Practice and the ‘Primitive’

Prathama Benerjee

in Politics of Time

Published in print July 2006 | ISBN: 9780195681567
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081677 | DOI:
Practice and the ‘Primitive’

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This chapter demonstrates that in colonial Bengal, history and history-writing emerged through a re-articulation of the ‘problem’ of practice. ‘Primitives’ were incapable of valid practice. Literary theories today distinguish the symbol from figures like irony and allegory precisely in terms of its temporal significance. Rabindranath’s poetics and critique of nationalism stopped short of becoming a political strategy of resistance to universal forms of knowledge and representation. Bengali middle classes continued to imagine poetics as a site removed from the everyday of colonial unfreedom, and continued to imagine it as a surrogate of nationalist practice. Despite the poetic and potentially political insight—that ‘primitives’ were the last inappropriable location in colonial modernity—the Bengali discourse of poetics as practice failed to produce an alternative politics of time, which, as Rabindranath thought possible, would free the nation from the debilitating linearity of progress.

Keywords: colonial Bengal; practice; primitive; Rabindranath; poetics; Bengali middle classes; colonial modernity

Chapter.  14912 words. 

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