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End Matter Bibliography Index. All rights reserved. Powered by: Safari Books Online. This is a notable exercise in what Johannes Fabian called allochronism, or the creation of different temporalities for different places Maine observes that the British capital of Calcutta is an example of how:. A number of different villages have been founded close together on what was perhaps at one time unprofitable waste land, but which has become exceptionally valuable through advantages of situation.
This last was the origin of the great Anglo-Indian city of Calcutta, which is really a collection of villages of very modern foundation Marx lamented the spectacle of:. Myriads of industrious patriarchal and inoffensive social organizations disorganized and dissolved into their units, thrown into a sea of woes, and their individual members losing at the same time their ancient form of civilization, and their hereditary means of subsistence Marx and Engels , More interestingly, as C. It is true that Maine was criticized — for example by B.
Writing in Young India on 13 October , Gandhi asserted:. Our cities are not India. India lives in her seven and a half lakhs of villages, and the cities live upon the villages.
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They do not bring their wealth from other countries. The city people are brokers and commission agents for the big houses of Europe, America and Japan. The cities have cooperated with the latter in the bleeding process that has gone on for the past two hundred years. Gandhi, CWMG 21 : — As against this process of impoverishment and exploitation, Gandhi set out his Utopian model of village self-rule, or swaraj , in an article in Harijan on 26 July My idea of Village Swaraj is that it is a complete republic, independent of its neighbours for its own vital wants, and yet interdependent for many others in which dependence is a necessity.
It should have a reserve for its cattle, recreation and playground for adults and children. Then if there is more land available, it will grow useful money crops, thus excluding ganja , tobacco, opium and the like [emphasis in original]. The village will maintain a village theatre, school and public hall. It will have its own waterworks ensuring water supply.
This can be done through controlled wells and tanks. Education will be compulsory up to the final basic course. As far as possible every activity will be conducted on the co-operative basis. There will be no castes such as we have today with their graded untouchability. Any village can become such a republic today without much interference, even from the present Government whose sole effective connection with the villages is the exaction of the village revenue. Any lover of true democracy and village life can take up a village, treat it as his world and sole work, and he will find good results.
Gandhi, CWMG 76 : The home life, i. India did in fact adopt the model of Panchayati Raj local self-government through a constitutional amendment in , though its current form may not be what Gandhi envisaged. By contrast, B. Ambedkar expressed open dislike of the Hindu village, which was for him no more than the concrete embodiment of the Hindu social order. Such is the picture of the inside life in an Indian village. In this Republic, there is no place for democracy.
There is no room for equality. There is no room for liberty and there is no room for fraternity. The Indian village is the very negation of a Republic. If it is a republic, it is a republic of the Touchables, by the Touchables and for the Touchables. The republic is an Empire of the Hindus over the Untouchables.
It is a kind of colonialism of the Hindus designed to exploit the Untouchables. The Untouchables have no rights. They are there only to wait, serve and submit. They are there to do or to die. They have no rights because they are outside the village republic and because they are outside the so-called republic, they are outside the Hindu fold Ambedkar, , 5: 26 ; capitalization as in original. Responding to Constituent Assembly debates on the Draft Constitution of India in —49, Ambedkar cited Metcalfe directly in the context of the supposed continuity of Indian culture through the survival of the village republic, but was unequivocal on the need to abandon it:.
I hold that these village republics have been the ruination of India. I am therefore surprised that those who condemn Provincialism and communalism should come forward as champions of the village.
Modernism and utopia, 1900-1920: politics and social betterment in early modernist writing
What is the village but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism? I am glad that the Draft Constitution has discarded the village and adopted the individual as its unit , In the decades following Independence, a number of historians and sociologists, including D. Kosambi, Irfan Habib, and M. Srinivas, cast a critical eye on the myth of the self-sufficient Indian village. Historically, despite some measure of collectivity and isolation in their constitution, villages had been subject to the depredations and vagaries of state power and the requirements of commodity production: they were by no means a society of equal sharers but manifested every sign of economic hierarchy.
