Oxford university press bombay calcutta madras

Download 359.5 Kb.
Size359.5 Kb.
  1   2   3   4   5   6

Loss and Recovery of Self

under Colonialism



Loss and Recovery of Self

under Colonialism






Oxford University Press, Walton Street, Oxford OX2 6DP






and associates in


©Oxford University Press 1983

Printed in India by P.K.Ghosh

At Eastend Printers , 3 Dr. Suresh Sarkar Road , Calcutta 700014

And published by R. Dayal, Oxford University Press

2/11 Ansari Road , New Delhi 110002.


Prafulla Nalini Nandy

and Sarala Nandy




Sex, Age and Ideology in British India 1


A Post‑Colonial View of India and the West 64



'Through a curious transposition peculiar to our times', Albert Camus once wrote, 'it is innocence that is called upon to justify itself.' The two essays here justify and defend the in­nocence which confronted modern Western colonialism and its various psychological offshoots in India.

Modern colonialism won its great victories not so much through its military and technological prowess as through its ability to create secular hierarchies incompatible with the traditional order. These hierarchies opened up new vistas for many, particularly for those exploited or cornered within the traditional order. To them the new order looked like‑and here lay its psychological pull‑the first step towards a more just and equal world. That was why some of the finest critical minds in Europe‑and in the East‑were to feel that colonial­ism, by introducing modern structures into the barbaric world, would open up the non‑West to the modern critic-analytic spirit. Like the 'hideous heathen god who refused to drink nectar except from the skulls of murdered men', Karl Marx felt, history would produce out of oppression, violence and cultural dislocation not merely new technological and social forces but also a new social consciousness in Asia and Africa. It would be critical in the sense in which the Western tradition of social criticism‑from Vico to Marx‑had been critical and it would be rational in the sense in which post Cartesian Europe had been rational. It is thus that the a his­torical primitives would one day, the expectation went, learn to see themselves as masters of nature and, hence, as masters of their own fate.

Many many decades later, in the aftermath of that marvel of modern technology called the Second World War and perhaps that modern encounter of cultures called Vietnam, it has become

obvious that the drive for mastery over men is not merely a by‑product of a faulty political economy but also of a world view which believes in the absolute superiority of the human over the nonhuman and the subhuman, the masculine over the feminine, the adult over the child, the historical over the ahistorical, and the modern or progressive over the traditional or the savage. It has become more and more apparent that genocides, ecodisasters and ethnocides are but the underside of corrupt sciences and psychopathic technologies wedded to new secular hierarchies, which have reduced major civilizations to the status of a set of empty rituals. The ancient forces of human greed and violence, one recognizes, have merely found a new legitimacy in anthropocentric doctrines of secular salvation, in the ideologies of progress, normality and hyper‑masculinity, and in theories of cumulative growth of science and technology.

This awareness has not made everyone give up his theory of progress but it has given confidence to a few to look askance at the old universalism within which the earlier critiques of colo­nialism were offered. It is now possible for some to combine fundamental social criticism with a defence of non‑modern cultures and traditions. It is possible to speak of the plurality of critical traditions and of human rationality. At long last we seem to have recognized that neither is Descartes the last word on reason nor is Marx that on the critical spirit.

The awareness has come at a time when the attack on the non‑modern cultures has become a threat to their survival. As this century with its bloodstained record draws to a close, the nineteenth century dream of one world has re‑emerged, this time as a nightmare. It haunts us with the prospect of a fully homogenized, technologically controlled, absolutely hierar­chized world, defined by polarities like the modern and the primitive, the secular and the non‑secular, the scientific and the unscientific, the expert and the layman, the normal and the abnormal, the developed and the underdeveloped, the van­guard and the led, the liberated and. the savable.

This idea of a brave new world was first tried out in the colonies. Its carriers were people who, unlike the rapacious

first generation of bandit‑kings who conquered the colonies, sought to be helpful. They were well‑meaning, hard‑working, middle‑class missionaries, liberals, modernists, and believers in science, equality and progress. The bandit‑kings, presumably like bandit‑kings everywhere, robbed, maimed and killed; but sometimes they did so without a civilizing mission and mostly with only crude concepts of racism and untermensch. They faced ‑and expected to face‑other civilizations with their versions of middle kingdoms and barbarians; the pure and the impure; the kafirs and the moshreks; and the yavanas and the mlecchas. However vulgar, cruel or stupid it might have once been, that racism now faces defeat. It is now time to turn to the second form of colonization, the one which at least six generations of the Third World have learnt to view as a prerequisite for their liberation. This colonialism colonizes minds in addition to bodies and it releases forces within the colonized societies to alter their cultural priorities once for all. In the process, it helps generalize the concept of the modern West from a geographical and temporal entity to a psychological category. The West is now everywhere, within the West and outside; in structures and in minds.

This is primarily the story of the second colonization and resistances to it. That is why these essays are also forays into contemporary politics; after all, we are concerned with a colo­nialism which survives the demise of empires. At one time, the second colonization legitimized the first. Now, it is independent of its roots. Even those who battle the first colonialism often guiltily embrace the second. Hence the reader should read the following pages not as history but as a cautionary tale. They caution us that conventional anti‑colonialism, too, could be an apologia for the colonization of minds. If the following account displays a 'distorted' view of some of the Enlightenment figures and of radical social critics in Europe, it is a part of the same story. They do not often look the same when the viewpoint is the immediacy of the new oppression and the possibility of cultural defeat. Nor have I, for the same reason, managed to make some well‑known reactionaries look as villainous as many

would have liked. Time has rendered them either toothless or unwitting allies of the victims.

This book takes the idea of psychological resistance to colo­nialism seriously. But that implies some new responsibilities, too. Today,when 'Westernization' has become a pejorative word, there have reappeared on the stage subtler and more sophisticated means of acculturation. They produce not merely models of conformity but also models of 'official' dissent. It is possible today to be anti‑colonial in a way which is specified and promoted by the modern world view as 'Proper', 'sane' and 'rational'. Even when in opposition, that dissent remains predictable and controlled. It is also possible today to opt for a non‑West which itself is a construction of the West. One can then choose between being the Orientalist's despot, to combine Karl Wittfogel with Edward Said, and the revolutionary's loving subject, to combine Camus with George Orwell. And for those who do not like the choice, there is, of course, Cecil Rhodes' and Rudyard Kipling's noble, half‑savage half‑child, compared to whom the much‑hated Brown Sahib seems more brown than sahib. Even in enmity these choices remain forms of homage to the victors. Let us not forget that the most violent denunciation of the West produced by Frantz Fanon is written in the elegant style of a Jean‑Paul Sartre. The West has not merely produced modern colonialism, it informs most inter­pretations of colonialism. It colours even this interpretation of interpretation.

I have said at the beginning that these pages justify innocence. This statement should be amplified in a world where the rhetoric of progress uses the fact of internal colonialism to subvert the cultures of societies subject to external colonialism and where the internal colonialism in turn uses the fact of external threat to legitimize and perpetuate itself. (It is however also a world where the awareness has grown that neither form of oppression can be eliminated without eliminating the other.) In the following pages I have in mind something like the 'authentic innocence' psychoanalyst Rollo May speaks about,

the innocence which includes the vulnerability of a child but which has not lost the realism of its perception of evil or that of its own 'complicity' with that evil. It was that innocence which finally defeated colonialism, however much the modern mind might like to give the credit to world historical forces, internal contradictions of capitalism and to the political horse­-sense or 'voluntary self‑liquidation' of the rulers.

But the meek inherit the earth not by meekness alone. They have to have categories, concepts and, even, defences of mind with which to turn the West into a reasonably manageable vector within the traditional world views still outside the span of modern ideas of universalism. The first concept in such a set has to be the victims' construction of the West, a West which would make sense to the non‑West in terms of the non‑West's experience of suffering. However jejune such a concept may seem to the sophisticated scholar, it is a reality for the millions who have learnt the hard way to live with the West during the last two centuries.

And, everything said, that alternative construction of the West is not so unsophisticated after all. If there is the non‑West which constantly invites one to be Western and to defeat the West on the strength of one's acquired Westernness‑there is the non‑West's construction of the West which invites one to be true to the West's other self and to the non‑West which is in alliance with that other self. If beating the West at its own game is the preferred means of handling the feelings of self‑hatred in the modernized non‑West, there is also the West constructed by the savage outsider who is neither willing to be a player nor a counter player. Those other Wests, too, I have tried to capture in these pages. In this connection if, while translating and commenting on their Wests, these outsiders have smuggled in their own imageries, myths and fantasies, I have connived at it; that is the way translations and commentaries are tradi­tionally made in some societies. Fidelity to one's inner self, as one translates, and to one's inner voice, when one comments, may not mean adherence to reality in some cultures but in some others they do. At least that is the sole defence I have for

my tendency to speak of the West as a single political entity, of Hinduism as Indianness, or of history and Christianity as Western. None of them is true but all of them are realities. I like to believe that each such concept in this work is a double entendre: on the one hand, it is a part of an oppressive structure; on the other, it is in league with its victims. Thus, the West is not merely a part of an imperial world view; its classical tradi­tions and its critical self are sometimes a protest against the modern West. Similarly, Hinduism is Indianness the way V. S. Naipaul speaks of it; and Hinduism could be Indianness the way Rabindranath Tagore actualized it. At one time these could be ignored as trivialities. Today, these differences have become clues to survival. Especially so when the modern West has produced not only its servile imitators and admirers but also its circus‑tamed opponents and its tragic counterplayers performing their last gladiator‑like acts of courage in front of appreciative Caesars. The essays in this book are a paean to the non‑players, who construct a West which allows them to live with the alternative West, while resisting the loving em­brace of the West's dominant self.

