This book attempts to re-engage the idea of the minor in the context of democracy and difference by way of revisiting a diverse range of conceptual frameworks, disciplinary formation, texts and genres. It structured around three aspects: the first focuses on minorities in the context of colonial modernity, democracy and difference, secularism and communalism as well as of the Constitution and citizenship. The second aspect involves gathering other resources, other frameworks, other readings of familiar texts that might feed into a history of the minor. The third aspect is concerned with the socio-cultural dimension where the field of culture, particularly literature/arts, becomes a site of study, yielding insights into minority discourse and into the conditions under which the minor enters discourse.
The essays in this volume are by distinguished scholars in the field; taken together they address the urgent need to strengthen and consolidate minority discourses and to the build bridges between and across diverse minoritarian formations in our life-worlds. Such a task is still ahead of us; this volume is offered as a modest beginning in the direction.
M.T. Ansari is Professor at the Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Hyderabad. He was recently a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (Shimla) and his books include an edited volume Secularism, Islam and Modernity: Selected Essays of Alam Khundmiri (New Delhi: Sage, 2001) and Islam and Nationalism in India: South Indian Contexts (London and New York: Routledge, 2016).
Deeptha Achar is Professor at the Department of English, Faculty of Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Her publications include co-edited Towards New Art History: Studies in Indian Art (2003), The Age of Adventure: childhood, Reading and British Boys’ fiction (2010) and Articulating Resistance: Art and Activism (2012), apart from catalogue essays. Her research interests include visual culture and childhood studies.
Discourse, Democracy, Difference is the outcome of a national conference on 'Discourse, Democracy and Difference' organized by the Department of English, Faculty of Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, in collaboration with the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, during 12-14 August 2003 at Vadodara, Gujarat. This conference, was planned in the wake of February-May 2002 Gujarat violence. Working with the assumption that the question of the minor was central to the way the violence was shaped, we believed that it was important, indeed, essential, that we engage the idea of the minor, particularly the discourses through which the minor was enunciated. The conference, therefore, sought to address immediate as well as long-term concerns on the issue of minority discourse in India and was initially entitled 'Minority Discourse, Democracy and Difference.' The primary concern of the conference was to grapple with the notion of the minor and the marginal, of democracy and difference. But during the last stages of conference preparation, the organizers were informally told that permission to hold the conference may not be granted for fear that it may be obstructed by `students'! It was also suggested at the same time that the problem could be circumvented if the word 'minority' was dropped. The organizers agreed to make the necessary correction and this continues to be reflected in the volume as well.
In more ways than one, such circumventions are symptomatic of the ways in which 'minority' figures in our discourses. Newspapers restrained reports about members of a particular or certain community being targeted is a common practice. Another classical example of a periphrastic omission in a larger context. might be relevant here: No minority should be unjustly treated, declared Nehru, the architect of future India, 'minorities get on well enough as a rule. It is the great majority which requires protection. Nehru goes on: A handful of foreigners rule India and exploit her million. A handful of India's rich men exploit her vast peasantry and her workers. It is this great majority of the exploited that demands justice and is likely to have it sooner than many people imagine... But this majority...consists of Hindus and Moslems [sic] and Sikhs and others. And... [we] need attach little importance to the imaginary rights of individuals or groups based on adherence to a religious creed.
Nehru's above observation was made in the context of a pre-independent Indian subcontinent that was soon to successfully re-form as three independent nation-states. Nehru's past inability to understand 'how a Hindu or Moslem can have any political or economic rights as Hindu or Moslem' has a lot to do with how we imagine our national belongingness even today. Events over the past years, particularly the periodic atrocities against dalits, tribals and minorities and the almost routine violence against women, have underscored the centrality of the questions of 'minor' and `minority' to present understandings of nation and nationhood. Despite various critiques over the last 60 years and in spite of positive discrimination on the part of the nation-state, minor subjects continue to elude satisfactory theorization within the debate on secularism/communalism and national/regional modernity. This general incomprehension, whether around the Mandir-Mandal issues or the innumerable controversies over religious practices, conversions and reservations, is however off set by the large corpus of dissertations and books, not to speak of published articles and conference presentations, on issues of identity, caste, community and gender.
