centre of capitalist growth in the heart of the Old South of the United States, a leading hub of commercial, transportand service facilities, Atlanta was portrayedas a beacon of the New South, "a place where economic progress and racial progressivism went handin hand".When Atlantadesegregated its public schools in 1961, apparentlywith greatsuccess and a minimumof disruption, numerous observers showered praise on its accomplishments, and Mayor William Hartsfield coined the famous slogan, "the City That Was Too Busy to Hate". A year later violent clashes between blacks and whites erupted in Peyton Forest. Here, white activists set up physical barricades on a crossroads dividing an expanding black residential zone from the shrinking white sections of the city, in what they clearly saw as a last stand of (the old) order.As ablack middleclass emerged and moved into what were traditionally white neighbourhoods, the Southwest Citizens Association representing white homeownersstatedthatthebarricadeswere nothing more than a response to "the vicious, block-busting tactics being used by Negro realtors".It was not just Peyton Forest, an office-bearer of the association declared, but all of white Atlanta that was "endangered"by black expansion. The barricades were removed within weeks, owing to the resistance of black activists and other civil rights groups, and decisions in courtcases thatwere instituted in the wake of the violence. In less than a month after that, most white homes in

Peyton Forest were listed for sale with to the legal, political and perhapsmoral blackreal-estate The'Peyton Wall' pressures andafter thecivil agents. theyfeltduring writesKruse, was"onlythemost rights era.Inanother white incident, twist, significant confronted public eruptionof the much largerphe- conservatives, by anascendant nomenonof whiteflight.""Wearetrying civil rightsmovement,turnedfrom their to find some areaoutsidethe city limits. traditionaland openly racist arguments where we can buy homes and get away aboutinheritance, intelligenceand enterfromthe problem the priseto a sharpened statement of individual (of desegregation)", president of the Southwest Citizens rightsandfreedomof choice:the "right" Associationnoted."Everybody I knowis to associate(ornotassociate)withwhomdefinitelyleaving the city of Atlanta." ever they pleased; to select neighbours, In the five years precedingthe Peyton friends,andchildren'sclassmates; andto Forestdebacle,nearly30,000 whiteshad manage economic and social affairs as left the city. During the 1960s another they wished,withoutgovernmental inter60,000 of the remaining 3,00,000 whites ference. Through this shift, as Kruse fled; duringthe 1970s another1,00,000. observes,conservativepoliticiansat the "TheCityToo Busyto Hate", the sceptics locallevel "discover[ed] a number of ways was fast becoming"TheCity in whichtheycouldpreserve remarked, and,indeed, Too Busy Movingto Hate".21 In a classic perfectthe realitiesof racialsegregation of residential in other outsidethe realmof law and politics."23 replication patterns American into Generations of prejudice and privilege cities, it was also mutating an innercity populated by blacks,includ- are not given up in a day. ing manyof thosewho hadmovedup into the ranksof the comparatively comfortSubalternity and Difference ablemiddleclasses,andsurrounded by an The point of the argumentpresented expandingarea of wealthy and isolated white suburbs. abovehas been to recognisethe variation Thereareotheraspectsto thestory.The and sophisticationof inheritedhistories desegregation of buses in Atlanta led andcultures,religious,politicalandecoto boycottpublictransport nomicrituals, statesandstatepolicies,and segregationists and hence to its substantial collapse.The to underline the highly differentiated openingup of the city's publiceducation, characterof subalterngroups and their which was carriedthroughmuch more politics, without losing sight of the uneffectively and peaceablythan in cities doubtedfacts of immiserisation, oppreslike New Orleans, led to a whitemigration sionormarginalisation. Theexamples cited to privateschools and academiesand to in theprevioussectionshouldhaveserved