Thus, the colonized Indians do not remain in these pages simple‑hearted victims of colonialism; they become participants in a moral and cognitive venture against oppression. They make choices. And to the extent they have chosen their alternative within the West, they have also evaluated the evidence, judged, and sentenced some while acquitting others. For all we know, the Occident may survive as a civilization partly as a result of this ongoing revaluation, perhaps to an extent even outside the geographical perimeters of the West. On the other hand, the standard opponents of the West, the counter players, are not, in spite of their vicious rhetoric, outside the dominant model of universalism. They have been integrated within the dominant consciousness‑type‑cast, if you like‑as ornamental dissenters. I suspect that the universalism of those 'simple' outsiders, the non‑players who have been the victims of modernity‑the armed version of which is sometimes called colonialism‑is a

higher‑order universalism than the ones popularized during the last two centuries.

I do not therefore hesitate to declare these essays to be an alternative mythography of history which denies and defies the values of history. I hope the essays capture in the process some­thing of the ordinary Indian's psychology of colonialism. I reject the model of the gullible, hopeless victim of colonialism caught in the hinges of history. I see him as fighting his own battle for survival in his own way, sometimes consciously, some­times by default. I have only sought to clarify his assumptions and his world view in all their self‑contradictory richness. That way may not be our idea of what a proper battle against colo­nialism ought to be like. But I doubt if he cares.

This is why in the second essay even the babu has been grudgingly recognized as an interface who processes the West on behalf of his society and reduces it to a digestible bolus. Both his comical and dangerous selves protect his society against the White Sahib. And even that White Sahib may turn out to be defined, not by skin colour, but by social and political choices. Certainly he turns out to be, in these pages, not the conspiratorial dedicated oppressor that he is made out to be, but a self‑destructive co‑victim with a reified life style and a parochial culture, caught in the hinges of history he swears by. In the age of Adolf Eichmann, one might add, a Rudyard Kipling can only hope to be an unheroic foot soldier and supply cannon fodder. All theories of salvation, secular or non­‑secular, which fail to understand this degradation of the colo­nizer are theories which indirectly admit the superiority of the oppressors and collaborate with them.

The essential reasoning is simple. Between the modern master and the non‑modern slave, one must choose the slave not be­cause one should choose voluntary poverty or admit the superiority of suffering, not only because the slave is oppressed, not even because he works (which, Marx said, made him less alienated than the master). One must choose the slave also because he represents a higher‑order cognition which perforce

includes the master as a human, whereas the master's cognition has to exclude the slave except as a 'thing'. Ultimately, modern oppression, as opposed to the traditional oppression, is not an encounter between the self and the enemy, the rulers and the ruled, or the gods and the demons. It is a battle between de­humanized self and the objectified enemy, the technologized bureaucrat and his reified victim, pseudo‑rulers and their fear­some other selves projected on to their 'subjects'.

That is the difference between the Crusades and Auschwitz, between Hindu‑Muslim riots and modern warfare. That is why the following pages speak only of victims; when they speak of victors, the victors are ultimately shown to be camou­flaged victims, at an advanced stage of psychosocial decay.

This work is primarily an enquiry into the psychological struc­tures and cultural forces which supported or resisted the culture of colonialism in‑British India. But it also is, by implication, a study of post‑colonial consciousness. It deals with elements of Indian traditions which have emerged less innocent from the colonial experience and it deals with cultural and psycho­logical strategies which have helped the society to survive the experience with a minimal defensive redefinition of its selfhood. For parts of the book, therefore, colonialism in India began in 1757, when the battle of Plassey was lost by the Indians, and it ended in 1947, when the British formally withdrew from the country; for other parts of the book, colonialism began in the late 1820s when policies congruent with a colonial theory of culture were first implemented and it ended in the 1930S when Gandhi broke the back of the theory; for still other parts of the book colonialism began in 1947, when the outer supports to the colonial culture ended, and resistance to it is still continuing.

It goes without saying that I have not tried to give a complete picture of the Indian mind under colonialism. I have selected my examples and chosen my informants, to make some rather specific points. These points are political. Their referents lie in the realm of public politics as well as in the politics of cultures and cultural knowledge. And at both planes, they get involved

in the politics of the modern categories usually employed to analyse man‑made suffering. The unstated assumption is that an ethically sensitive and culturally rooted alternative social knowledge is already partly available outside the modern social sciences‑in those who have been the 'subjects', consumers or experimentees of these sciences. There are two colonialisms in these pages, and subjecthood to one is examined with an awareness of the subjecthood to the other.

This framework explains the partial, almost cavalier, use of the biographical data and the deliberate misuse of some con­cepts borrowed from modern psychology and sociology. The aim is not to adjust, alter or refurbish Indian experiences to fit the existing psychological and social theories‑to make a better case for cultural relativism or for a more relativist cross­ cultural psychology. The aim is to make sense of some of the relevant categories of contemporary knowledge in Indian terms and put them in a competing theory of universalism. What the subjects of Western colonialism did unselfconsciously, I am trying to do consciously and without being able to fully shed my professional baggage. The colonized Indians did not always try to correct or extend the Orientalists; in their own diffused way, they tried to create an alternative language of discourse. This was their anti‑colonialism; it is possible to make it ours, too. At one place in this book 1 use the example of Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820‑9 1) who, though deeply impressed by Western rationalist thought and though himself an agnostic, lived like an orthodox pandit and formulated his dissent in indigenous terms. He did not counterpoise John Locke or David Hume against Manusaihhita; he counterpoised the Parasara Sutra. This was his way of handling not only Indian social problems but also the exogenous idea of rationalism. (I believe, perhaps wrongly, that rationalism too could learn something from this odd version of it.) It is the second part of the story­----- an unheroic but critical traditionalism which develops a sen­sitivity to new experiences of evil‑which I have stressed. Even if this sounds hopelessly like another case of unresolved 'counter ­transference', I hope this book contributes to that stream of

critical consciousness: the tradition of reinterpretation of tradi­tions to create new traditions.

Admittedly I have, in the following pages, picked up clues from‑and quarrels with‑contemporary social sciences. But my dialogue or debate is mainly with those who have shaped and are shaping the Indian consciousness, not so much with the world of professional social sciences. Modern colonialism is too serious a matter to be left entirely to the latter.

For those who are not happy unless they know the element of self‑interest in any methodology‑I count myself among them‑this approach does give me a distinct and rather unfair advantage. I suspect that a purely professional critique of this book will not do. If you do not like it, you will have to fight it the way one fights myths: by building or resurrecting more convincing myths.

However, even myths have their biases. Let me state some of those associated with mine. In the following pages, I have deliberately focused on the living traditions, emphasizing the dialectic between the classical, the pure and the high‑status on the one hand, and the folksy, hybrid and the low‑brow on the other. As I have already said, it is the unheroic Indian coping with the might of the West I want to portray. To him, the classical and the folk, the pure and the hybrid, are all parts of a larger repertoire. He uses them impartially in the battle of minds in post‑colonial India.

Secondly, a comment about the more academic concerns called psychological anthropology and Freudian social psycho­logy with which I have maintained a close relationship for two decades and from which this book, if written even five years ago, would have borrowed much of its theoretical frame. There is a clear tradition in works of this kind and one must state in what way this book deviates from that tradition. I have not tried to interpret here Indian personality or culture and to show their fate under colonial rule according to any fixed con­cept of health, native or exogenous. Instead, I have presumed certain continuities between personality and culture and seen in them political and ethical possibilities. These possibilities are

sometimes accepted and sometimes not. In other words, I have tried to retain the critical edge of depth psychology but shifted the locus of criticism from the purely psychological to the psycho‑political. There is in these pages an attempt to de­mystify conventional psychological techniques of demystifica­tion, too.

