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The thinking on political theory that went into the making of the Indian Constitution was not derivative, but highly original. The constitution is based on a long tradition of highly original Indian political reflection. This originality lay in the framers’ forceful critique against some basic axioms of Western political theory.
As illustrations, Sudipta Kaviraj (Professor, Columbia University, and Distinguished Visiting Faculty at the NLSIU) shall present Tagore’s thinking on religion and modernity, Gandhi-Tagore-Nehru’s ideas of the nation, and Ambedkar’s late deployment of Buddhism.
Indian nationalist thought also displayed a contending tradition that accepted and elaborated on fundamental Western ideas – as in Iqbal and Savarkar. The constitution sought to develop a state-form that was based on a rejection of the European idea of a nation-state – though this is sometimes obscured, because the framers used a Western-derived language. Thus, those who believe that the constitution is ‘Western’ or colonial are in error; and their search for an alternative is based, ironically, on an imitation of modern Western ideals.
The lecture will be followed by a Q&A session with the audience.
In collaboration with:
Sudipta Kaviraj is a specialist in intellectual history and Indian politics. He works on two fields of intellectual history: Indian social and political thought in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and modern Indian literature and cultural production. His other fields of interest and research include the historical sociology of the Indian state, and some aspects of Western social theory. He received his Ph.D. from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Prior to joining Columbia University, he taught at the Department of Political Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has also taught Political Science at JNU, and was an Agatha Harrison Fellow at St. Antony’s College, Oxford. He is a member of the Subaltern Studies Collective.
Kaviraj’s books include The Imaginary Institution of India (2010) Civil Society: History and Possibilities co-edited with Sunil Khilnani (2001), Politics in India (edited) (1999), and The Unhappy Consciousness: Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay and the Formation of Nationalist Discourse in India (1995).