The colonial city in the postcolonial era
ABSTRACT The Black Hole of Calcutta was once known throughout the English-speaking world as a dark dungeon in which many European prisoners were suffocated to death by an Indian ruler. A monument was built in Calcutta in 1760 to commemorate this event, but it was pulled down in 1821. It was rebuilt by the viceroy Curzon in 1902 in the era of high imperialism. But Indian nationalists had the monument removed in 1940. This essay looks at the ideological history of empire in the last 250 years by tracing the travels of this monument in a postcolonial city. It shows that academic history and popular memory have a strong influence on each other.
Partha Chatterjee is Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies, Columbia University, New York, and Honorary Professor, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta. Among his many books are Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World (1986), The Nation and Its Fragments (1993), The Politics of the Governed (2004), Lineages of Political Society (2011) and The Black Hole of Empire (2012).