This however means that the broad empirical outline of Indian personality has been taken for granted by me. In the last twenty‑five years, a galaxy of psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, anthropologists, philosophers and even political economists have studied the various dimensions of the Indian mind. This knowledge is now a part of the Indian self‑image. One should be able to build upon it. Thus, I have not discussed many aspects of Indian selfhood which would have given a touch of completeness to the following analysis. Nor have I done full justice to the individual witnesses I have called from the past to argue my case or to the textual traditions I have invoked. In this respect, I am guilty of leaving a number of loose ends which will have to be tied up by the fastidious reader, either with the help of his superior knowledge of the Indian mind and culture or by his intuitive understanding of them. I hope nevertheless to have provided clues to one possible meaning of living in this civilization today. To the extent I have succeeded in freeing that meaning from the shackles of cultural relativism and managed to restore to it its claim to an alternative universality, the following interpretation of Indian traditions will not have been in vain and it will have some relevance for other cultures under attack. After all, this work is based on the assumption that all man‑made suffering is one and everyone has a re­sponsibility.

Finally,a word on the possible 'sexism' of my language. This issue has dogged my‑steps for a while and I want to state my position on it once‑ for all. English is not my language. Though I have developed a taste for it, it was once forced upon me. Even now I often form my thoughts in my native Bengali and then translate when I have to put them down on paper. Now that after thirty years of toil I have acquired reasonable competence

in the language, I am told by the progeny of those who first imposed it on me that I have been taught the wrong English by their forefathers; that I must now relearn the language. Frankly, I am too old to do so. Those who are offended by my language may console themselves by remem­bering that the language in which I think has traditionally looked at the male and the female differently.

Parts of an earlier version of 'The Psychology of Colonialism" were published in Psychiatry, 1982, 45(3)‑ It was written in response to an invitation from the Indian Council of Social Science Research which provided some financial support too. The paper has benefited from the detailed criticisms and sug­gestions given by Andre Beteille, Manoranjan Mahanty, Sumit and Tanika Sarkar, Kenichi Nakamura, W. H. Morris‑Jones and Veena Das.

The 'Uncolonized Mind' has grown out of a presentation I made at a meeting on Culture, Power and Transformation, organized by the World Order Models Project at Poona in July 1978. Parts of an' earlier version of it were published in the Times of India, October 1978 and in Alternatives, 1982, 8(1). The present version has gained much from comments and suggestions from M. P. Sinha, Giri Deshingkar, Girdhar Rathi and R. A. P. Shastri. The preface draws upon an article pub­lished in the Times of India, February 1983‑

M. K. Riyal and Bhuvan Chandra have prepared the manu­script, Sujit Deb and Tarun Sharma have given bibliographic help. Without my wife Uma and my daughter Aditi I would have finished the work earlier but it would not have been the same.


The Psychology of Colonialism:

Sex, Age and Ideology

in British India


Imperialism was a sentiment rather than a policy; its foundations were moral rather than intellectual ...

D. C. Somervell1

It is becoming increasingly obvious that colonialism‑as we have come to know it during the last two hundred years­ cannot be identified with only economic gain and political power. In Manchuria, Japan consistently lost money, and for many years colonial Indochina, Algeria and Angola, instead of increasing the political power of France and Portugal, sapped it. This did not make Manchuria, Indochina, Algeria or Angola less of a colony. Nor did it disprove that economic gain and political power are important motives for creating a colonial situation. It only showed that colonialism could be character­ized by the search for economic and political advantage without concomitant real economic or political gains, and sometimes even with economic or political losses.2

This essay argues that the first differentia of colonialism is a state of mind in the colonizers and the colonized, a colonial consciousness which includes the sometimes unrealizable wish to make economic and political profits from the colonies, but

other elements too. The political economy of colonization is of course important, but the crudity and inanity of colonialism are principally expressed in the sphere of psychology and, to the extent the variables used to describe the states of mind under colonialism have themselves become politicized since the entry of modern colonialism on the world scene, in the sphere of political psychology. The following pages will explore some of these psychological contours of colonialism in the rulers and the ruled and try to define colonialism as a shared culture which may not always begin with the establishment of alien rule in a society and end with the departure of the alien rulers from the colony. The example I shall use will be that of India, where a colonial political economy began to operate seventy­ five years before the full‑blown ideology of British imperialism became dominant, and where thirty‑five years after the formal ending of the Raj, the ideology of colonialism is still triumphant in many sectors of life.

Such disjunctions between politics and culture became pos­sible because it is only partly true that a colonial situation pro­duces a theory of imperialism to justify itself. Colonialism is also a psychological state rooted in earlier forms of social con­sciousness in both the colonizers and the colonized. It represents a certain cultural continuity and carries a certain cultural baggage.

First, it includes codes which both the rulers and the ruled can share. The main function of these codes is to alter the original cultural priorities on both sides and bring to the centre of the colonial culture subcultures previously recessive or sub­ordinate in the two confronting cultures. Concurrently, the codes remove from the centre of each of the cultures subcultures previously salient in them. It is these fresh priorities which ex­plain why some of the most impressive colonial systems have been built by societies ideologically committed to open polit­ical systems, liberalism and intellectual pluralism. That this split parallels a basic contradiction within the modern scientific­ rational world view which, while trying to remain rational within its confines, has consistently refused to be rational vis‑a‑vis

other traditions of knowledge after acquiring world domi­nance, is only the other side of the same explanation.3 It also explains why colonialism never seems to end with formal poli­tical freedom. As a state of mind, colonialism is an indigenous process released by external forces. Its sources lie deep in the minds of the rulers and the ruled. Perhaps that which begins in the minds of men must also end in the minds of men.

Second, the culture of colonialism presumes a particular style of managing dissent. Obviously, a colonial system per­petuates itself by inducing the colonized, through socio­economic and psychological rewards and punishments, to ac­cept new social norms and cognitive categories. But these outer incentives and dis‑incentives are invariably noticed and chal­lenged; they become the overt indicators of oppression and dominance. More dangerous and permanent are the inner rewards and punishments, the secondary psychological gains and losses from suffering and submission under colonialism. They are almost always unconscious and almost always ignored. Particularly strong is the inner resistance to recognizing the ultimate violence which colonialism does to its victims, namely that it creates a culture in which the ruled are constantly tempted to fight their rulers within the psychological limits set by the latter. It is not an accident that the specific variants of the concepts with which many anti‑colonial movements in our times have worked have often been the products of the imperial culture itself and, even in opposition, these movements have paid homage to their respective cultural origins. I have in mind not only the overt Apollonian codes of Western liberalism that have often motivated the e1ites of the colonized societies but also their covert Dionysian counterparts in the concepts of

statecraft, everyday politics, effective political methods and utopias which have guided revolutionary movements against colonialism.

The rest of this essay examines, in the context of these two processes and as illustrations, how the colonial ideology in British India was built on the cultural meanings of two funda­mental categories of institutional discrimination in Britain, sex and age, and how these meanings confronted their traditional Indian counterparts and their new incarnations in Gandhi.


The homology between sexual and political dominance which Western colonialism invariably used‑in Asia, Africa and Latin America ‑ was not an accidental by‑product of colonial history. It had its correlates in other situations of oppression with which the West was involved, the American experience with slavery being the best documented of them. The homology, drawing support from the denial of psychological bisexuality in men in large areas of Western culture, beautifully legitimized Europe's post‑medieval models of dominance, exploitation and cruelty as natural and valid. Colonialism, too, was congruent with the existing Western sexual stereotypes and the philosophy of life which they represented. It produced a cultural consensus in which political and socio‑economic dominance symbolized the dominance of men and masculinity over women and femininity.

During the early years of British rule in India, roughly be­tween 1757 and 1830, when the British middle classes were not dominant in the ruling culture and the rulers came mainly from a feudal background, the homology between sexual and poli­tical dominance was not central to the colonial culture.4 Most

rulers and subjects had not yet internalized the idea of colonial rule as a manly or husbandly or lordly prerogative. I am not speaking here of the micro‑politics of colonialism but of its macro‑politics. Individual racialists and sadists were there aplenty among the British in India. But while British rule had already been established, British culture in India was still not politically dominant, and race‑based evolutionism was still in­conspicuous in the ruling culture. Most Britons in India lived like Indians at home and in the office, wore Indian dress, and observed Indian customs and religious practices. A large num­ber of them married Indian women, offered puja to Indian gods and goddesses, and lived in fear and awe of the magical powers of the Brahmans. The first two governor‑generals, renowned for their rapaciousness, were also known for their commitment to things Indian. Under them, the traditional Indian life style dominated the culture of British Indian politics. Even the British Indian Army occasionally had to pay respect to Indian gods and goddesses and there was at least one instance when the army made money from the revenues of a temple. Finally, missionary activity in British India was banned, Indian laws dominated the courts and the system of education was Indian .5

In Britain, too, the idea of empire was suspect till as late as the 1830s, Visitors to colonies like India often found the British authority there 'faintly comical'.6 The gentlemen of the East

India Company had not actually intended to govern India but to make money there,7 which of course they did with predict­able ruthlessness. But once the two sides in the British‑Indian culture of politics, following the flowering of the middle‑class British evangelical spirit, began to ascribe cultural meanings to the British domination, colonialism proper can be said to have begun.8 Particularly, once the British rulers and the exposed sections of Indians internalized the colonial role definitions and began to speak, with reformist fervour, the language of the homology between sexual and political stratarchies, the battle

for the minds of men was to a great extent won by the Raj.

