History at the Limit of World-History

Ranajit Guha

Columbia University Press

History at the Limit of World-History

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Pub Date: August 2003

ISBN: 9780231124195

128 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $26.00£20.95

Pub Date: August 2003

ISBN: 9780231505093

128 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $25.99£20.95

History at the Limit of World-History

Ranajit Guha

Columbia University Press

The past is not just, as has been famously said, another country with foreign customs: it is a contested and colonized terrain. Indigenous histories have been expropriated, eclipsed, sometimes even wholly eradicated, in the service of imperialist aims buttressed by a distinctly Western philosophy of history. Ranajit Guha, perhaps the most influential figure in postcolonial and subaltern studies at work today, offers a critique of such historiography by taking issue with the Hegelian concept of World-history. That concept, he contends, reduces the course of human history to the amoral record of states and empires, great men and clashing civilizations. It renders invisible the quotidian experience of ordinary people and casts off all that came before it into the nether-existence known as "Prehistory."

On the Indian subcontinent, Guha believes, this Western way of looking at the past was so successfully insinuated by British colonization that few today can see clearly its ongoing and pernicious influence. He argues that to break out of this habit of mind and go beyond the Eurocentric and statist limit of World-history historians should learn from literature to make their narratives doubly inclusive: to extend them in scope not only to make room for the pasts of the so-called peoples without history but to address the historicality of everyday life as well. Only then, as Guha demonstrates through an examination of Rabindranath Tagore's critique of historiography, can we recapture a more fully human past of "experience and wonder."
A new book by Ranajit Guha is both an important event for South Asian Studies and a significant occasion for the humanities....This is a deeply stirring work. Homi Bhabha
Guha's works have deeply influenced not only the writing of subcontinental history but also historical investigations elsewhere, as well as cultural studies, literary theories, and social analyses across the world. Amartya Sen
Guha has been one of those rare creative spirits whose works continue to light our path towards this common humanity by honestly exploring our historical differences. Haider A. Khan, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa & the Middle East
...the Tagore essay...is a gem and Guha's eloquence usefully prods every reader to rethink his/her methodical toolkit. Gabriel Paquette, Itinerario
Combining acute theoretical and political insight with empirical substance and prescription for enriching historical practice, this is an exemplary postmodern intervention. Patrick Finney, Journal of Contemporary History
This book is definitely worth a read for those interested in questions pertaining to everyday life and also in recent postcolonial efforts to rethink the practices of disciplinary history. Bernardo A. Michael, Journal of World History
1. Introduction
2. Historicality and the Prose of the World
3. The Prose of History or the Invention of World-History
4. Experience, Wonder, and the Pathos of Historicality
5. Epilogue: The Poverty of Historiography-A Poet's Reproach
Appendix: Historicality in Literature by Rabindranath Tagore

About the Author

Ranajit Guha is founding editor of Subaltern Studies and author of a number of celebrated books, including Dominance Without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India. He has held various research and teaching positions in India, England, the United States, and Australia. He currently lives in Austria.