Indigenous Vanguards

Education, National Liberation, and the Limits of Modernism

Ben Conisbee Baer

Columbia University Press

Indigenous Vanguards

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Pub Date: March 2019

ISBN: 9780231163729

368 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $65.00£50.00

Pub Date: March 2019

ISBN: 9780231548960

368 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $64.99£50.00

Indigenous Vanguards

Education, National Liberation, and the Limits of Modernism

Ben Conisbee Baer

Columbia University Press

The interwar period witnessed an unprecedented emergence of anticolonial movements in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Their vanguard intellectuals were preoccupied with the education of future postcolonial citizens, hoping to teach independent thought and enable participation in a nonimperial world. In order to undo the cultural destruction of colonialism, they sought to reimagine indigenous collective forms at the same time as drawing upon structures and technologies of modern public education.

In Indigenous Vanguards, Ben Conisbee Baer provides a theoretical and historical account of the relationships between modern literature, representations of indigeneity by cultural vanguards, and practices of teaching and learning in colonial zones from the 1920s to the 1940s. He shows how modernizing educative projects existed in complex tension with impulses to indigenize liberation movements, and how this tension manifests as a central aspect of modernist aesthetics. Offering new readings of figures such as Alain Locke, Léopold Senghor, Aimé Césaire, D. H. Lawrence, Rabindranath Tagore, and Mahatma Gandhi, Baer draws unexpected connections among colonial intellectuals and artists that underscore the importance of class and educational continuities. The first study of modernism and colonialism that encompasses the central place of teaching and learning both in modernist aesthetics and on the part of writer-activists, Indigenous Vanguards forges new links between literary modernism and postcolonialism in a transnational, multilingual frame.
Nothing short of a disciplinary milestone for new genealogies, epistemologies, and cartographies of the comparative humanities, this impeccably researched and carefully argued literary history maps the configuration of post-independence self-determination movements worldwide. In scope and intellectual sensitivity, Indigenous Vanguards is a major contribution to postcolonial theory and the class stratifications of geomodernism. Emily Apter, New York University

About the Author

Ben Conisbee Baer is associate professor of comparative literature at Princeton University. He translated and introduced Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay’s landmark modern Bengali novel, The Tale of Hansuli Turn (Columbia, 2011).