Crucial to this cultural co‑optation was the process psycho­analysis calls identification with the aggressor. In an oppressive situation, the process became the flip side of the theory of progress, an ontogenetic legitimacy for an ego defence often used by a normal child in an environment of childhood de­pendency to confront inescapable dominance by physically more powerful adults enjoying total legitimacy. In the colonial culture, identification with the aggressor bound the rulers and the ruled in an unbreakable dyadic relationship. The Raj saw Indians as crypto‑barbarians who needed to further civilize themselves. It saw British rule as an agent of progress and as a mission. Many Indians in turn saw their salvation in becoming more like the British, in friendship or in enmity. They may not have fully shared the British idea of the martial races‑the hyper‑masculine, manifestly courageous, superbly loyal Indian castes and subcultures mirroring the British middle‑class sexual stereotypes‑but they did resurrect the ideology of the martial races latent in the traditional Indian concept of statecraft and gave the idea a new centrality. Many nineteenth‑century Indian movements of social, religious and political reform ­and many literary and art movements as well‑tried to make Ksatriyahood the 'true' interface between the rulers and ruled as a new, nearly exclusive indicator of authentic Indianness. The origins and functions of this new stress on Ksatriyahood is best evidenced by the fact that, contrary to the beliefs of those carrying the psychological baggage of colonialism, the search for martial Indianness underwrote one of the most powerful collaborationist strands within the Indian society, represented by a majority of the feudal princelings in India and some of the most impotent forms of protest against colonialism (such as the immensely courageous but ineffective terrorism of Bengal, Maharashtra and Panjab led by semi‑Westernized, middle­class, urban youth).

The change in consciousness that took place can be briefly stated in terms of three concepts which became central to colonial India: purusatva (the essence of masculinity), naritva

(the essence of femininity) and klibatva (the essence of hermaph­roditism). The polarity defined by the antonymous Purusatva and naritva was gradually supplanted, in the colonial culture of politics, by the antonyms of purusatva and klibatva; femininity­- in‑masculinity was now perceived as the final negation of a man's political identity, a pathology more dangerous than fem­ininity itself. Like some other cultures, including some strands of pre‑modern Christianity, India too had its myths about good and bad androgynes and its ideas about valuable and despicable androgyny. Now there was an attempt to lump together all forms of androgyny and counterpoise them against undifferen­tiated masculinity. Rabindranath Tagore's (1861‑1940 novel Car Adhydy brilliantly captures the pain which was involved in this change. The inner conflicts of the hero of the novel are modelled on the moral and political dilemmas of an actual revolutionary nationalist, who also happened to be a Catholic theologian and a Veddntist, Brahmabandhav Upadhyay (iMi­1907). Tagore's moving preface to the first edition of the novel, removed from subsequent editions because it affronted many Indians, sensed the personal tragedy of a revolutionary friend who, to fight the suffering of his people, had to move away from his own ideas of svabhdva and svadharma. It is remarkable that twenty‑seven years before Car Adhyay, Tagore had dealt with the same process of cultural change in his novel Gora, probably modelled on the same real‑life figure and with a compatible political message.9

Many pre‑Gandhian protest movements were co‑opted by

this cultural change. They sought to redeem the Indians' masculinity by defeating the British, often fighting against hopeless odds, to free the former once and for all from the historical memory of their own humiliating defeat in violent power‑play and 'tough politics'. This gave a second‑order legitimacy to what in the dominant culture of the colony had already become the final differentiae of manliness: aggression, achievement, control, competition and power.10 (I am ignoring for the moment the structural changes which gradually came to parallel this consciousness. Kenneth Ballhatchet has recently described the distant intimacy between British soldiers and administrators, on the one hand, and Indian women, on the other, which was officially promoted and in fact systematically institutionalized.11 I am also ignoring the parallel process, re­flected in the latent recognition by a number of writers,12 that the white women in India were generally more exclusive and

racist because they unconsciously saw themselves as the sexual competitors of Indian men, with whom their men had estab­lished an unconscious homo‑eroticized bonding. It was this bonding which the 'passive resisters' and 'non‑cooperators' ex­ploited, not merely the liberal political institutions. They were helped in this by the split that had emerged in the Victorian culture between two ideals of masculinity. To draw upon Ballhatchet and others, the lower classes were expected to act out their manliness by demonstrating their sexual prowess ‑ the upper classes were expected to affirm their masculinity through sexual distance, abstinence and self‑control. The former was compatible with the style of rulership of Spanish, Portuguese and, to a lesser extent, French colonialism in Latin America and Africa; the latter was compatible with, of all things, one strand in the traditional Indian concept of manliness. The Brahman in his cerebral, self‑denying asceticism was the tradi­tional masculine counterpoint to the more violent, 'virile' ' active Ksatriya, the latter representing‑however odd this may seem to the modern consciousness‑the feminine principle in the cosmos. This is how traditional India imposed limits on Ksatriyahood as a way of life. To avoid confusion, I am avoid­ing here the languages in which hyper‑masculinity includes withdrawal from sexuality or positive androgyny.)

In such a culture, colonialism was not seen as an absolute evil. For the subjects, it was a product of one's own emasculation and defeat in legitimate power politics. For the rulers, colonial exploitation was an incidental and regrettable by‑product of a philosophy of life that was in harmony with superior forms of political and economic organization. This was the consensus the rulers of India sought, consciously or unconsciously. They could not successfully rule a continent‑sized polity while be­lieving themselves to be moral cripples. They had to build bulwarks against a possible sense of guilt produced by a dis­junction between their actions and what were till then, in terms of important norms of their own culture, 'true' values. On the other hand, their subjects could not collaborate on a long‑term basis unless they had some acceptance of the ideology

of the system, either as players or as counterplayers. This is the only way they could preserve a minimum of self‑esteem in a situation of unavoidable injustice.

When such a cultural consensus grows, the main threat to the colonizers is bound to become the latent fear that the colonized will reject the consensus and, instead of trying to redeem their 'masculinity' by becoming the counterplayers of the rulers according to the established rules, will discover an alternative frame of reference within which the oppressed do not seem weak, degraded and distorted men trying to break the monopoly of the rulers on a fixed quantity of machismo. If this happens, the colonizers begin to live with the fear that the subjects might begin to see their rulers as morally and culturally inferior, and feed this information back to the rulers.13 Colo­nialism minus a civilizational mission is no colonialism at all. It handicaps the colonizer much more than it handicaps the colonized.


I now come to the subsidiary homology between childhood and the state of being colonized which a modern colonial system

Country of 'small semi‑barbarian, semi‑civilized communities', which 'restricted the human mind within the smallest possible compass, making it the unresisting tool of superstition' and where the peasants lived their 'undignified, stagnant and vege­tative life'. 'These little communities', Marx argued brought about a brutalising worship of nature exhibiting its degradation in the fact that man, the sovereign of nature, fell down on his knees in the adoration of Kanuman [sic], monkey, and Sabbala, the cow.' It followed, according to Marx, that 'whatever may have been the crime of England she was the unconscious tool of history'.16 Such a view was bound to con­tribute handsomely‑even if inadvertently‑to the racist world view and ethnocentrism that underlay colonialism.17 A similar, though less influential, cultural role was played by some of Freud's early disciples who went out to 'primitive' societies to pursue the homology between primitivism and infantility.18 They, too, were working out the cultural and psychological im­plications of the biological principle 'ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny', and that of the ideology of 'normal', fully socialized, malt adulthood. Only, unlike the utilitarians and the Marxists, they did not clearly identify primitivism and infantility with disvalues like structural simplicity and 'static history'.19)

There was blood‑curdling shadow‑boxing among the competing

Western schools of social philosophy, including the various versions of Western Christianity. But there can be no doubt about which sub‑tradition in Europe was the stronger. There was an almost complete consensus among the sensitive European intellectuals that colonialism was an evil, albeit a necessary one. It was the age of optimism in Europe. Not only the arch‑conservatives and the apologists of colonialism were convinced that one day their cultural mission would be com­plete and the barbarians would become civilized; even the radical critics of Western society were convinced that colo­nialism was a necessary stage of maturation for some societies. They differed from the imperialists, only in that they did not expect the colonized to love, or be grateful to the colonizers for introducing their subjects to the modern world.20 Thus, in the eyes of the European civilization the colonizers were not a group of self‑seeking, rapacious, ethnocentric vandals and self-­chosen carriers of a cultural pathology, but ill‑intentioned, flawed instruments of history, who unconsciously worked for the upliftment of the underprivileged of the world.

The growth of this ideology paralleled a major cultural re­construction that took place in the West during the first phase of colonialism, the phase in which colonialism was becoming consolidated as an important cultural process and a way of life for the Spanish and the Portuguese. Philippe Aries argues that the modern concept of childhood is a product of seventeenth­ century Europe .21 Before then the child was seen as a smaller version of the adult; now the child became‑this Aries does not fully recognize‑an inferior version of the adult and had to be educated through the newly‑expanded period of childhood.

