The Pre-Colonial Imagined Boundaries

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Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay

দেবপ্রসাদ বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়

 Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata

April 12, 2012

This paper is an account of pre-colonial symbolic distributions of imagined boundaries in the geo-political construct called “India” and it is also a response to the Chatterjee-Sen polemic regarding the pre-colonial (non)existence of Indian model. 

Chatterjee raised the following question: “If nationalism in the rest of the world have to choose their imagined community from certain modula forms already made available to them by Europe and the Americas, what do they have left to imagine?” (Chatterjee, 1993:5, emphasis added.) The question, raised by Chatterjee may lead us to a reading that as a so-called third world subalterns, we do not have any imagined model and we, as a colonial subject, are only aping the dominant domain. In response to this, Sen commented: “The conceptual forms of the nation as an imagined community, which Anderson peruses, may not have much to commend it” (I personally think that it does — but this is a different issue), but the fear that its western origin would leave us without a model that is our own is a somewhat peculiar concern.” (1996: 17-18, fn. 13)

Chatterjee’s question (“…what do they have left to imagine?”) inaugurates the question of “rem(a)inder” (in Lacanian sense of the term) in the context of colonial subjectivity, which is, though destroyed by the imposed imagined symbolic order, constructs its imagined “real(-ity) as rem(a)inder through some so-called “mythical,” “spiritual” (thus un-“scientific” from the perspective of enlightened gaze) constructions. The author will try to discuss three evidences of pre-colonial imagined boundary-constructions in the context of Southeast Asia in connection with Chatterjee-Sen debate.

(A) Fragmented Body of the Holy Mother: Bharat is a body — a female body — Sati’s (The holy mother goddess, Siva’s wife) body-parts are scattered all over India — these female organs are worshiped in different (almost 51, though numbers differ in different puranas as well as in some marginal printed documents as found in side of different sati-pithas ) Indian tirthas. Thus, we have found Bharat as an imagined integration of corporeal-state (cf. Sarkar, 1948/1973 & 1984). If the different distributions of different scattered body-parts are to be put into the map, that cartographical as well as symbological account of iso-corporeal ( cf. isopleth, isoline, isogram or isorithm) gives us an integrated picture of imagined boundary. The author would not venture to attest empirically the archival values of the “real” documents (as it was investigated by some empirical historians in the case of Ramjanmobhoomi), but the author will try to unfold the discourses of puranas as well as marginal documents. The presence or absence of the Sati’s body-part in the certain part of the territory is not the author’s concern.

(B) The celebration of Mela: Certain Southeast Asian aquatic regions are selected in connection with certain configurations in the celestial sphere (though, one must remember, the placement of constellation does not follow contemporary astronomical account) to celebrate ritualistic fairs. Pilgrims from different part of South-East Asia gather (in which “language” do they communicate?) in the particular region and they are forming certain type of symbolic solidarity. What is noticeable here is the association among geographical region, aquatic region and celestial sphere. The gathering of different margis (< marga or road) or panthis (
(C) Four Mathas of Shankarcharya: It was told that the adi Shankarcharya (8th C.) established four mathas in four different parts of India: (1) the Uttarāmnāya matha, or northern matha at Joshimath; (2) the Pūrvāmnāya matha or eastern matha, the Govardhana matha, at Puri; (3) the Dakshināmnāya matha, or the Sringeri Sharada Peetham, the southern matha, at Shringeri; (4) the Paśchimāmnāya matha, or the Dwaraka Pitha, the western matha, at Dwarka. The cartographical account of such planned distribution of mathas also provides us a concept of imagined boundary, though that is not a mimicry of European nation Statist model.

All these imagined evidences remind us the remainder of pre-colonial genealogy of “our” imagination.