thereappearance of whatdesegregationists to illustrate the range of tactics, the - increasingly werefightingagainst over- adaptability and cunning,the subtle and crowded all-black schools. In the last the not so subtleways in whichcontenddecades of the 20thcentury, as new well- ing partieshave foughtat differenttimes to-do coloured immigrantsmoved into andin different placesto alteror perpetuthe suburbs, the phenomenon of re- ateparticular conditions of dominance and segregationof schools was seen in new subordination. areas. The departure of suburban whites I wantto concludewitha briefreflection from raciallymixed schools was partof on another aspectof this dialectic,which a new stagein whiteflight,inwhichwhites hasbecomethe focus of someexploration the innerring of suburbs abandoned just and debateonly in recenttimes. For 200 thecity andmovedto anouterring years and more, the struggles of the ouitside in the countiesbeyond.22 of "exurbs" and subordinated were seen as oppressed Notice the determination in all of this strugglesfor recognitionas equals. The to maintain andtoreinforce the history of theseeffortsappeared asahistory "distance", marks even ofsubalternity uponthosewho of sameness,and the right to sameness: have escapedfrompovertyand the more "oneman,one vote",equalpay for equal of discriminatory forms social work,theneedto overturn inherited strucundisguised statepower,and regulation.The negotiationof a higher turesof power,to capture statusby individuals andgroupswhohave so on. In the later decades of the 20th beenhistorically is a process century, the battle was extended selfsubordinated that hasalways beenfraught withobstacles. consciouslytoencompass another demand Indeed,the exodusof richwhitesfrom - the demandfor a recognition of differcities provedto be one of ence - as the awareness largeAmerican grew thatdifferthemosteffectivesegregationist responses ences of gender,of communalpractices 4739

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In Hegel's abstraction of the masterandways of being,even of incommensu- Ironically, today,at the verytimewhen andits relation slave relationship, the slave has to be andbeliefs,haveprovided the questionof difference rablelanguages for socialjusticeandequality recognised in order to give recognition to the very groundfor the diversity,density to struggles as a matter fordebate the master; and yet his or her enslavement and richnessof humanexperience.One hasbeenestablished and has to be maintained. Concrete history inwidening academic question inevitablyfollows: how is the andintervention it has become clear and for circles, compounds the problem. The subaltern is struggle equalitysup- political long-standing hasnecessarily a necessarypresence, s/he cannotbe wished posedto be foldedintothisnewlyasserted thattheissueof difference of demo- or spirited away; and yet he or she cannot of difference? to be foldedintoanyprogramme right to the recognition At cratic conservative is hardly Theanswer struggle, politicaland fully belong. S/he has to be the same - and straightforward. for the recognition intellectualgroups are pivotingtowards yet different at the same time. Difference one level, the demand one they have is not to be privileged, yet it must not be of difference refines and expands the anotherline of reasoning, human rights, long shunned.Right wing forces around entirely denied. demandfor fundamental It is precisely the competing demands For,untiltheassertion theworld,whohaveforeverso longstated andjustice. equality andprivilege of "difference", on the one hand, and the claimtocontinued of a politics of differenceby feminists, their power andother"minori- in termsof innatedifference(the superi- language of equal rights and social justice, nationalities marginal of differencewas ority of a particular race,caste, sex, etc) on the other, that produced the twisted ties",the proclamation to an affirma- American slogan, "Equal but Separate". of containment. Yet, if the arenow sometimes turning alwaysa means So long as African-Americans and Eurolatter suggestion is correct, it leads to tion of sameness. thisparticular version pean Americansboth