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Tracking Modernity

Tracking Modernity: India’s Railway and the Culture of Mobility

Marian Aguiar
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Tracking Modernity
    Book Description:

    For centuries the railway has been one of India’s most potent emblems of modern life. In the first in-depth analysis of representations of the Indian railway, Marian Aguiar interprets modernity through the legacy of this transformative technology. Revealing railways as a microcosm of tensions within Indian culture, Aguiar demonstrates how their representations have challenged prevailing ideas of modernity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7670-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xxiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Tracking Modernity
    (pp. 1-23)

    The simplest definition of modernity equates it with the new and suggests a determinate rupture with what came before. Although scholars use the notion of modernity to characterize transformations in sixteenth-, seventeenth-, and early eighteenth-century Europe as early modern, others have defined the term around post-eighteenth-century European transformations. Jürgen Habermas and Michel Foucault, for example, have focused on how the term underwent a significant shift in meaning during the period of Enlightenment. Habermas describes how modernity became a mode of relating to contemporary reality; in this mode, the present is continually interrogated by self-conscious subjectivity,¹ creating a forward-driven paradigm that...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Permanent Way: Colonial Discourse of the Railway
    (pp. 24-47)

    In 1888, Rudyard Kipling and A. H. Wheeler Co., an Allahabad firm that monopolized the bookstalls of Indian railway stations, created a book series called the “Railway Library.” The goal of the series, authored by Kipling, according to promotional materials, was “to be illustrative of the four main features of Anglo-Indian Life, viz: THE MILITARY, DOMESTIC, NATIVE, AND SOCIAL.”¹ Travelers consumed the small gray volumes, bought for one rupee at station bookstalls, their progress marked by turned pages and the invisible rails beneath them. The books offered a mobile means for seclusion and observation, much like the train carriage itself....

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Machine of Empire: Technology and Decolonization
    (pp. 48-72)

    In 1854, an account appearing in the English-language Calcutta journalBengal Hurkaru and India Gazettenarrated the travels of a scholar who went by train to Hooghly, “but declined to undertake the return journey, because, said he, too much travelling on the car of fire is calculated to shorten life, for seeing that it annihilates time and space and curtails the length of every other journey, shall it not also shorten the journey of human life?”¹ Although such criticisms on the part of Indians were dismissed by most British as the worries of “antiquated Hindoos,”² they presented a sociological and...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Partition and the Death Train
    (pp. 73-99)

    The 1947 vignette “Hospitality Delayed” (“Kasri-Nafisi”),¹ by Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto, takes a paradigmatic moment in the railway journey—the official welcome of travelers to a new place—and turns it into a nightmare of civic ceremony. An assassin makes a pleasant speech to a crowd that has witnessed a massacre, implicating the survivors in the brutality that they have witnessed against the other, unnamed community, and suggesting that even this display has fallen far short of what they all had wished. The vignette imitates and distorts two narratives of travel and civility in South Asia: the duty of...

  8. CHAPTER 4 New Destinations: The Image of the Postcolonial Railway
    (pp. 100-129)

    The postage stamp, an aspect of visual culture mandated by the state and disseminated in the form of a mobile commodity, reflects simultaneously the rhetoric of the state and the cultural iconography around which the identity of a nation coalesces. In India, as elsewhere, this tiny object has often used the train as a symbol of the nation; the railway’s primacy derives from the fact that this particular technology helped constitute a synchronic community by circulating mail within a civic space. An Indian postage stamp was issued during the colonial period in 1937 with a picture of King George VI...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Bollywood on the Train
    (pp. 130-148)

    One of the most pervasive symbols in Indian film is the train. This is true in both so-called art film and in popular cinema. Chapter 4 looked at the way art film director Satyajit Ray uses exterior and interior scenes of the train in the “Apu Trilogy” to explore the relations between the rural and the urban as India entered a period of national development programs. It also considered Ray’s scenes of a traveling train carriage inNayakas a way to examine the changing nature of the public sphere in India. However, it is in the popular Hindi, or...

  10. CONCLUSION: Terrorism and the Railway
    (pp. 149-182)

    Tokyo 3/20. Madrid 3/11. London: 7/7. Some of the most significant terrorist incidents in recent years have occurred on a train, including the 1995 Tokyo gas att ack, the 2004 Madrid bombings, and the 2005 London Underground explosions. In a country that commonly refers to its railway as its lifeline,¹ the number of railway-related bombing fatalities in India has totaled more than 500 in the past ten years alone. The most recent violence took place in Mumbai’s main railway station, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly the Victoria Terminus), where gunmen shot randomly at travelers as part of coordinated bloodshed in the...

  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 183-184)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 185-202)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-216)
  14. Filmography
    (pp. 217-218)
  15. Index
    (pp. 219-226)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 227-227)