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Reframing ‘India’ in Exile: The Excentricities of Peripheral Vision and a View from the Centre

Reframing ‘India’ in Exile: The Excentricities of Peripheral Vision and a View from the Centre published on

April 8, 2014
Location: Fayerweather 411
Time: 5:30-7:00pm
Speakers: Benjamin Zachariah (Karl Jaspers Centre for Advanced Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg University)

Abstract: In the first half of the twentieth century, political emigres and exiles from India found themselves in a position to become the voice of a colonised and oppressed country before an audience comprising often sympathetic, if not always well-informed, citizens of various countries of the world in which they found themselves. The ways in which they found this voice had much to do with their ability to reframe the problem of India in terms intelligible to these audiences. In so doing, they also embarked on a process of self-education and ideational translation that was transformative of the ways of conceptualising India in the world, and the world for India. The various framings of India, sometimes by the same person for different audiences, is revealing of the ways in which existing and emerging languages of legitimation were mobilised, and affected the reframing of ‘India’ both at home and away from India, by those identified with India as a national entity as well as those foreign to it. The ways in which peripheral subjects speaking from and to the centres of world power were crucial elements in conceptualising the periphery for its own subjects at home is an important aspect of the mobilisation and movement of diverse ideas in the first half of the twentieth century. How did the persons move back and forth?  How did this movement of ideas work? How were these transmitted? These questions take us past the themes of the limited or constrained agency of the native informant, towards a more dynamic model of moving ideas.

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