Notions of Nationhood in Bengal: Perspectives on Samaj, c. 1867-1905


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.
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Biographical Note

Swarupa Gupta, Ph.D. (2004) in History, SOAS (University of London), is Fellow at Maulana Azad Institute of Asian Studies, Calcutta. Her publications include articles in Modern Asian Studies, Studies in History and Economic and Political Weekly.

Table of contents


1. Nationalist Ideologues, Ideas and their Dissemination
2. Recreating a Jati
3. Samaj and Perspectives on Unity
4. Caste, Class and Internal ‘Others’: ‘Lower Orders’ in Bengal
5. Contiguous Ethnicities
6. Sub-Regional ‘Essences’ and the Regional Self
7. From Region to Nation: The Idea of India



All those interested in intellectual history, specialists on nationalism, South Asian/Asian culture, society, colonial and postcolonial identities, ethnicity, and sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, advanced students, and informed general readers.


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