Srinivas and A. The Indian village was thus always a part of a wider entity, subject to the winds which blew from without. The incredibly bad roads, the heavy monsoon, the growing of food crops and vegetables, the existence of barter and the powerful sense of membership of the village community have all given students an illusion of self-sufficiency and of isolation. But it is only an illusion and the reality is quite different At the same time, Srinivas was the author of perhaps the most memorable documentary account of a real village, Rampura, in the state of Mysore, now Karnataka.
The account is a classic work of modern anthropology: it is also set at a critical historical moment, since Srinivas entered the village for his fieldwork just 13 days after the assassination of Gandhi, upon the conclusion of the formal mourning period. At first sight it looked like a strange way of expressing their sorrow at the death, but traditionally the ending of the period of mourning was marked by a feast.
Only the photograph was a new addition.
Srinivas, That failure is recorded in the great literary form of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the novel, a form linked in its origin to what Fredric Jameson calls:. A properly bourgeois cultural revolution — that immense process of transformation whereby populations whose life habits were formed by other, now archaic, modes of production are now reprogrammed for life and work in the new world of market capitalism But while the village tale, scene or sketch may be a relatively limited form, villages and rural life provide material for the novel right through the nineteenth century and, for India especially, during the first half of the twentieth.
The modern novel in India, commencing as an urban form, is marked, fairly early in its history, by a turn to the rural, and especially to the representation of village life.
But even preceding — or in the absence of — any direct engagement with Gandhian thought, the village emerges in Bengali literature and art of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as the crucible of modernity, the site where the struggles and failures of a newly modernizing nation must be worked out.
I have a question to ask in the midst of this profusion of welfare: welfare for whom? Hashim Sheikh and Rama Kaibarta are ploughing their fields under the midday sun, bareheaded, barefooted, working in knee-deep mud with two skin-and-bone oxen and a blunt-edged ploughshare borrowed from someone. Have they benefited? The Bhadra sun rages directly on their bare heads, their throats are parched with thirst, to quench it they have to drink muddy water from the field with their cupped hands; they are nearly dying of hunger, but cannot afford to go home now for lunch, for this is the sowing season.
Back home in the evening they will fill only half their stomachs with a meal of coarse brown rice and salt and green chillies, served on a broken platter Chattopadhyay, , II: , my translation. Above all the later national Partition of , preceded by large-scale communal riots, took an immense toll in human displacement, migration, and homelessness.
But more interesting is the way in which the idyll and its negation jointly inhabit the rural landscape — above all the village. Utopia exists as a ghost of nationalist ideology and hope: hovering even in the name, Nishchindipur, that Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay gave to the village setting of his great novel Pather Panchali The fractured and painful history of modern Bengal leaves its permanent impression upon forms of artistic representation, resulting not so much in the loss of the Utopian village, but in the recognition of its impossibility.
Painters Tagore hosted at his ashram , later university, in Santiniketan, include Nandalal Basu and Binodebehari Mukhopadhyay, who celebrated this landscape and influenced numerous later studies of the Bengal countryside; the village craftspersons shown in the panels Nandalal painted for the Haripura Congress session in feed into the nationalist ideology of a vibrant village economy threatened by industrialization and colonialism.
The project of modernity had been a central concern of the Bengali novel from its inception, driving its search for subjects and its experiments with representational techniques. What emerges in the twentieth century is a new kind of social realism, employing a modernist idiom but seeking to render above all the anger and hopelessness of the rural poor. At the same time, the lyric power of novelists like Bibhutibhushan and Adwaita Mallabarman conveys the ecologically threatened beauty of the landscapes in which their novels are set.
