Saturday, 4 January 2014

Why Vivek Chibber is both Right & Shite.

Vivek Chibber is right about Subaltern Studies. It genuinely was shit. But, look at the thing in context. To get ahead in Indian Academia from the late Sixties onwards one needed to either
1) kill and rape random dudes while embezzling as much money as possible.
2) pretend to be a Revolutionary of some sort so if anyone gang-raped you or beat you to death with a hockey stick then like these real mean Naxal dudes or KGB dudes or the ghost of Gramsci would turn up and take a fitting revenge.
Subaltern Studies was the coward's way out but, at one time, it appeared as remunerative a route to a Green Card as being a Code Monkey.
Its great utility to the Indian Disapora was that
1) it was a way of whining about being Brown that didn't get you lumped with the Blacks or Blue Collar proles or Tamale eaters or Chinky chopstick users.
2) it permitted one to make ridiculous claims about one's own parochial, deeply ignorant, sub-culture- like Guha's claim that Ramram Basu was actually a great historian rather than a Kayastha scoundrel of a scribbler, who procured abortions for the girls he seduced, and whose titanic contribution to Indian historigoraphy was written to order for an English Baptist Missionary who held his nose but paid the worthless hack so as to turn a profit on his Printing Press.
This was important because the old White professors who were heads of Area Studies Departments tended to be awfully patronizing coz they knew your Grandfather's Boss or Clan Chief or Maharaja or whatever. Subaltern Studies was about pretending that there was stuff in some vernacular which had never been written down, but which you knew and the Professor didn't, which showed that Grand-dad was actually the Lenin of the Latrine Inspection Dept. in Ludhiana,  or that Granny was like the Rosa Luxembourg of  the Lady's Knitting Circle in Coimbatore.
As such, Subaltern Studies was shite, but it was deeply Indian shite and, okay, it passed its sell-by date round about the time the diaspora could point to genuine Porn Stars and Professional Wrestlers of its own, still, it's scarcely nice of Chibber - a Punjabi- to point this out to the Bongs coz Bengal has scored no similar success since Niradh Chaudhri's infamous nude one-man show 'O! Calcutta!'.

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