(A parallel and contemporary development in Europe was the emergence of the modern concept of womanhood, underwritten by the changing concept of Christian godhead which, under the influence of Protestantism, became more masculine.22)

The new concept of childhood bore a direct relationship to the doctrine of progress now regnant in the West. Childhood now no longer seemed only a happy, blissful prototype of beatific angels, as it had in the peasant cultures of Europe only a century earlier. It increasingly looked like a blank slate on which adults must write their moral codes‑an inferior version of maturity, less productive and ethical, and badly contami­nated by the playful, irresponsible and spontaneous aspects of human nature. Concurrently, probably propelled by what many Weberians have identified as the prime mover behind the modernization of West Europe, the Protestant Ethic, it became the responsibility of the adult to 'save' the child from a state of unrepentant, reprobate sinfulness through proper socialization, and help the child grow towards a Calvinist ideal of adulthood and maturity. Exploitation of children in the name of putting them to productive work, which took place in the early days of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, was a natural corollary of such a concept of childhood .23

Colonialism dutifully picked up these ideas of growth and development and drew a new parallel between primitivism and childhood. Thus, the theory of social progress was telescoped not merely into the individual's life cycle in Europe but also into the area of cultural differences in the colonies.24 What was childlikeness of the child and childishness of immature adults now also became the lovable and unlovable savagery of primitives

and the primitivism of subject societies. This version of the theory of progress is summarized below.

The childlike Indian: innocent, ignorant but willing to learn, masculine, loyal and, thus, 'corrigible'


The childish Indian: ignorant but unwilling to learn, ungrateful, sinful, savage, unpredictably violent, disloyal and, thus, 'incor‑ rigible'

Reforming the childlike through Westernization, modernization or Christianization

-----------------------Repressing the childish by con‑ trolling rebellion, ensuring internal peace and provid­ ing tough adminis­ tration and rule of law

Partnership in the liberal utilitarian or radical utopia within one fully homogenized cul­ tural, political and economic world

One element in the legitimization of colonialism through reconstruing the human life cycle has not been touched upon. Not that it was unimportant in the colonial culture; but it was, I suspect, specific to India and China and, to that extent, less generally applicable to modern colonialism. I shall briefly say something about it now.

Modern Europe had delegitimized not merely femininity and childhood but also old age.25 Judaeo‑Christianity always had an element which saw aging as a natural unfolding and result of man's essential sinfulness. The decomposition of the human body was seen as only an indicator of the evil in the one de­generating: according to the old South European saying, till youth a person looked the way god made him; after that he looked the way he really was. With increasing stress on the reprobate nature of man, it was this postulate which came to the fore in Europe's new ideology of male adulthood, com­pleting the picture of a world where only the adult male reflected a reasonable approximation of a perfect human being.

The elderly (representing wisdom and the negation of 'pure' intellect) were now increasingly seen as socially irrelevant be­cause of their low physical power and because their social pro­ductivity and cultural role could not be easily quantified. I need hardly add that, given the nature of available technology, the ideological changes neatly fitted the emerging principles of 'productive' work and 'performance' as they were monetized and enshrined in new political and social institutions.

This part of the ideology of male‑adulthood too' was ex­ported to the colonies in a few chosen cases. Kiernan does refer to the ideological problem of British colonialism in India which could not easily grapple with the fact that India had a civili­zation, howsoever strange by European standards. Newly ­discovered Africa, with its strong emphasis on the folk, the oral and the rural could be more easily written off as savage. It was more difficult to do so for India and China which the European Orientalists and even the first generation rulers had studied and, sometimes, venerated. And, everything said, there were the traditions of four thousand years of civic living, a well­ developed literati tradition (in spite of all its stress on oral cul­tures), and alternative traditions of philosophy, art and science which often attracted the best minds of Europe. The fact that India's past was living (unlike, say, pre‑Islamic Egypt) com­plicated the situation. Some explanation had to be given for her political and cultural 'degradation'.

The colonial ideology handled the problem in two mutually inconsistent ways. Firstly, it postulated a clear disjunction be­tween India's past and its present. The civilized India was in the bygone past; now it was dead and 'museumized'. The present India, the argument went, was only nominally related to its history; it was India only to the extent it was a senile, decrepit version of her once‑youthful, creative self. As a popular myth would have it, Max Muller, for all his pioneering work in Indology and love for India, forbade his students to visit India; to him, the India that was living was not the true India and the India that was true had to be, but dead.

Secondly and paradoxically, the colonial culture postulated

that India's later degradation was not due to colonial rule ‑‑Which, if anything, had improved Indian culture by fight­ing against its irrational, oppressive, retrogressive elements ‑but due to aspects of the traditional Indian culture which in spite of some good points carried the seeds of India's later cultural downfall. Like a sinful man Indian culture was living through a particularly debilitating senility. (The very fact that Hinduism did not have in its concept of papa the strong inner ­directed connotations of the Christian, post‑reformation concept of sin was itself seen as one of the main proofs of India's fatal cultural flaw. Even a man like Albert Schweitzer did not remain uncontaminated by this ideology; he made it a central plank of his interpretation of Hinduism.26) Thus, in this argument, there was a postulate of continuity but it applied more to sinfulness than to virtues; for an explanation of India's virtues one had to fall back upon her contacts with the modern world.


What were the main dimensions of the efforts to reorder Indian culture in response to and as a part of these colonial categories? The answer is best given in terms of a few of the nineteenth ­century figures who revalued the traditional Hindu orientations to the male and the female, and coped with the modern con­cepts of mature, adult normality as opposed to abnormal, im­mature, infantile primitivism.21

Probably the person who most dramatically sought to rede­fine popular mythology to fit the changing values under colo­nialism was Michael Madhusudan Dutt (1824-73) whose Bengali epic Meghnadvadh Kavya was hailed, in his lifetime, as one of the greatest literary efforts of all time in Bengali.28

Madhusudan, flamboyantly Westernized in life style and ideo­logy‑he had even embraced the Church of England's version of Christianity and declared that he cared only 'a pin's head for Hinduism'‑first wanted to make his mark in English literature. But he returned to his mother tongue within a decade to write brilliant interpretations of some of the Puranic epics. Meghnadvadh was the greatest of them all.

As is well known, Meghnadvadh retells the Ramayana, turning the traditionally sacred figures of Rama and Laksmana into weak‑kneed, passive‑aggressive, feminine villains and the de­mons Ravana and his son Meghnad into majestic, masculine, modern heroes. It interprets the encounter between Rama and Ravana as a political battle, with morality on the side of the demons. The epic ends with the venal gods defeating and killing the courageous, proud, achievement‑oriented, competi­tive, efficient, technologically superior, 'sporting' demons sym­bolized by Meghnad.

Meghnadvadh was not the first reinterpretation of the Rama­yana. In south India, an alternative tradition of Ramayana, which antedated Madhusudan, had off and on been a source of social conflict and controversy. In Jainism, too, a version of the Ramayana had been sometimes a source of intercommunal con­flicts.29 In any case, Rama, however godlike, was traditionally not the final repository of all good. Unlike the Semitic gods, he was more human and more overtly a mix of the good and the bad, the courageous and the cowardly, the male and the female. Ravana, too, had never been traditionally all bad. He was seen as having a record of genuine spiritual achievements.

Madhusudan Dutt therefore was in the living tradition of dissent in India. (This dissent did not become a political ab­surdity because he lived towards the end of the period during which the British, though politically the most powerful, were still only one of many forces in India and the Western culture

was a manageable vector within India; Westernism enjoyed the support of only small minorities of both the rulers and the ruled.) Simultaneously, Madhusudan's criterion for reversing the roles of Rama and Ravana, as expressed in their characters, was a direct response to the colonial situation. He admired Ravana for his masculine vigour, accomplished warriorhood, and his sense of realpolitik and history; he accepted Ravana's 'adult' and 'normal' commitments to secular, possessive this­ worldliness and his consumer's lust for life. On the other hand, he despised 'Rama and his rabble'‑the expression was his ­because they were effeminate, ineffective pseudo‑ascetics, who were austere not by choice but because they were weak.

There was an obvious political meaning in the contradiction Madhusudan posed in a culture which rejected most forms of competitive individual achievement, frequently underplayed sex‑role differences, gave low status to high technology, granted equal status to myth and history, and rejected hedonism, in­cluding possessive individualism and consumerism. This is not to say that the values Ravana articulated were alien to the Indian traditions: in fact, they were sometimes associated with mythical figures who evoked admiration and respect. But on the whole they had been contained or marginalized as so many culturally‑defined esoterica. Ravana himself, after all, was seen as someone who knew the Vedas well and had won his powers from sacred sources through years of tapas. His good qualities, however, were recognized within the constraints of his raksasa self. Madhusudan now freed Ravana from these traditional constraints to give him a new stature as a scientific, learned, modern Ksatriya king, fighting the non‑secular politics and anti‑technologism of a banished pastoral prince.

