1st Edition

Language, Identity, and Power in Modern India Gujarat, c.1850-1960

By Riho Isaka Copyright 2022
    206 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    206 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    This book is a historical study of modern Gujarat, India, addressing crucial questions of language, identity, and power.

    It examines the debates over language among the elite of this region during a period of significant social and political change in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Language debates closely reflect power relations among different sections of society, such as those delineated by nation, ethnicity, region, religion, caste, class, and gender. They are intimately linked with the process in which individuals and groups of people try to define and project themselves in response to changing political, economic, and social environments. Based on rich historical sources, including official records, periodicals, literary texts, memoirs, and private papers, this book vividly shows the impact that colonialism, nationalism, and the process of nation-building had on the ideas of language among different groups, as well as how various ideas of language competed and negotiated with each other.

    Language, Identity, and Power in Modern India: Gujarat, c.1850–1960 will be of particular interest to students and scholars working on South Asian history and to those interested in issues of language, society, and politics in different parts of the modern world.

    Introduction 1. Gujarat Society and its People 2. Educational Institutions and Language 3. The Gujarat Vernacular Society and the Press 4. Debates over Gujarati Language and Literature 5. Nationalism and Language 6 The Formation of Gujarat State Conclusion


    Riho Isaka is a Professor of the Department of Area Studies at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the University of Tokyo. Her research interests concern issues of language, politics, food, and identity in colonial and postcolonial India, especially Gujarat.

    "The book is based on meticulous archival research into the Gujarat region and its ‘formation’ in the domains of literature, history and geography. As such it unravels the history of the ‘making’ of Gujarat as a region and problematizes the multi-layered identities of the Gujarati people. A work of deep scholarship, it makes an immense contribution to knowledge. Its simple, lucid prose, well delineated themes and sections make it very accessible. The book is remarkably jargon-free and should be accessible to students and the general reader interested in contemporary Indian history." - Gyanesh Kudaisya, National University of Singapore


    "Conceptually the book is brilliant, taking a modern language from its emergence, through its evolution in the hands of some of its most powerful early writers, its contact with outside influences, the ways in which its leading proponents used it and built institutions to promote it, its role in creating a new society, a new state, and a new nation. No other book brings together the many different eras of historical development of Gujarati into a single framework." - Howard Spodek, Temple University, USA


    "While being perceptive to the delicate situations of ‘marginalized’ people, such as women and speakers of Gujarati dialects, the author explores variegated debates on the Gujarati language, through which emerges a larger historical picture of the muddled relationship between India and British Imperialism. This book carefully unravels the ramified historical process in an intelligent and sophisticated style, adding innovative contributions to the studies of Indian history and thus serving as a locus classicus for future scholars in the field." - Kazuyoshi Oishi, Kyoyo Gakubuho, No. 638


    "This long-awaited monograph on the making of Gujarati linguistic identity in the context of developments in modern India fulfils the expectations built up by the author’s celebrated Cambridge thesis and subsequent articles over the last two decades. The history of linguistic development is remarkable for its depth and detail, also for its sensitivity of presentation. Isaka explores the relationship between the languages, people and territory of Gujarat as dynamic and evolving, never putting people and things in boxes, always aware of the exception, the ambiguity and fluidity with which people exercise power. This blend of scholarship and sensitivity is exceptional in the present age of name-calling, labelling and identity politics. […] this book presents the struggle over Gujarat and Gujarati in a clear, succinct, detailed manner, revealing the national and regional personalities and policies that went into its making. Isaka gives glimpses of the diversity that was excluded from the elite formations and points to new avenues of research that would highlight these neglected and excluded aspects of regional identity. This also brings to life a national story in the making of the region. It should become an important standard work on any course reading list on the culture and society of modern India."   

    --Amrita Shodhan, South Asia Research Vol. 43(1): 129–150