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Title: The Bombay Radicals and the Left in Colonial India
Authors: Pandit, Ninad
Advisors: Prakash, Gyan
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Bombay
Marathi Literature
Urban History
Subjects: South Asian studies
Asian history
Asian literature
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation explains how colonial Bombay’s industrial workers played an important role in shaping the city’s cosmopolitan culture, which in turn engendered a new kind of popular mobilization that enabled the final push towards Indian independence. By locating the city’s working-class politics within the larger context of migration and social reform in western India, this dissertation provides an alternate history of the origin of progressive politics and the left in colonial India, which it recognizes has been dominated by doctrinaire Communist Party historians. Scholarship which has attempted to overcome party and nationalist doctrine has focused almost exclusively on the nature of colonial workers’ subjectivity; in so doing it naturalizes the insurmountability of caste and religion. This dissertation documents the overlaps between the anti-colonial movement and the international working-class movement to assert that any historical elaboration on the nature of subjectivity in colonial India must account for the role of enfranchisement that was gained through working-class politics. Drawing upon Marathi, English, Hindi and Gujarati language sources, this dissertation argues that Bombay’s workers compelled nationalist leaders like Gandhi to acknowledge their political agency, irreversibly changing the direction of the independence movement. This working-class movement thrived under the leadership of the Bombay Radicals who were influenced by Marxism and socialism. As their efforts gained results, the Bombay Radicals found themselves threatened by the colonial state, and the dissertation shows how the working-class was systematically co-opted for the project of Indian independence. Finally, this dissertation argues that the quest for a new post-independence paradigm for leftism led the Bombay Radicals to nativism, and Marathi-language progressive literature became the basis for imagining a parochial socialist state for Marathi-speaking workers. This history of Bombay forces a re-examination of the debates over the origins of progressive politics in India. It challenges the scholarship that insists on any exceptionalist claim that the history of India is beholden to the insurmountable categories of a stratified society.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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