From civilization to globalization: the ‘West’ as a shifting signifier in Indian modernity
ABSTRACT This article tracks the shifting cultural meanings that the East/West distinction has produced in the history of nationalism in colonial and post-colonial India. It does so by focusing on the word “civilization” and the role it played in promoting a rich sense of inter-cultural dialogue in the writings of nationalist leaders such as Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, and Jawaharlal Nehru. The article documents how the word figures with much reduced significance in contemporary cultural debates about globalization in India and concludes by asking if the rise of China and India to global prominence holds the potential today to initiate a conversation across cultures similar to the one that accompanied the rise of the West in the age of modern imperial rule.
KEYWORDS: nationalism, civilization, globalization, modernity
Dipesh Chakrabarty is the Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History and South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago where he is a Faculty Fellow of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory and has a courtesy appointment with The University of Chicago Law School. He has held visiting appointments at many different universities and institutes and currently holds a Professorial Fellowship with the Research School of Humanities of the Australian National University. He is a member of the founding editorial collective of Subaltern Studies, a founding editor of Postcolonial Studies, and a co-editor of Critical Inquiry. Among his publications are Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (2000, 2007) and Habitations of Modernity: Essays in the Wake of Subaltern Studies (2002). Chakrabarty is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.