Frames of Mind
Author: Ananya Vajpeyi
Press: Harvard University Press
Price: Rs 995
A few years ago, I met with a senior faculty member at my department to persuade her to let me do a course in South Asian intellectual history for my PhD qualifying examinations. After much equivocation, she blurted out that she didn’t believe that South Asia had an intellectual history. Her exact words were, “South Asia never had a Freud or a Marx.” Ideas, therefore, are still often seen as Europe’s keep (and culture as Asia’s). Happily, a recent slew of efforts in the arena of South Asian intellectual history have more than responded to such a Euro-centric vision of intellection.
Cambridge historians Christopher Bayly and Shruti Kapila fired an early salvo, in the name of a new intellectual history, in a collection of essays published in Modern Intellectual History (2005). They argued that such an approach to South Asian history blurred the distinction between ‘Westerner’ and ‘Oriental’, and shifted the focus from nation and empire, to ideas and their purposes. It broadened the “range of methods, texts and actors” while debunking the long-held belief that concepts emanated from the West and were merely assimilated in the East. There has since been a tremendous resurgence of interest in both the stock figures and lesser known figures involved in the making of modern India.
Ananya Vajpeyi’s highly readable, and yet scholarly work, Righteous Republic: The Political Foundations of Modern India, identifies five major thinkers to
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