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Authors: Yadav, Niharika
Advisors: Prakash, Gyan
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Caste
Global Cold War
Subjects: History
South Asian studies
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation examines the translation of a global political language of “democratic socialism” into samājvād (socialism) in postcolonial India. As such, it investigates a paradox in contemporary Indian life. Today, the label samājvādi (socialist) is adopted by a range of actors across the political spectrum; yet the popularity of socialist language belies the electoral failures of socialist parties. The dissertation explores the fraught success of democratic socialism through a social history of political life: one centered on regional elites whose organizations and movements traversed the literary and political worlds of northern and western India. Weaving together evidence from literary magazines and newspapers, vernacular party organs, and local party archives, it offers a richly contextualized account of the ideas and practices shaping postcolonial democracy. After a dramatic break from the Congress party, a fledgling Socialist Party entered the fray of democratic politics. The product of its efforts was a reimagination of socialism in Indian languages, aspiring to be the basis of a global order that could transcend the limitations of Cold War Soviet and capitalist regimes alike. The dissertation tracks the story of this political translation through the 1950s, studying both socialists’ attempts to produce social theory in vernacular, and the concrete constructions of socialism as political praxis in Hindi and Marathi language public spheres. It demonstrates that socialists not only challenged the dominant Nehruvian socialist paradigm; they also deftly utilized Cold War debates about democracy to counter their communist and anti-caste critics. Against prevailing views of democratic socialism in India as an expansive discourse on social change, my dissertation argues that samājvād (socialism) allowed regional elites to transform a caste-inscribed imagination of society into a universalist vocabulary, constructed in ways that foreclosed a more radical confrontation with inequality. Drawing from anti-caste scholarship, postcolonial theory, and literary history, this dissertation provides a fresh account of the historical trajectories of democracy in postcolonial India. Emphasizing the intersections between language, caste, and democratic practices, it offers insights for scholars searching for immanent concepts of democracy in vernacular languages against the backdrop of the decline of liberal institutions and the rise of religious majoritarianism.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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