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Elementary Aspects of the Political: Histories from the Global South

by Prathama Banerjee

Duke University Press, 2020


Cloth: 978-1-4780-0987-0

Paper: 978-1-4780-1090-6

eISBN: 978-1-4780-1244-3

OA eISBN: 978-1-4780-9037-3

About the Book
In Elementary Aspects of the Political Prathama Banerjee moves beyond postcolonial and decolonial critiques of European political philosophy to rethink modern conceptions of "the political" from the perspective of the global South. Drawing on Indian and Bengali practices and philosophies from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Banerjee identifies four elements of the political: the self, action, the idea, and the people. She examines selfhood in light of precolonial Indic traditions of renunciation and realpolitik; action in the constitutive tension between traditional conceptions of karma and modern ideas of labor; the idea of equality as it emerges in the dialectic between spirituality and economics; and people in the friction between the structure of the political party and the atmospherics of fiction and theater. Throughout, Banerjee reasserts the historical specificity of political thought and challenges modern assumptions about the universality, primacy, and self-evidence of the political. In formulating a new theory of the political, Banerjee gestures toward a globally salient political philosophy that displaces prevailing Western notions of the political masquerading as universal.
About the Author
Prathama Banerjee is Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi, India, and author of Politics of Time: "Primitives" and History-Writing in a Colonial Society.
“A brilliantly original study of the relation between philosophical ideas and political practice, this book by Prathama Banerjee explores how key ideas drawn from Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, and Western traditions have shaped the field of the political in India. While analyzing the complex and often ambiguous relations of the political with religion, economy, literature, theater, and art, she gives us many surprising new insights into such canonical thinkers as Bankim, Aurobindo, Gandhi, Iqbal, and Ambedkar.”

-- Partha Chatterjee, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University

“Simultaneously a contribution to history and to political theory, this insightful reading opens up a striking vantage point from which to explore the implications of the now-global concepts of political subjecthood, political action, political ideology, and "people." Prathama Banerjee's book exemplifies what it means when we say that postcolonial theory can redefine the very terms of political theory. In sum, this is a landmark work of immense originality and brilliance.”

-- Ajay Skaria, author of Unconditional Equality: Gandhi’s Religion of Resistance

Elementary Aspects of the Political is not just about claiming or defining a non-European political theory, but aims to create new ways of thinking about politics.... Banerjee offers a framework that anyone interested in building political theory anew, regardless of regional expertise, may wish to consider.”

-- Whitney Russell PoLAR

“Banerjee provides a sophisticated contribution to long-standing debates regarding ‘the political’ that is grounded in histories from the Global South.... She shows the powerful aesthetic possibilities in political theorizing and acting across any number of borders that have traditionally delimited and reified particular conceptions of the political.”

-- Stuart Gray Perspectives on Politics

“There is much more to be said about this ambitious and erudite text. . . . By opening up the conceptual history of the political, Banerjee’s important book establishes itself as one that will be debated for a long time. It marks a new point of departure for thinking about the relations between postcolonial and decolonial history and philosophy.”

-- Rochona Majumdar History and Theory

“This extraordinarily nuanced book sets aside an older and rather tired trope of the critique of Eurocentric categories and embarks on a robust enterprise of generating a mode of thinking from the Global South. What is made clear throughout [Elementary Aspects of the Political] are the different genealogies, vocabularies, and histories that go into the thinking of the idea of ‘the political.’”

-- Thomas Biebricher Political Theory

Theory in Forms, Colonialism & Post-Colonialism, Political science, India, South, Political, Asia, Philosophy, History
Open Access Information

Label: De Gruyter eBound Foundation

License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0