Ananya Chakravarti - Whose Imaginative Pasts?

Ananya Chakravarti (Georgetown University), ‘Whose Imaginative Pasts? The Brahminical Archive and the History of India’

What sets the imaginative work historians do from other modes of imagining the past? If we no longer conceive of the writing of history in a naively positivist tradition, how do we defend our work, and confront our own implication in the contemporary politics of the past?

While the production and circulation of caste histories is in itself unremarkable in pre-modern and modern South Asia, what is remarkable is the ways in which the caste histories of brahmins have made their way into the wider arena of public life in contemporary India. The brahminical archive, in a Foucauldian sense of the term, has come to define the conditions of possibility of knowledge about the past. Put another way, the narratives of the past fashioned by brahmins of the Konkan are a synecdoche not only for the history of the region, but of the nation itself. This talk examines the long history of brahminical imaginations of the past on the western coast of India to consider how, as historians, our work can help us discern- and question- archives of power.

This online lecture is open to all, but registration is essential: https://www.eventbrite.hk/e/596951065707

Ananya Chakravarti is associate professor of history at Georgetown University. Her first book, The Empire of Apostles: Religion, Accommodation and the Imagination of Empire in Early Modern Brazil and India (Oxford, 2018) received an honourable mention for the Association of Asian Studies' Bernard Cohn Prize, given in recognition of the best first book on South Asia. She is currently completing a textbook on modern South Asian history, entitled South Asia Beyond Borders (forthcoming, Routledge) and a second monograph, entitled The Konkan: Space, Identity and History on an Indian Ocean Coast.