hadaccess to schools, another,more fundamentalproposition Weareallthesame, in thehistory of the argument theplaceof difference about goes - men and women, hospitals, hotels and parks, what was the black and white, uppercaste and lower harm in keeping these separate for each and subordination. of dominance Hinduand Muslim.No "race". The proposition of course has a It is my beliefthatthereis a criticaland caste, Christian, still largely unexploredrelationshipbe- one needsto be given any specialadvan- wider provenance, although, as we have and the tages or state support.Success and ad- seen, its terms are sometimes modified. tween dominance/subordination Whatever the specific argument, the andmustdepend,on depends, categorical attribution of difference. vancement one mightsay, is the markof merit,individual Difference, ability,hardwork,and, "separate" in this proposition are hardly Andthosewho the salt of the earth. The Muslims of India "luck". the subordinated or subalternised, maybe(justmaybe) are like the rest of "us", they deserve no because it is measuredagainst don't makeit simplydo not deserveto. precisely to here has the "standard" The underlying the purported mainstream, special privilege or state protection: yet proposition Andit is in theattribution do withtheequalrightsof all (irrespective they do not really belong, since they adhere orthe"normal". thatthe logic of dominance of caste, colour, race, sex or creed, as to a "foreign" religion. It is the same with of difference and subordination has always found several modern constitutions declare). Latina/Latinomigrantsto the US: they can it is Freedomof choice, the abilityto decide never be truly American, since they cannot Men are not "different"; expression. women who are. Caste Hindus are not whatreligionone follows, whatassocia- dream in English.24 The dalits and the in India; it is Muslims, and tionsonejoins, whomone associates "different" with, African-Americans of course belong. "tribals", and dalits who are. White where one lives, shops, plays, or where However, as the familiar elitist proclamaVietnam- one's childrengo to school - these are tion has it, generations of "low"life- loose are not "different"; Australians humanrights,so eloquently living, dirty personal habits, the collective ese boat people, and Fijian migrantsto fundamental in the 18thcentury revolutions mentality of the ghetto - have made the Australia, and, astonishingly,Australian articulated and since. It is on this hallowedground majority of them "different"and, shall we are. aboriginals thedominant say, somewhat "unworthy":they need to Such an insight may help us also in that,in theageof civil rights, as the US replace pull themselves up by their bootstraps,and classes in India as well the situation of the doubly analysing The tribalpeasantwoman: claims aboutrace andcaste with the lan- deserve only the minimum of social welsubalternised. of fare or state support. as tribal,and"different" "different" equality again guageof liberalindividualism, In complex ways, then, the powerful andfree choiceto tryto keep as woman.Orwomenof colour:subaltern opportunity and African- manoeuvre to return the figure of the and difference dalits ("ex-untouchables") twice over. Subalternity "intheirplace". subaltern to its appointed location: the as subaltemity. Americans rolledintoone.Difference ("ex-slaves") as difference. Subalternity The point I am makingis not that the issue of differencemustbe addedto that Back Volumes It is to recognisethatthey of subalternity. appearall too often as one and the same Back Volumes of Economic and Political Weekly from 1976 to 2005 of gender,caste, thing.Theforegrounding are available in unbound form. as so manyways race,etc, in thismanner, of organisingsubalternity, may help to Writeto: anddeepenourunderstanding complicate CirculationDepartment, of social andpoliticalpower,even as we Economic and Political Weekly workto exposetherootsof contemporary Hitkari House, 284 Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Mumbai400 001. and discriminaas well as past prejudice @epw.org.in Circulation tion, andrefashionthe projectof turning the world upsidedown.