Number of Pages in PDF File: 8


About Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay

Debaprasad Bandyopdhyay (b. 1965), through his 25 years journey in the realm of institutionalized academics did 27 different types of works, which are someway different from the earlier paradigms or, one might say that those works are not only mere reproductions of his inherited institutionalized cultural capital or a mimicry of a colonially imposed model that leads to intellectual anorexia or rather a type falsification of earlier paradigms. However, that might be not only a lofty claim but it also hid the fact that all our information and knowledge are socially accumulated knowledge that was, it is matter of regret, posed as private property through the sign © and the wisdom is rarely available. Bandyopadhyay’s works and projects are the products of his social milieu. Bandyopadhyay is a local sub-altern public sphere academician, who avoids the technical intelligentsia (followers of Sahib’s models and they are not committed to the persons who are accommodating surplus work-time to them by performing surplus labour) or inorganic intellectuals and thus fails to be a part of academic tribe and its subsequent socialization process. Of course, that socialization process does not lead to legendary Socratic dialogue. He is also a political activist though he has not affiliated to any political parties as he was always talking about the corporatization of political parties within the money-sign-based democratic system. He is a regular participant in TV and radio talk-shows and documentary films, street-corners’ talks and International seminars on socio-political, psychological, linguistic, environmental and economic issues. He also writes editorial columns in newspapers. He is also a part of parallel academics as it is found in West Bengal’s Little Magazine Movement, though that was not counted as the part his academic pursuit by his parent institute. His parent institute justifiably does not believe in the domain of parallel academics as this unorganized sector does not directly contribute in the transactions of formal/organized print capitalist eco-enemy paper-publication. Though the dissemination of knowledge is also observed in this space of these parallel academics as all these writings in public sphere simultaneously influence the classroom-discourse and some of them are translated into English, French and Italian. Not only that, Bandyopadhyay also sought engagement with the people, who, by supplying their surplus labour, are sustaining his livelihood. Bandyopadhyay, a linguist by training and a Ph.D.-holder (1996), a junior lecturer (1999-2011) in an autonomous central government institute in India, tries his best for those from he has received and is receiving the manifestation of surplus labour by executing some self-funded projects on economic issues in West Bengal, India. Recently he has got a consolation promotion to the post of Assistant Professor. He has done following 27 research works: 1. Crippled Creativity: An inquiry into language, psyche, society: 2. VALENCY OF BANGLA VERB AND PROBLEM OF COMPOUND VERBS: 3. Archaeology of Bangla Grammar : 4. CAN COMPUTER SPEAK? 5. FUZZY LOGICAL EXPRESSION IN BANGLA : 6. FOLKLORE AND FOLK-LANGUAGE: MYTH OR REALITY? 7. HISTORICISM IN THE DISCOURSE OF BANGLA LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE 8. ABHABA, ECP, DELETION AND TRACE 9. SVATVA OR MY-NESS AND ECONOMIC ENTITLEMEMT 10. TRANSLATION STUDIES 11. MASCULINITY STUDIES 12. YAYATI & BABAR COMPLEX 13. SOCIO-ECONOMIC SURVEYS IN AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRY IN WEST BENGAL 14. CONCEPT OF BODY IN INDIAN PHILOSOPHY AND ARCHITECTURE 15. THE CONCEPT OF ERROR (KHYATI) IN MAD-(WO)MEN’S LANGUAGE 16. THE CONCEPT OF PERCEPTUAL TIME AND GRAMMATICAL TIME IN BANGLA 17. BANGLA CALLIGRAPHY, LANGUAGE ART AND LINGUISTIC PEDAGOGY 18. WO(L)D SPACES: NON-EXISTENCE OF WORDS 19. ANEKANTA METHODS 20. SILENCEME: SILENT OTHER IN LINGUISTICS 21. IMAGINED BOUDARIES AND PRE-COLONIAL INDIAN IMAGI-NATION 22. MAKING OF THE INDIAN PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE 23. SEGMENTING THE SUPRASEGMENTALS : MUSICKING IN SPEAKING 24. INTERPRETING GENETIC STRUCTURE BY DEPLOYING LINGUISTIC STRUCTURE 25. GLOTTOPOLITICS OF LINGUISTIC SUBALTERNITY OR AN AGENDA FOR PLANNING FROM BELOW 26. SEMIOTICS OF PHOTOGRAPHY 27. SOCIOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY ACADEMICS
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2 Responses to The Pre-Colonial Imagined Boundaries

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