The Strange Light of Postcolonial Enlightenment

Arvind Rajagopal

in This Is Enlightenment

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780226761473
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226761466 | DOI:
The Strange Light of Postcolonial Enlightenment

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This chapter interrogates the contradictions that befell the Congress Party in the wake of Indian independence in 1947. What happens when concepts and practices associated with Enlightenment—suffrage, freedoms of various kinds, political economy—are not homegrown but imports? When they do not develop gradually but are instituted in one year? Are not expressions of popular sovereignty but the explicitly pursued policy of a state seeking to discipline a people into modernity? The chapter describes the special privilege the Nehru government gives to modern communications, and most especially television and advertising, as channels through which to reach the nonliterate members of the nation and reorganize the sensorium of India. A reading of one television ad for the Times of India, entitled “A Day in the Life of India,” demonstrates the complex mediations entailed in the co-mingling of the promises of Enlightenment, advanced capitalism, and alluring visual displays of wealth, with the knowing skepticism of an indigenous oral Hindu culture.

Keywords: Indian independence; freedom; political economy; television; advertising; mediations; capitalism; wealth; Hindu culture

Chapter.  5656 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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