Rather than attempting a comprehensive survey of debates on the subject, we would like to reflect on two instances to show how the terrain has shifted over the years. Minority has always been a problem for philosophical and political modernity (in all its incompleteness) and, dedicating two issues of Cultural Critique to minority discourse, JanMohamed and Lloyd note that minority discourse is 'a mode of ideology in the sense in which Marx in "On the Jewish Question" describes religion: at once the sublimation and the expression of misery. But with the critical difference, that in the case of minority forms even the sublimation of misery requires to be understood as primarily a strategy of survival, for the preservation in some form or other of cultural identity, and for political critique (Cultural Critique 7, p. 8; their emphasis).
Later, David Lloyd found it useful to make a distinction between ethnic culture and minority culture:
an ethnic culture can be conceived as turned, so to speak, towards its internal differences complexities and debates, as well as to its own traditions or histories projects and imaginings, it is transformed into a minority culture only along the lines of its confrontation with a dominant state formation which threatens to destroy it by direct violence or assimilation. Minority discourse is articulated along this line and at once registers the loss, actual and potential, and offers the means to a critique of dominant culture precisely in terms of its own internal logic. An ethnic culture, strictly speaking, is inassimilable; minority discourse forms in the problematic space of assimilation and the residues it throws up. (p. 222)
Lloyd, further, stresses the double bind of minority discourses as generic of ethnic cultures which are 'in the perpetually contradictory position of being constituted by the state as the very forms which it is its logic to annihilate' (p. 226). The `contradictory and irresolvable relation of dominant cultures to its minorities' is because the state and the dominant culture 'seeks to dissolve cultural formation in order to assimilate individuals from that culture as subjects, yet at the same moment produces those individuals as generic representatives of their cultures of origin' (p. 230). While the state seeks to protect (appease!) ethnic cultures through affirmative action, reservations or religious tolerance, it also induces ethnic cultures to take steps and start walking towards modern socio-cultural individuation. However, critical minority discourse 'emerges at the point where civil society requires the state and its correlative, the formal political individual. Only within the context of representative government and the ethical state formation can the concept of the minority emerge as the differential antithesis of the majority' (p. 233).
The "general logic of representation assumes its ground to be the formal individual whose contingent interests are none the less sublated in ethical development, the minority is constituted as an impossibility of sublation, as a generic individual whose particularity represents a difference inassimilable to the universal ends of representative state' (p. 233). And 'it is crucial to recognize...that this residue is not to be seen as belonging to the superseded prehistory of the inevitable advent of the modern. The political stakes lodged in the dialectic of ethnic culture and minority discourse are those which hold that not only is the `residual' itself a moment of the modern, but precisely that in the forms of the residual are to be traced the terms of an emergent transformation of the dominant social order' (p. 235). This is one of the reasons why minority discourse is collective in nature, as Deleuze and Guattari have pointed out. Faced with a majoritarian ethos and being forced into a universalistic individuation norm, the minor responds by 'transforming that position into a positive, collective one' (Cultural Critique 7, p. 10).
JanMohamed and Lloyd's insight suggests that far from being a pre-modem remainder that modernity has to negotiate with, minority is actually the product of the internal contradictions within modernity itself. However, their formulation seems to imply that ethnic cultures are indelibly marked by race-region-religion whereas the majority emerges as an unmarked category that has erased or overcome such distinctions by embracing a larger secular-nationalistic ethos. Moreover, their critique is predicated on the notion that the terms of an emergent transformation of the dominant social order can be traced in the forms of the residual.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Item Code: NAR399 Author: M. T. Ansari and Deeptha Achar Cover: HARDCOVER Edition: 2018 Publisher: SAHITYA AKADEMI ISBN: 9788126028467 Language: English Size: 9.00 X 6.00 inch Pages: 474 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 0.69 Kg