This comprehensive volume examines the relationship between revolutionary politics and the act of writing in modern South Asia. Its pages feature a diverse cast of characters: rebel poets and anxious legislators, party theoreticians and industrious archivists, nostalgic novelists, enterprising journalists and more. The authors interrogate the multiple forms and effects of revolutionary storytelling in politics and public life, questioning the easy distinction between ‘words’ and ‘deeds’ and considering the distinct consequences of writing itself. While acknowledging that the promise, fervour or threat of revolution is never reducible to the written word, this collection explores how manifestos, lyrics, legal documents, hagiographies and other constellations of words and sentences articulate, contest and enact revolutionary political practice in both colonial and post-colonial South Asia.
Emphasising the potential of writing to incite, contain or reorient the present, this volume promises to provoke new conversations at the intersection of historiography, politics and literature in South Asia, urging scholars and activists to interrogate their own storytelling practices and the relationship of the contemporary moment to violent and contested pasts.
This book was originally published as a special issue of South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies.
1. Introduction: On the Form, Politics and Effects of Writing Revolution J. Daniel Elam and Chris Moffat
2. Born Like Krishna in the Prison-House: Revolutionary Asceticism in the Political Ashram of Aurobindo Ghose Alex Wolfers
3. Law and Radical Rhetoric in British India: The 1897 Trial of Bal Gangadhar Tilak Sukeshi Kamra
4. Gandhi and the Terrorists: Revolutionary Challenges from Bengal and Engagements with Non-Violent Political Protest Durba Ghosh
5. Agyeya’s Unfinished Revolution: Sexual and Social Freedom in Shekhar: Ek Jivani Snehal Shingavi
6. Commonplace Anti-Colonialism: Bhagat Singh’s Jail Notebook and the Politics of Reading J. Daniel Elam
7. ‘My Heart, My Fellow Traveller’: Fantasy, Futurity and the Itineraries of Faiz Ahmed Faiz Roanne Kantor
8. Revolutionary History and the Post-Colonial Muslim: Re-Writing the ‘Silk Letters Conspiracy’ of 1916 Faridah Zaman
9. Bhagat Singh’s Corpse Chris Moffat
10. A Prehistory of Violence? Revolution and Martyrs in the Making of a Political Tradition in Kerala Dilip M. Menon
11. Revolution and Revelation, or, When is History Too Soon? Kama Maclean