Indigenous Vanguards

Education, National Liberation, and the Limits of Modernism

Ben Conisbee Baer

Columbia University Press

Indigenous Vanguards

Pub Date: March 2019

ISBN: 9780231163729

384 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $65.00£50.00

Pub Date: March 2019

ISBN: 9780231548960

384 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.
In this brilliantly researched book, Ben Conisbee Baer shows us the diversity of the dream of subaltern education shared by global anticolonialism and antiracism. Its relationship to Marxism is given in historical detail. Through meticulous close readings, Indigenous Vanguards shows how the literary both represents and enacts these dreams. The readings of Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal and Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay’s The Tale of Hansuli Turn are provocatively original. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Columbia University
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
Through a combination of the best of literary theory and an imaginative use of the archive, Baer provides brilliant insights into how anticolonial intellectuals inserted their political projects into what was supposed to be an autonomous aesthetic and in the process transformed the culture of the long twentieth century. Precise in its reading of cultural movements and texts, this book is a remarkable display of how a comparative approach makes modernism new again. Simon Gikandi, Princeton 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).