Cultural Constellations, Place-Making and Ethnicity in Eastern India, c. 1850-1927, Swarupa Gupta outlines a fresh paradigm moving beyond stereotypical representations of eastern India as a site of ethnic fragmentation. The book traces unities by exploring intersections between (1) cultural constellations; (2) place-making and (3) ethnicity.
Centralising place-making, it tells the story of how people made places, mediating caste / religious / linguistic contestations. It offers new meanings of ‘region’ in Eastern Indian and global contexts by showing how an interregional arena comprising Bengal, Assam and Orissa was forged.
Using historical tracts, novels, poetry and travelogues, the book argues that commonalities in Eastern India were linked to imaginings of Indian nationhood. The analysis contains interpretive strategies for mediating federalist separatisms and fragmentation in contemporary India.
This book reopens the debate on colonial nationalisms, going beyond ‘derivative’, ‘borrowed’, political and modernist paradigms. It introduces the conceptual category of samaj to demonstrate how indigenous socio-cultural origins in Bengal interacted with late-colonial discourses to produce the notion of a nation. Samaj (a historical society and an idea-in-practice) was a site for reconfiguring antecedents and negotiating fragmentation. Drawing on indigenous sources, this study shows how caste, class, ethnicity, region and community were refracted to conceptualise wider unities. The mapping of cultural continuities through change facilitates a more nuanced investigation of the ontology of nationhood, seeing it as related to, but more than political nationalism. It outlines a fresh paradigm for recalibrating postcolonial identities, offering interpretive strategies to mediate fragmentation.