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India: The Postcolonial Nation-State - Essay Example

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It is often said in passing conversation that the present is a product of the past; the idea being that the past, by virtue of being an accumulation of facts, thoughts, and deeds, effectively creates the present. Better put, the present is an everyday enactment of the spectacle…
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India: The Postcolonial Nation-State
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India: The Postcolonial Nation-State

Instead many postulated that it was the present which determined the past. The Italian thinker and historian Benedetto Croce famously quipped that “every true history is a contemporaneous one” (1989, p.14).1 The idea here was such that, despite the past’s structural influence over the present, in fact it is the present which “creates” the past. This was somewhat revolutionary in two ways: it turned around the traditional view of the past-present relationship and it had as its effect the idealization of human history. History was an idea which, like anything else, is subject to change. Change occurs in the present, thus history (and the past) is made in the present.
The implication of this formulation had many effects on the concept of the nation. The nation, in traditional nineteenth century discourse, was an eternal entity of ancient provenance akin to other popular notions of that century like race, class, and culture. It was Ernest Renan who sought to discredit this approach to nationalism by claiming that “[t]he existence of a nation is an everyday plebiscite, just as the existence of the individual is a constant affirmation of life” 2007, p. 34). Speaking of his native France, where there existed the popular idea that all Frenchmen descended from the Francs, he controversially pointed out that France and “Frenchness” was the result of the centralization of power starting in the sixteenth century on up until the eve of the First World War. This same approach to the concept of the nation as a construct of people’s minds instead of as an objective and ancient entity finds a certain resonance in the case of modern India where one can find all the aspects of national-conscious building, creative-history writing, and past construction in all their subjective minutiae. India, after its 1947 independence from Britain, found itself in the awkward position of simultaneously “creating” a past which both highlighted the country’s ... Read More
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