Meghnadvadh was a tragedy. Madhusudan's heroes were, to a point, oddities in a culture which apparently had no tradition of tragedy. However, to get the full meaning of this deviation, one must recognize that in the Puranic tradition there was a distinctive concept of the tragic in life and letters. Tragedy in the Puranas did not centre around a grand final defeat or death of the hero, or around the final victory of the ungodly. Tragedy

lay in the majestic sweep of time and in the unavoidable decline or decay that informed the mightiest and the humblest, the epochal and the trivial, and the 'permanent' and the transient. In the Mahabharata, the self‑chosen and yet fated mahiprasthana or the great departure of the Pandavas after their climactic victory in the battle at Kuruksetra and the death of god Krsna ‑lonely, aged, nostalgic, and partly forgotten‑are good ex­amples of what I am trying to convey.

Meghnadvadh represented a different concept of tragedy. Not only were the good and the evil clearly separated in the epic, according to well‑defined ethical criteria, but evil finally triumphed. Traditionally the raksasas represented a demonic, version of masculinity which was unfettered by dominant norms and traditions. Now aspects of this demonic masculinity were endorsed, for the Indians, by the new culture of colonialisin and the variation on the myth of the Promethean man it popularized. By making Meghnadvadh a tragedy, by inducing his readers to identify with his heroes, Madhusudan legitimized' the personality type portrayed by his heroes and underwrote the emerging ideology of modernity as well as compatible con­cepts of masculinity and adulthood in his community's world view. What was recessive and id fetters in traditional Indian masculinity was now made salient with the help of existing cultural imagery and myths.

This is how Madhusudan updated the early cultural crit­icisms of Rammohun Roy (1772‑1833).30 Rammohun had introduced into the culture of India's expanding urban middle classes‑for the sake of those alienated from the older life style and values by the colonial intrusion into eastern India‑the ideas of organized religion, a sacred text, monotheism and, above all, a patriarchal godhead. Simultaneously he had 'mis­read' the nondualism of Sankaracarya, to suggest a hew defini­tion of masculinity, based on the demystification of womanhood

and on the shifting of the locus of magicality from everyday femininity to a transcendent male principle. He had sought to liberate woman from the responsibility she bore in the shared consciousness‑‑or unconsciousness‑for failures of nurture in nature, politics and social life. Madhusudan, on the other hand, innocent of the questions Rammohun had raised in his philo­sophy of reform, tried to contain within the Indian world view Western concepts of the male and the female, and the adult and the infantile, and thus to make the Western presence in India seem natural in a context where the West had seemingly come to represent, for many Indians, the more valued aspects of Indian culture. The previously rejected hyper‑masculine raksasa qualities of Ravana became now the heroic qualities of a demon‑king representing true, adult masculinity; and the many‑faceted, open personality of Rama, on whom successive generations of Indians had projected their complex concepts of goodness, became a non‑masculine, immature, effete godhead, representing a lower‑perhaps even false‑concept of goodness.

This is not the place to discuss the Oedipal passions which pushed Madhusudan towards a new definition of masculinity and normality. The point to remember is that his efforts, on behalf of his culture, to 'tame' the Western concepts of man­hood and womanhood were made when the full power and glory of British imperialism were not yet apparent. As a result, there was little defensiveness in him. His aggressive criticism of Indian traditions was in the style of the major reform move­ments of India: it was not merely an attempt to explain Indian culture in Indian terms, or even in Western terms, but was an attempt to explain the West in Indian terms and to incorporate it in the Indian culture as an unavoidable experience.

I now turn to the second stream of cultural criticism in response to colonialism, once again grounded in reinterpreted sacred texts but in reality dependent on core values borrowed from the colonial world view and then legitimized according to existing concepts of sacredness. Probably the most creative representative of this stream was

Bankimchandra Chatterjee (1838‑94) whose novels and essays were an attempt to mar­ginalize the earlier model of critical Hinduism and suggest a new framework of political culture which projected into the Hindu past, into a lost golden age of Hinduism, the qualities of Christianity which seemingly gave Christians their strength.

Anandamath, a novel which became the Bible of the first generation of Indian nationalists, particularly the Bengali ter­rorists, was a direct attempt to work out the implications of such a concept of religion.31 The order of the sannyasis in the novel was obviously the Hindu counterpart of the priesthood in some versions of Western Christianity. In fact, their Western­ness gave them their sense of history, their stress on an organized religion, and above all, their acceptance of the Raj as a transient but historically inevitable and legitimate phenomenon in Hindu terms.

But it was Bankimchandra's elegant essay on Krsna which provided the missing link‑a reinterpreted traditional godhead ‑to the new model of Hinduism.32 What Madhusudan sought to do in the context of the Ramayana, Bankimchandra sought to do in the context of the Mahabharata and the five Puranas dealing with Krsna. He tried to build a historical and a histori­cally conscious Krsna‑self‑consistent, self‑conscious and moral according to modern norms. He scanned all the ancient texts of Krsna, not only to locate Krsna in history, but to argue away all references to Krsna's character traits unacceptable to the new norms relating to sexuality, politics and social relation­ships. His Krsna was not the soft, childlike, self‑contradictory, sometimes immoral being‑a god who could blend with the everyday life of his humble devotees and who was only oc­casionally a successful, activist, productive and chastising god operating in the company of the great. Bankimchandra did not adore Krsna as a child‑god or as a playful‑sometimes sexually playful‑adolescent who was simultaneously an androgynous,

philosophically sensitive, practical idealist. His Krsna was a respectable, righteous, didactic, 'hard' god, protecting the glories of Hinduism as a proper religion and preserving it as an internally consistent moral and cultural system. Bankim­chandra rejected as latter‑day interpolations‑and hence unauthentic‑every trait of Krsna that did not meet the first requirement for a Christian and Islamic god, namely all ­perfection .33 His goal was to make Krsna a normal, non‑pagan male god who would not humiliate his devotees in front of the progressive Westerners.

It was this consciousness which Swami Dayanand Saraswati (1824‑83) and Swami Vivekananda (1863‑1902) shared and developed further. The two Swamis entered the scene when the colonial culture had made deeper inroads into Indian society. It was no longer possible to give priority to cultural reform over mass politics, without, ignoring the fact that a psychological invasion from the West had begun with the widespread internalization of Western values by many Indians, and an over‑emphasis on the reform of the Indian personality could only open up new, invidious modes of Westernization.

Yet, this is exactly what the two redoubtable Swamis did. They borrowed‑‑'their fundamental values from the Western world view and, in spite of their image as orthodox revivalists, were ruthlessly critical of the Hindus. They also took the position that the Hindus had been great‑which meant, in their terms, virile and adult‑in ancient times and had fallen on bad days because of their loss of contact with textual Brahminism and true Ksatriyahood. Obviously, if ksatratej or martial valour was the first differentia of a ruler, the ruler who had greater ksatratej deserved to rule. This was hardly a compliment to the living Hindus; if anything, it perfectly fitted the dominant structure of colonial thought,34 as well as the ideology of some Western Orientalists.

Thus, Vivekananda and Dayanand, too, tried to Christianize

Hinduism, particularly the dominant Hindu concept of the desirable person. In doing so, they identified the West with power and hegemony, which in turn they identified with a superior civilization. Then they tried to 'list' the differences between the West and India and attributed the former's superiority to these differences. The rest of their lives they spent exhorting the hapless Hindus to pursue these cultural differentiae of the West. And predictably they found out‑Indian culture being the complex, open‑ended system it is‑that traditions sup­porting some of the valued Western traits were there in Hindu­ism but were lost on the 'unworthy' contemporary Hindus. Predictably, too, the main elements of their Hinduism were, again: an attempt to turn Hinduism into an organized religion with an organized priesthood, church and missionaries; ac­ceptance of the idea of proselytization and religious 'conscient­ization' (suddhi, the bete noire of the Indian Christians and Muslims, was a Semitic element introduced into nineteenth ­century Hinduism under the influences of Western Chris­tianity); an attempt to introduce the concept of The Book following the Semitic creeds (the Vedas and the Gita in the case of the two Swamis); the acceptance of the idea of linear, objective and causal history; acceptance of ideas akin to mono­theism (Vivekananda even managed to produce that rare variant of it: a quasi‑monotheistic creed with a feminine god­head as its central plank); and a certain puritanism and this ­worldly asceticism borrowed partly from the Catholic church and partly from Calvinism.

Such a model was bound to lead to the perception that the loss of masculinity and cultural regression of the Hindus was due to the loss of the original Aryan qualities which they shared with the Westerners. There was a political meaning in Daya­nand's decision to call his church Arya Samaj. It was also bound to lead to an emphasis on basic psychological and in­stitutional changes in Hinduism and to the rejection of other forms of critical Hinduism, which stressed the primacy of polit­ical changes and sought to give battle to British colonialism by accepting the contemporary Hindus as they were. (For instance,

Gandhi later on organized the Hindus as Indians, not as Hindus, and granted Hinduism the right to maintain its character as an unorganized, anarchic, open‑ended faith.) Not surprisingly, the second model gradually became incompatible with the needs of anti‑colonialism and, by over‑stressing exo­genous categories of self‑criticism, indirectly collaborationist.

