Prof. Gyanendra Pandey, eminent historian and scholar of South Asian Studies, currently Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences, and Director, Colonial and Postcolonial Studies Workshop, Department of History, Emory University, USA delivered a Distinguished Lecture at the University on “A Politics of Indifference: Nationalism and Development in Postcolony” on January 5, 2015 at 3.00 pm in the C.V. Raman Auditorium chaired by the Pro-Vice Chancellor, Prof. E. Haribabu who welcomed the gathering. Prof. Pandey was introduced by Prof. Aloka Parasher-Sen, Dean, School of School of Social Science.


Prof. Aloka Parasher-Sen

The chief points of the lecture revolved around the politics of indifference and how the present-day politics and ideas on democracy were being articulated in the particular context of the rise of right wing politics and the free market economy in the developing countries around the globe. He emphasized on the shift in the vocabulary used these days to assess democratic institutions which was apparent in the way people and the ruling class in particular were becoming increasingly indifferent, often politically callous accompanied by administrative procrastination and violence toward the those who were different. In this context he used the analogy of the body of the subject as in deep pain though it recovered from time to time from every assault made by the post colonial state upon it. The much celebrated characteristic of pluralism in the Indian society, which was the country’s inherited tradition, was fast vanishing at the behest of an indifferent nationalism. He quoted Gandhi eloquently to substantiate his point on India as pluralistic society.


In the next part of his lecture he emphasized on the impact on society that was initiated through reforms in the Indian economy in the name of development. Here Prof. Pandey laid stress on how there has been an increasing displacement of population as a consequence of the market driven economy in the third world countries today. He quoted examples from Sainath’s “Everybody Loves A Good Drought” to show how the local population and the original land holders were being driven out in the name of development and wondered whether the evicted and evictors belonged to the same nation anymore! He referred to the initiatives taken by the new government to quicken the process of liberalization of the economy beckoning capital investments to India from the NRIs because it is emphasized that labour was cheap if anyone wanted to ‘Make in India’. These trends point to the state’s inability to look after its poor where they would become nothing but instruments of production in this fast changing globalized world.


A subaltern enthusiast himself, Prof. Pandey called this situation a ‘split-domain’ in politics today and exclaimed on how it has continued from the colonial times into the so-called and post colonial era. He ended by emphasizing on how this scenario of segregated politics, that celebrated political facilitators who thrived and prospered at the cost of the displacement of millions in the metaphor of his ‘imaginary Dubai’ where the stark differences in the socio-economic hierarchy was displayed in prominent ways. He criticised the civic society today by upholding their ever-growing needs for economic prosperity instead of changing the world. He ended his lecture arguing for a defence of the intellectual space in Universities that would safeguard academic pursuits that would in turn help question attitudes of ‘indifferent politics’ and reigning in the rampant surge of the market economy. The lecture was followed by and enthusiastic question and answer session.


In the morning Prof. Pandey had had an equally enthusiastic Q and A Session organized by the School of Social Sciences in collaboration with the Department of History on the theme of his recent book “A History of Prejudice: Race, Caste and Difference in India and the USA” in the Conference Hall of the School of Social Sciences. In this interaction Prof. Pandey talked about how the phenomenon of prejudice is inherent in basic human character and how it was an universal trait prevalent both in India and North America. He argued that prejudice was very different from discrimination as it is invisible and that is what made it more fatal thereby creating a history of violence in its wake.

-Nairita Ghosh & Mrinalini
Research Scholars, Department of History