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"third world" traditional peasant ekingout existencein Haiti,Rwanda or a miserable dalits"unfairly" to Bangladesh; promoted and bureaucratic office college degrees (and, even more dangerous, medical practice) in India; African-Americans thestoresand"shooting" atrelief "looting" helicoptersin the wake of the Katrina disaster. Muchof thiswouldbe laughable, were it not part of a widely accepted commonsense, resolutelypurveyedand promoted by the media. What underliesthis effort is the conscious or unconsciousattemptto isolate and assign it to the margins subalternity of societyandhistory, thathave "margins" been brought into beingby the historical accident of "backwardness" or the unThis is a fortunate inheritance of poverty. andinsidious movethatis bothpredictable - in its denialof thepoliticsthatgoes into theestablishment andsustenance of privilege, andin its confiningof differenceto another discoursewhich,as the pretence has it, hasnothing to do withthe business of dominanceand subordination. 21

1890-1940 Histories, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1989; and for further Pandey,TheAscendancy examples,Gyanendra of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh: Class, Communityand Nation in Northern India, 1920-1940, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2005; Gyan Prakash, Bonded Histories:Genealogies 6f LabourServitudein Colonial India, CambridgeUniversity Press, 2003; andRamchandra Guha,The Cambridge, Unquiet Woods: Ecological Change and Peasant Resistance in the Himalaya, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1990. 4 Ranajit Guha, 'The Prose of CounterInsurgency' in RanajitGuha (ed), Subaltern Studies 11, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1983, p 2. 5 DipeshChakrabarty, Habitations ofModernity: Essays in the Wake of Subaltern Studies, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 2002, p 19. 6 It goes without saying that modem capitalist farmers not only desire these facilities and comforts,but oftenenjoy themin full measure, addingthejoys of fancy countryhomes to the resources of the city. 7 See Karl Marx, The EighteenthBrumaireof Louis Bonaparte, 1852; International Publishers,New York, 1963; ErnestGellner, Nations and Nationalism, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1983. 8 The wordsin quotation marksarefromGokhan Email:gpande2@emory.edu Bacik, 'Turkeyand Russia:WhitherModernisation?', Journal of Economic and Social Research, Vol 3, No 2, 2001, p 56. 9 William E Connolly, Political Theory and Modernity,Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1988. [Iowe thanksto severalfriendsin Emory- Shalom 10 Thesequotations comefromConnolly,Political Goldman,Bruce Knauft,Chris Krupa,Ruby Lal, Theory and Modernity,pp 94-96. KenMaclean,Laurie Aruna Ramachandran Patton, 11 Ibid, p 96. - andtoDavidHardiman forcomments in Warwick 12 Ranajit Guha, 'Discipline and Mobilise: on an very rough first draft; and to other Hegemony and Elite Control in Nationalist membersof my graduateseminar on "Subaltern inParthaChatterjee andGyanendra Campaigns' Citizens"whose questionshave made it harderto Studies,VII:Writings Pandey(eds), Subaltern write this essay.] on South Asian History and Society, Oxford I Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak, 'Scattered University Press, Delhi, 1989; reprintedin on theSubaltern andthePopular', itGuha,Dominancewithout Speculations Ranaj Hegemeony: Journalof Postcolonial Studies, Vol 8, No 4, Historyand Power in ColonialIndia,Harvard November 2005, p 476. UniversityPress, Cambridge,Massachusetts, 2 Prefaceto FrantzFanon, The Wretched 1997:thequoteis foundon p 150of thisvolume. of the 13 Considerthe 'Slave dynasty'thatruledin Delhi Earth, Grove Press, New York, 1963, p 7. 