There was yet another political paradox in which the model was caught. While in the first phase of the Ra the rulers sup­ported political participation of the Hindus (because such participation by the then pro‑British Hindus was advantageous to the regime), in the second phase, the rulers discouraged it because of growing nationalism. Similarly, while in the first phase the regime frowned upon all social reform movements and often took decades to pass laws on any Indian social practice against which Indian reformers fought, in the second phase they promoted those schools of nationalism which ex­pected political freedom to follow from social reform, parti­cularly the reform of Indian national character.

Though there were instances of deviation even among those who accepted the second model of critical Hinduism, such as the great bravery and immense sacrifices made for the national­ist cause by the terrorists and by their larger‑than‑life versions like Vinayak D. Savarkar and Subhas Chandra Bose, the model did allow Western cultural ideas to percolate to the deepest levels of Hindu religious ideas and accepted Western cultural theories of political subjugation and economic backwardness.The newly created sense of linear history in Hinduism‑an internalized counterpart of the Western theory of progress ­was a perfect instrument for this purpose. It allowed one to project into history the sense of inferiority vis‑a‑vis an imperial faith and to see the golden age of Hinduism as an ancient ver­sion of the modern West.35

In short, both streams of political consciousness, though seem­ingly hostile to each other, produced partly‑colonial designs of

cultural and political selfhood for the colonized. Actually the first, evolved by the likes of Rammohun Roy, was based, ex­perientially at least, on greater self‑esteem, and autonomy, though later on it was to seem‑as well as to become‑more subservient to the Western world view, both to its opponents and its supporters.

It only slowly became obvious to those living with the full ­grown culture of British colonialism that neither of the two models could provide an adequate basis for self‑esteem and cultural autonomy. Yet, there was no alternative model in sight that could take a critical look at Indian traditions, eva­luate the nature of the Western impact on them, and update Indian culture without disturbing its authenticity.

However, some scattered efforts were made to break out of this stagnation in the nineteenth century itself. Persons like Iswarchandra Vidyasagar (1820-91) did seek to create a new political awareness which would combine a critical awareness of Hinduism and colonialism with cultural and individual authenticity. It is thus that they emerged, as a biographer seems to recognize in the case of Vidyasagar, 'whole and enriched from the clash of cultures ... in the nineteenth century'.36 Iswarchandra too fought institutionalized violence against Indian women, giving primacy to social reform over politics. But his diagnosis of Hinduism did not grow out of feelings of cultural inferiority; it grew out of perceived contradictions within Hinduism itself. Even when he fought for Indian women, he did not operate on the basis of Westernized ideals of masculinity and femininity or on the basis of a theory of cul­tural progress. He refused to Semiticize Hinduism and adopt the result as a ready‑made theory of state. As a result, his society could neither ignore nor forgive him. (The pandit, when he was

dying, could hear the bands playing outside his house, cele­brating his approaching death.) Vidyasagar's Hinduism looked dangerously like Hinduism and hence subversive to the ortho­dox' Hindus. Simultaneously, his cultural criticisms seemed fundamental even to those allegiant to the other two models of internal criticism and cultural change. He could be ignored neither as an apostate nor as an apologist.

Vidyasagar acquired this cultural embedding by eschewing some of the normative and institutional goals of the competing models. He refused to use the imagery of a golden age of the Hindus from which contemporary Hindus had allegedly fallen, he refused to be psychologically tied to the history of non‑Hindu rule of India, he resisted reading Hinduism as a 'proper religion' in the Islamic or Western sense, he rejected the ideologies of masculinity and adulthood, and he refused to settle scores with the West by creating a nation of super‑Hindus or by defending Hinduism as an all‑perfect antidote to Western cultural en­croachment. His was an effort to protect not the formal struc­ture of Hinduism but its spirit, as an open, anarchic federation of sub‑cultures and textual authorities which allowed new read­ings and internal criticisms.

Thus, Iswarchandra's anti‑colonialism was not defined by the Western version of rationalism, the popular Bengali bhadralok stereotypes about him notwithstanding. It was also not heavily reactive, though that impression too was created by some elements of his everyday life (including his aggressively Indian dress, interpersonal style and food habits) . 37 He was first and foremost a Brahman pandit, a man of learning and a polemicist with a clear position on sacred texts which he saw as congruent with his reforms. 38 He was not even a man of religion out to sell a new version of Hinduism and, unlike Gandhi, he did not face the imposition of any mahatmahood on

him' But, like Gandhi, he could have declared himself an Orthodox Hindu and claimed his Hinduism better than that of his opponents because it encompassed the colonial experience. Though Iswarchandra came from a poor rural background, his times did not allow him to take his dissent outside the urban middle classes, to mobilize the peripheries of his society, or to make a more creative use of folk‑as opposed to Sanskritic­-Hinduism. But his model did resolutely resist the ideology of hyper‑masculinity and 'normality'. Popular readings of Iswar­chandra recognized this. Madhusudan Dutt once wrote that the obstinate fiery Brahman had 'a Bengali mother's heart' and during Vidyasagar's own lifetime the Sanskrit saying 'tougher than thunder and softer than flower' became a standard, if trite, account of his androgyny. There was an implicit awareness all around that his combination of aggressive defiance of author­ity and authoritative reinterpretations of authority challenged some of the basic postulates of the colonial theory of progress, particularly the joint construction of 'legitimate inequality' by the Indians and the British. If Iswarchandra failed to fully politicize this dissent, he at least sought to make instrumental use of the transient, 'unavoidable' oppression of colonialism to meet India's needs. And this, without accepting the Western utilitarian, social Darwinist, and radical conceptions of these needs.


The problem of colonization did not only concern the overseas countries. The process of decolonization‑which is in any case far from complete in those countries‑is also under way at home, in our schools, in female demands for equality, in the education of small children and in many other fields.... If certain cultures prove capable of destroying others ... the destructive forces brought forth by these cultures also act internally....

0. Mannoni39

The colonizer, who in order to ease his conscience gets into the habit of seeing the other man as an animal, accustoms himself to treating him like an animal, and tends objectively to transform

himself into an animal.... They thought they were 'only slaugh­tering Indians, or Hindus, or South Sea Islanders, or Africans. They have in fact overthrown, one after another, the ramparts behind which European civilization could have developed freely.

Aime Cesaire40

The broad psychological contours of colonialism are now known. Thanks to sensitive writers like Octave Mannoni, Frantz Fanon and Albert Memmi we even know something about the interpersonal patterns which constituted the colonial situation, particularly in Africa .41 Less well‑known are the cultural and psychological pathologies produced by coloniza­tion in the colonizing societies.

As folk wisdom would have it, the only sufferers of colonial­ism are the subject communities. Colonialism, according to this view, is the name of a political economy which ensures a one­ way flow of benefits, the subjects being the perpetual losers in a zero‑sum game and the rulers the beneficiaries. This is a view of human mind and history promoted by colonialism it­self. This view has a vested interest in denying that the colo­nizers are at least as much affected by the ideology of colonial­ism, that their degradation, too, can sometimes be terrifying. Behind all the rhetoric of the European intelligentsia on the evils of colonialism lay their unstated faith that the gains from colonialism to Europe, to the extent that they primarily in­volved material products, were real, and the losses, to the extent they involved social relations and psychological states, false. To venture a less popular interpretation of colonialism­ which I hope is relatively less contaminated by the ideology of colonialism‑I shall produce examples from the experience of one of the world's stablest and most subtly‑managed colonial polities of all times, British India. These examples will show that what Aime Cesaire calls the 'decivilization' of the colo­nizers is not an impotent fantasy after all, that it is an empirical

reality of the kind on which even Mannoni and Fanon can agree.42 Fanon describes a police officer who, as he tortured the freedom fighters in Algeria, became violent towards his own wife and children .43 Even from Fanon's impassioned political psychiatry, it becomes obvious that the officer had to do within his family‑and within himself‑what he did to the freedom fighters.. Colonialism as a psychological process cannot but endorse the principle of isomorphic oppressions which restates for the era of the psychological man the ancient wisdom im­plied in the New Testament and also perhaps in the Sauptik Parva of the Mahabharata: 'Do not do unto others what you would that they do not do unto you, lest you do unto yourself what you do unto others.'

The impact of colonialism on India was deep. The economic exploitation, psychological uprooting and cultural disruption it caused were tremenclous.44 But India was a country of hun­dreds of millions living in a large land mass. In spite of the presence of a paramount power which acted as the central authority, the country was culturally fragmented and poli­tically heterogeneous. It could, thus, partly confine the cultural impact of imperialism to its urban centres, to its Westernized

and semi‑Westernized upper and middle classes, and to some sections of its traditional e1ites. That was not the case for the rulers from a relatively more homogeneous small island. They were overwhelmed by the experience of being colonial rulers. As a result, the long‑term cultural damage colonialism did to the British society was greater.

