Thursday, February 3, 2011


Habitations of Modernity: Essays in the Wake of Subaltern Studies

Chapter 4 Khadi and the Political Man

I found this chapter to be really interesting, especially with how he talked about the deeper meaning associated with symbolic clothing. Perhaps this can be related to affect? While we may not be conscious of these meanings it is still a part of (at least a certain generation's) identity and paradigms.

· Chakrabarty is interested in examining the Indian politicians body (normally a male) and the historical background behind the construct of the body, the khadi, and modern corruption in India

· Originally, the khadi came out of Gandhi’s interest in abandoning British dress in order to claim a more Indian nationalistic feeling.

· However, he emphasizes that there are never single readings of any text and that there are long historical meanings connected to even things seemingly as simple as clothing.

· He explains a story of two Bengal Provincial congress Committee members and how one wore a stylish khadi while the other wore the khadi as a symbol of devotion to economic nationalism – the stylish one got made fun of.

· Now, the khadi represents either thoughtless habit or callous hypocrisy.

· “The khadi-clad politician is usually seen today as ‘corrupt,’ khadi itself as a dead giveaway, as the uniform of the rogue, as something like the hypocritical gesture of one who pretests too much” (53).

· If this is the only reading, than why is the khadi still so popular (or at least the color white) in India today?

· He wants to read it in another way, as if the khadi is as if it wasn’t mean to convince.

· When someone wears this clothing, they are not always aware of the meanings connected to it.

· He is interested in alternative readings of texts in order to understand the heterogeneity of cultural practices that makes Indian modernity different.

· The body was incredibly important during colonial times- there was a connection between character, the body, and modern public life.

· Physical strength was seen as important and a trait associated with British. Gandhi was even tempted into eating goat meat in order to become stronger.

· Gandhi moved the issue of character from physical strength to piousness and control of the body.

· For him, nonviolence was connected to the body. Aggression was connected to male lust, while nonviolence needed love (the destruction of self-love/sexuality).

· Ghandhi wrote the only confessional autobiography by an Indian politician.

· Rather than looking at the confessional as being the self explaining itself to an all-knowing god, Ghandi experimented, and was open and uncertain.

· He wanted to build a modern public life.

· He also shunned the idea of privacy. A politician should be open for all to see.

· “The Gandhian private is nonnarratable and nonrepresentable. Not that it doesn’t exists, but it is beyond representation, and it dies with the body itself” (62).

· There are three lines of tension – 1 – transparent government needs to both publically and privately open, 2- the moral claim to representation should go with the ideal of politics as a profession, 3- there is a tension between renunciation and capital accumulation.

· He reads the khadi as a condensed statement of the tensions between colonial modernity and capitalism.

· The khadi still represents a specific Indian modernity that is important in distinguishing it from European capitalistic ideologies.

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