3 See the eleven volumes of SubalternStudies. in the 13thcentury;or the Mamlukswho ruled Studies in South Asian History and Society, fromCairofromthe 13thto the 16thcenturies. Or, for a differentkind of example, consider especiallyvolumes I-VI, publishedby Oxford the renowned 16th century Bhakti poet of University Press, Delhi, 1982-1989; Ranajit Guha, Elementary Aspects of Peasant northern Goswami Tulsidas'swell known India, verse: "Dhol, ganwar, shudra,pashu, naari; insurgency in Colonial India, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1983; Gayatri yeh sab taaran ke adhikari (The rustic, the lowercastes, womenmustbe beatento be kept Spivak,In OtherWorlds.Essays Chakraborty in CulturalPolitics, Routledge, New York, in shape- like [domesticated] animalsandlike the drum)" 1988;Shahid Amin,Event, Metaphor, Memory: ChauriChaura,1922-1992,OxfordUniversity 14 Cf Ranajit Guha: "When Abhoy Mandal of Press, Delhi, 1995; Ajay Skaria, Hybrid Momrejpur, considered polluted by the Histories:Forests, Frontiers,and Wildnessin asthmaticattacks suffered by his mother-inWestern India,OxfordUniversityPress,Delhi, law, submitshimself for expiationto the local Peasant Nationalists 1999; David Hardiman, council of priests and says, 'I am utterly of Gujarat, Oxford University Press, Delhi, destitute;wouldthereveredgentlemenbe kind 1981; ParthaChatterjee,The Nation and Its enough to issue a prescription that is commensurate with my misery?' or when Fragmenets. Colonial and Postcolonial Panchanan Histories, Princeton University Press, Mannaof Chhotobainan, his body rackedby analcancer,pleads before a similar Princeton, NJ, 1993; Dipesh Chakrabarty, Re-thinkingWorkingClass History: Bengal, authorityin his own village, 'I am very poor;


I shall submit myself to the purificatoryrites of course;please prescribesomethingsuitable for a pauper'- are we to allow these plaintive voices to be drowned in the din of a statist historiography?What kind of history of our people would thatmake, were it to turna deaf ear to these historieswhich constitute,for that period,the densityof powerrelationsin a civil society where the coloniser's authoritywas still farfromestablished?"; see his 'The Small Voice of History' in ShahidAmin andDipesh Chakrabarty (eds), Subaltern Studies IX: Writingson SouthAsian History and Society, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1996, p 6. 15 This is a position we all share, yet one that is not easily grantedto the master or the slave, since the one is seen as a fully autonomous subject (that is agent) and the other as pure object (acted upon). 16 For the African-American case, see, for BlackBourgeoisie, Frazier, example,E Franklin FreePress, New York, 1957, BartLandry,The New Black Middle Class, University of CaliforniaPress, Berkeley,1987,andStephanie Shaw, Whata WomanOught to Be and Do: Black Professional Women Workersduring theJim CrowEra,University of ChicagoPress, Chicago, 1995; for the Dalit middle classes, Harold Isaacs, India's Ex-Untouchables, Harper,New York, 1964; Sacchidanand,The HarijanElite:A Studyof the Status,Networks, Mobilityand Role in Social Transformation, ThomsonPress,Delhi, 1976;NanduRam, The MobileScheduledCastes.Riseofa NewMiddle Class, Hindustan Publishing Corporation, Delhi, 1988; and for a recent foray into this history, GyanendraPandey, 'The Time of the Dalit Conversion', Economic and Political Weekly,Vol XLI, No 18, May 6, 2006. 17 Partha ThePoliticsofthe Governed: Chatterjee, Reflectionson PopularPolitics in Most of the World,ColumbiaUniversityPress,New York, 2004. 18 See RobertDeliege, TheUntouchables of India, Berg, Oxford, 1999, pp 109-10. 19 Forthebreast-clothcontroversy, see ibid,p 108; RobertHardgrave,'The Breast-Cloth Controversy', The Indian Economic and Social HistoryReview, 5, 2, June 1968, pp 171-87; and Kawashima Koji, Missionaries and a HinduState: Travancore1858-1936, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2000. For other strugglesover similarissues of deference and power, see, for example, Ranajit Guha, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgencyin ColonialIndia,OxfordUniversity Press,Delhi, 1983; Sumanta Banerjee, In the Wake of Naxalbari:A Historyofthe NaxaliteMovement in India, Subarnarekha, Calcutta, 1980; and andRajendra KalyanMukherjee SinghYadav, Bhojpur: Naxalism in the Plains of Bihar, New Delhi, 1980. 20 Kevin Kruse, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism,Princeton University Press, Princeton,NJ, 2005. 21 The quotations and figures in this and the are from ibid, pp 3-5. preceding paragraphs 22 Ibid, pp 114-15, 147, 168ff, 263-64. 23 Ibid, p 8; see pp 8-9, 161ff and passim. 24 Samuel P Huntington, Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2004.

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