Firstly, the experience of colonizing did not leave the internal culture of Britain untouched. It began to bring into prominence those parts of the British political culture which were least tender and humane. It de‑emphasized speculation, intellection and caritas as feminine, and justified a limited cultural role for women‑and femininity‑by holding that the softer side of human nature was irrelevant to the public sphere. It openly sanctified‑in the name of such values as competition, achieve­ment, control and productivity‑new forms of institutionalized violence and ruthless social Darwinism .45 The instrumental con­cept of the lower classes it promoted was perfectly in tune with the needs of industrial capitalism and only a slightly modified version of the colonial concept of hierarchy was applied to the British society itself. The tragedy of colonialism was also the tragedy of the younger sons, the women, and all 'the etceteras and and‑so‑forths' of Britain.

Nobody who wandered among the imperial gravestones, though, Pon­dering the sadness of their separate tragedies, could fail to wonder at the waste of it all, the young lives thrown away, the useless courage, the unnecessary partings; and the fading image of Empire, its even dimmer panoply of flags and battlements, seemed then to be hazed in a mist of tears, like a grand old march shot through with melancholy, in a bandstand by the sea.46

Secondly and paradoxically, the ideology of colonialism pro­duced a false sense of cultural homogeneity in Britain. This

froze social consciousness, discouraging the basic cultural criti­cism that might have come from growing intellectual sensitivity to the rigid British social classes and subnational divisions, and from the falling quality of life in a quickly industrializing society. Colonialism blurred the lines of social divisions by opening up alternative channels of social mobility in the col­onies and by underwriting nationalist sentiments through colo­nial wars of expansion or through wars with other ambitious European powers seeking a share of colonial glory. The near­ total cultural dominance of a small e1ite in Britain was possible because the society shunted off to the colonies certain indirect expressions of cultural criticism: social deviants unhappy with the social order and buffetted by the stresses within it. I have in mind the criminality which comes from the rage of the oppressed, displaced from the rulers to the co‑oppressed .47 This process was recognized even by some apologists of colonialism. Here is one Carl Siger, speaking of the French experience:

The new countries offer a vast field for individual violent activities which, in the metropolitan countries, would run up against certain prejudices, against a sober and orderly conception of life, and which, in the colonies, have greater freedom to develop and consequently, to affirm their worth. Thus to a certain extent the colonies can serve as a safety valve for modern society. Even if this were their only value, it would be immense.48

The British might not ever have put it that way, but this logic was always implicit in the ruling culture of Britain.

Thirdly, there was what E. M. Forster called the 'undeveloped

heart' in the British which separated them not merely from the Indians but also from each other .49 This underdevelop­ment came both in the form of isolation of cognition from affect‑which often is a trigger to the 'banal' violence of our times‑and in the form of a new pathological fit between ideas and feelings. The theory of imperialism did not remain an insulated political position in Britain; it became a religious and ethical theory and an integral part of a cosmology. It not only structured the inner needs of the changing British society but also gave grotesque expression to a 'primitive' religious and social consciousness that had acquired immense military and technological power and was now operating on a global scale. Richard Congreve, Bishop of Oxford, once said, 'God has entrusted India to us to hold it for Him, and we have no right to give it up. 50 And what Lord John Russel, a future prime minister of Britain, said about Africa applied to India, too. The aim of colonization, he declaimed, was to encourage religious instruction and let the subjects 'partake of the blessings of Christianity'.51 Both these worthies were articulating not only an imperial responsibility or a national interest but also a felt sense of religious duty. James Morris sums it up neatly. 'Never mind the true motives and methods of imperialism', he says; 'in the days of their imperial supremacy the British genuinely believed themselves to be performing a divine purpose, in­nocently, nobly, in the name of God and the Queen.52 The other side of this sense of religious duty in the rulers was the growing and deliberately promoted sense of a religious duty to be ruled, including a cosmologically rooted political fatalism in some sections of the Indians. Even Bankimchandra Chat­teiji's novel Anandamath sought to legitimize this duty to be ruled on the basis of a new theory of stages of history.

Finally, as Francis Hutchins and Lewis D. Wurgaft have so convincingly argued in the context of India, colonialism en­couraged the colonizers to impute to themselves magical feel­ings of omnipotence and permanence. These feelings became a part of the British selfhood in Britain too. And the society was sold the idea of being an advanced techno‑industrial society where science promised to liberate man from his daily drudgery, an advanced culture where human reason and civilized norms had the greatest influence, and‑for the sake of the radical internal critics of the society who took to the idea like fish to water‑a polity farthest on the road to revolutionary self-­actualization. Britannia not only ruled the waves; for its in­habitants and for its many admirers in Europe it also ruled the future of human self‑consciousness. (Both British liberalism and the vaunted British insularity were also underwritten by colo­nialism in important ways. The full‑blown theory of colonial­ism emerged exactly at the time when, for the liberals, Britain had replaced Napoleonic France as the hope of mankind.53 Once the empire broke down, the liberalism revealed its racist underside. And the famous insularity, too, gave way to whole­sale Westernization‑Britain also has its own West‑and threatened to leave, as Malcolm Muggeridge once said, some sections of Indians as the sole surviving Britons in the world.)

Jacques Ellul has argued that the two major myths of the modern world are science and history.54 The contours of both these myths, their early 'developmental pathologies', and the magicality associated with them could be found in the dominant cosmology of nineteenth‑century Britain.

These cultural pathologies invoked four distinct responses in British society. The more obvious of them were reflected in Rudyard Kipling (1865‑1936) and George Orwell (1903‑45), the former representing the pathetic self‑hatred and ego con­striction which went with colonialism, and the latter the relative

sense of freedom and critical morality which were the true antitheses of colonialism and which one could acquire only by working through the colonial consciousness. Both came from direct or indirect exposure to the colonial situation and both struggled, though in dramatically different ways, with ideas of authority, responsibility, psychological security, self‑esteem, hierarchy, power and evangelism. The third response was in­direct, unselfconscious and overtly apolitical. It was reflected in the chaotic, individuated, 'pathological' protests against hyper‑masculinity and over‑socialization by individuals like Oscar Wilde and many of the members of the Bloomsbury group and by aspects of the 61ite culture in institutions like Oxford and Cambridge. I have in mind not the formal radical­ism of a few politically conscious intellectuals, but the half ­articulated protest by more apparently apolitical intellectuals against the official ideas of normality and dissent gradually taking over the whole of the culture of Britain.

Lastly, there was the numerically small but psychologically significant response of many who wholly opted out of their colonizing society and fought for the cause of India. Some of them became marginal to the Western life style in the course of their search for an alternative vision of an ideal society outside technocratic utopias and outside modernity. One may describe them as persons searching for a new utopia untouched by any Hobbesian dream. Such persons as Sister Nivedita, born Mar­garet Noble (1867‑19 11), Annie Besant (1847‑1933) and Mira Behn, born Madeleine Slade (1892‑1982), found in Indian ver­sions of religiosity, knowledge and social intervention not merely a model of dissent against their own society, but also some protection for their search for new models of transcen­dence, a greater tolerance of androgyny, and a richer meaning as well as legitimacy for women's participation in social and political life.55 More relevant for us however are others like

C. F. Andrews (18 71‑1940) who never became marginal to the West, but found a richer meaning for Western Christianity and a new endorsement of traditional Christian virtues in some strands of anti‑colonialism in India. India for them was both a place for Christian social intervention and a place which could be a mirror to organized Western Christianity which had be­come a cat's paw of British imperialism.

I shall very briefly describe the four responses in the rest of this section. Kipling probably was the most creative builder of the political myths which a colonial power needs to sustain its self‑esteem. The psychological co‑ordinates of his imperialist ideology have often been the co‑ordinates of the West's image of the non‑West in our times.

Elsewhere in this book I have described Kipling's early ex­periences and world view to show that he was something more than a rabid imperialist with an integrated identity. He was, I have argued, a tragic figure seeking to disown in self‑hatred an aspect of his self identified with Indianness‑which in turn was identified with victimization, ostracism and violence‑because of a cruel first encounter with England after an idyllic childhood in India.56 In this state, Kipling reproduced in his personal life both the painful cultural changes that had taken place in his society and the history of British colonialism in India from Robert Clive to Winston Churchill.

Since about the seventeenth century, the hyper‑masculine over‑socialized aspects of European personality had been gradu­ally supplanting the cultural traits which had become identified with femininity, childhood, and later on, 'primitivism'. As part of a peasant cosmology, these traits had been valued aspects of a culture not wedded to achievement and productivity. Now they had to be rejected as alien to mainstream European civ

Download 359.5 Kb.

Share with your friends:
  1   2   3   4   5   6

The database is protected by copyright ©sckool.org 2022
send message

    Main page