2. WRITING POLITICS BACK INTO HISTORY1

Authors


  • 1

    Parts of this paper were presented to audiences at the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies in San Francisco, 2006, and at Yale University. I wish to thank the audiences at the two meetings, and Mobina Hashmi, Rebecca Hodges, and Himadeep Muppidi for their comments and suggestions.

ABSTRACT

This essay examines the writing of history and historiography in early modern south India as discussed in the book Textures of Time. The book argues that a historical and historiographical awareness was prevalent in south India prior to the arrival of a European field of knowledge under colonial rule. However, this essay maintains that the book unwittingly reproduces some of the very same Eurocentric formulations of the writing of history and modernity that it seeks to refute. A liberal conception of modernity is at the core of how society, history, and politics have been imagined in this book. These attributes of modernity, such as history as a set of causal relations, as presentation of facts, as a realm of the real cannot escape their prior formulation in Europe. The liberal social order also underpins the relationship between writing and the world. In Textures, early historians merely represent reality; they are not authors whose practices are constitutive of politics and identity. The conception of modernity overlooks the constitutive role colonial empires played in the very creation not only of the West and non-West, but also in conceptions of the real, the modern, the universal, and the historical.

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