Session at ECSAS 2020; the 26th European Conference on South Asian Studies

Adopting an inter-disciplinary approach, the panel seeks to examine the conceptualisations of marginality in its multiple dimensions – political, societal, economic, legal, spatial – in colonial and postcolonial India.

Convenors:

  • Sanjukta Das Gupta Sapienza University of Rome (Rome, Italy)
  • Amit Prakash Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi, India)
  • Anna Bochkovskaya Institute of Asian and African Studies, Lomonosov Moscow State University (Moscow, Russia)

A relational position, marginality presupposes a confrontation with centrality or the ‘mainstream’ within a common discourse of knowledge and power. In much of South Asia, contemporary marginalities are a product of the evolving liberal discourse since colonial times when extant liberal premises lent themselves to the Orientalist framing of religion, caste, gender, civilizational progress and geographical location as marginalities by deploying anthropology and universalistic history as intellectual anchors. Some continue to exist in the postcolonial period (despite promises of liberty and equality), while new marginalities have emerged from the interface of a developmental state with the new liberal Constitutional order. Examples of new marginalities include constructs around politico-social categories, majoritarianism in its various expressions, lifestyle choices (food, dress, sexuality), regions, relationship to resources and societal location, with respect to the institutional architecture of the state and Law. The intellectual anchors for such formulations are provided by economics, history and political science in various guises of modernisation, economic development, nationhood and politics. For a contextualised understanding of the continuities and fractures in conceptualising marginalities, it is essential to adopt an interdisciplinary lens. The panel invites papers reflecting on varied aspects of evolving marginalities – structural, cultural and psychological – in South Asia in diverse temporal, spatial or societal contexts. Contributions examining the discourses and institutional mechanisms and economic processes that engender or contest margins are encouraged.