Apu, the hero of this Bildungsroman , makes the transition from village boy to urban intellectual, a trajectory that becomes representative of Bengali modernity. But there is a residual irony in the title, at least for Bengali readers, since his narrative offers a harsh, unsparing vision of village life, and the poor rural family at its center finds no contentment there, being forced in the end to migrate to the city.
The remembered village is a site of nostalgia at the very same time as it carries memories of suffering and deprivation. For some commentators this was the result of an historical rupture. Certainly, the upheavals of Partition converted large sections of the rural population to homeless urban refugees, and produced an unhealable trauma in the body of the nation-state, powerfully captured in post-Partition fiction and in the films of Ritwik Ghatak.
This characterization of the lost village of modernity is so familiar that it does not need repeating. While the film of memory may have added idealizing elements to the imagined village, the great achievement of modernist fiction in the early twentieth century was to look at the village as the here-and-now of modernity, of the nation, and of society.
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His contemporary Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay wrote a series of rural novels that reflect the grim social realities of the s and s in Bengal, describing a decaying feudalism, the increasing impoverishment of the peasantry, and a newly profiteering middle class. Brought to the indigo plantation as palanquin bearers and bodyguards, they now toil as sharecroppers in fields owned by the Sadgop gentry. Despite the hold of customary law and tradition upon their community, therefore, the Kahar village is anything but ageless and unchanging: they are an already displaced tribal group brought to their present location by internal colonization, not one immemorially settled on the same land.
The novel captures the inexorable breaking-up, with the attendant loss of tradition, of their village community. Not only has the tribe been dislocated from any presumed point of origin and learnt new habits as tillers of the soil, but its living rhythms, its music and memory, are spelt out against the signs of a hybrid modernity: the railway train crossing the bridge; warplanes passing overhead; and money changing hands. Against the background of World War Two, and seeing new work opportunities being opened up by the railways, the Kahar community seeks to hold on to its customs, its laws, and its memories, but the battle has already been lost to history.
In his later life he became a Gandhian, and it was very much under the influence of a Gandhian ideology of the village, and from a close identification with his native village of Labhpur in Birbhum, West Bengal, that he composed this series, never published as a book during his lifetime. The letters feature topics including village politics, welfare, agricultural improvements, and social concerns. The village must change, but how is this change to be brought about? If the country is to live, the village must live: it must live in its agriculture, which is the core of its existence.
In a Nehruvian turn, he urges that the nation must plan for this in the long term. If there is constructive hope here, there is also, in the series as a whole, profound acknowledgement of national failures. In the much later Letter 2 September , Tarashankar writes against the background of the armed peasant uprising in the Santhal village of Naxalbari that had taken place earlier that year.
While deploring the violence, assaults on women, and loss of life, he poses a larger question:. The fundamental demand of Naxalbari stands before the nation like a huge question. To give food to the hungry, land to the landless, dignity to the downtrodden: in this lies the true glory of freedom. That is the real self of independence. And this promise is one that has been made to the people by the leaders of our nation. Food, land, home and dignity. In this twentieth year of our Independence, why have our people not received these?
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Why do we stand, heads bowed, silent, as this question is put to us? Bandyopadhyay, , my translation. Expectedly, perhaps, the series of letters concludes on 27 May , almost exactly a year to the day of the police firing in Naxalbari. What the ageing Gandhian ruralist has seen in the villages of Bengal over the course of a long life are scenes of great beauty, but also of utter darkness. What, if anything, is a village Utopia? So too, reading J. The idea of a Utopian village — with greater or lesser qualifications — is certainly proposed by Maine and his predecessors for India during the course of the nineteenth century.
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It imbues nationalist ideology, but it is not only doomed to failure, it produces a crisis of trust. Bengali cinema, looking back at this body of work in the s and early s, after Partition, which had placed the idyll permanently out of reach, is quick to capture the impossibility of a village Utopia. Like them, Pal sees the village as a place of extreme dearth and suffering at the same time as it is a place of extraordinary beauty.