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Provincializing Europe

Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (New Edition)

With a new preface by the author Dipesh Chakrabarty
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Provincializing Europe
    Book Description:

    First published in 2000, Dipesh Chakrabarty's influentialProvincializing Europeaddresses the mythical figure of Europe that is often taken to be the original site of modernity in many histories of capitalist transition in non-Western countries. This imaginary Europe, Dipesh Chakrabarty argues, is built into the social sciences. The very idea of historicizing carries with it some peculiarly European assumptions about disenchanted space, secular time, and sovereignty. Measured against such mythical standards, capitalist transition in the third world has often seemed either incomplete or lacking.Provincializing Europeproposes that every case of transition to capitalism is a case of translation as well--a translation of existing worlds and their thought--categories into the categories and self-understandings of capitalist modernity. Now featuring a new preface in which Chakrabarty responds to his critics, this book globalizes European thought by exploring how it may be renewed both for and from the margins.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2865-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface to the 2007 Edition Provincializing Europe in Global Times
    (pp. ix-xxii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxiii-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION: The Idea of Provincializing Europe
    (pp. 3-23)

    Provincializing Europe is not a book about the region of the world we call “Europe.” That Europe, one could say, has already been provincialized by history itself. Historians have long acknowledged that the socalled “European age” in modern history began to yield place to other regional and global configurations toward the middle of the twentieth century.¹ European history is no longer seen as embodying anything like a “universal human history.”² No major Western thinker, for instance, has publicly shared Francis Fukuyama’s “vulgarized Hegelian historicism” that saw in the fall of the Berlin wall a common end for the history of...


    • CHAPTER 1 Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History
      (pp. 27-46)

      It has recently been said in praise of the postcolonial project ofSubaltern Studiesthat it demonstrates, “perhaps for the first time since colonisation,” that “Indians are showing sustained signs of reappropriating the capacity to represent themselves [within the discipline of history].”¹ As a historian who is a member of theSubaltern Studiescollective, I find the congratulation contained in this remark gratifying but premature. The purpose of this essay is to problematize the idea of “Indians” “representing themselves in history.” Let us put aside for the moment the messy problems of identity inherent in a transnational enterprise such as...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Two Histories of Capital
      (pp. 47-71)

      This chapter presents a selective but close reading of Marx. Marx’s critique of “capital” builds into the category two aspects of nineteenthcentury European thought that have been central to the history of intellectual modernity in South Asia: the abstract human of the Enlightenment and the idea of history.¹ Furthermore, Marx makes these two elements of thought into critical tools for understanding the capitalist mode of production and modern European imperialism. Debates of privilege and social justice in India are still animated by the rationalism, humanism, historicism, and anti-imperialism of this legacy. The project ofSubaltern Studieswould have been unthinkable...

    • CHAPTER 3 Translating Life-Worlds into Labor and History
      (pp. 72-96)

      A secular subject like history faces certain problems in handling practices in which gods, spirits, or the supernatural have agency in the world. My central examples concern the history of work in South Asia. Labor, the activity of producing, is seldom a completely secular activity in India; it often entails, through rituals big and small, the invocation of divine or superhuman presence. Secular histories are usually produced by ignoring the signs of these presences. Such histories represent a meeting of two systems of thought, one in which the world is ultimately, that is, in the final analysis, disenchanted, and the...

    • CHAPTER 4 Minority Histories, Subaltern Pasts
      (pp. 97-113)

      Recent struggles and debates around the rather tentative concept of multiculturalism in Western democracies have often fueled discussions of minority histories. As the writing of history has increasingly become entangled with the so-called “politics and production of identity” after the Second World War, the question has arisen in all democracies of whether to include in the history of the nation histories of previously excluded groups. In the 1960s, this list usually contained names of subaltern social groups and classes, such as, former slaves, working classes, convicts, and women. This mode of writing history came to be known in the seventies...


    • CHAPTER 5 Domestic Cruelty and the Birth of the Subject
      (pp. 117-148)

      Ekshan, a Calcutta-based literary magazine, published an essay in one of its issues in 1991 called “Baidhabya kahini” or “Tales of Widowhood.”¹ The author was Kalyani Datta, a Bengali woman who, since the 1950s, had been collecting from older Bengali widows she knew stories about the oppression and marginalization they had suffered as widows. Datta’s article reproduced these widows’ stories in their own telling, based on notes she had taken from informal interviews. Unfunded and unprompted by any academic institutions, Datta’s research showed how deeply a certain will to witness and document suffering—in this case, the plight of the...

    • CHAPTER 6 Nation and Imagination
      (pp. 149-179)

      This chapter moves out into three concentric circles. The innermost circle tells the story of a certain literary debate in Bengal in the early part of the twentieth century. This was a debate about distinctions between prose, poetry, and the status of the real in either, and it centered on the writings of Rabindranath Tagore. Into these debates—and here is my second circle—I read a global history of the word “imagination.” Benedict Anderson’s bookImagined Communitieshas made us all aware of how crucial the category “imagination” is to the analysis of nationalism.¹ Yet, compared to the idea...

    • CHAPTER 7 Adda: A History of Sociality
      (pp. 180-213)

      Now that it is clear at the end of this millennium that there is no escaping the rule of capital anywhere in the world, a question that Marshall Berman asked a while ago becomes even more insistent in the lives of many. In his celebrated bookAll That Is Solid Melts into Air, Berman was interested in exploring how “modern men and women may become subjects as well as objects of modernization,” how they might “get a grip on the modern world and make themselves at home in it.”¹ I am not confident that this can be achieved by or...

    • CHAPTER 8 Family, Fraternity, and Salaried Labor
      (pp. 214-236)

      Rabindranath Tagore was not alone in finding the auspicious figure of the housewife, thegrihalakshmi, much more deserving of poetry than the space of the office in which most employed middle-class Bengali men spent a large part of their waking hours. Bengali modernity has celebrated the home, the practice ofadda, the production of plays, literature, films, and political mobilization; but modern office work and the requirements of capitalist work-discipline have seldom evoked affectionate or admiring sentiments in Bengali texts. Writing in 1874, when Tagore was still in his early teens, the Bengali intellectual Rajnarayan Bose complained: “We can never...

    • EPILOGUE. Reason and the Critique of Historicism
      (pp. 237-255)

      Scholars contemplating the subject called “Indian history” have often relived, as it were, the old passions of the “the struggle of the Enlightenment with superstition” that Hegel writes about in hisPhenomenology.¹ They have assumed that for India to function as a nation based on the institutions of science, democracy, citizenship, and social justice, “reason” had to prevail over all that was “irrational” and “superstitious” among its citizens. Historicism has been a very close ally of such thought. For instance, peasants’ lives, including their politics, are replete with practices that could seem “superstitious” to the rational and secular observer. How...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 257-298)
  9. Index
    (pp. 299-301)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 302-304)