Iman Kumar Mitra


Between Historicity and Contextuality: Bangiya Dhanabijnan Parishad and Vernacularisation of Economics in Early Twentieth Century Bengal

This research project explores how the concept of history becomes vital in the modalities of popularisation of the discipline of political economy in the specific political context of colonial Bengal in the early twentieth century.

The key point that I want to address is the relationship between historicity and contextuality – the former usually articulated in terms of its global appeal, spread across a linear narrative that abhors anachronism and is bound by its own teleological limit, and the latter generally celebrated as a site of particularities that halt and challenge the unbridled transfer of meaning and smooth realisation of universal ideals. It can be argued tentatively that this dichotomy finds a material basis in the politics of knowledge production in the colony where ‘translation’ becomes both a means of power and a strategy of resistance. By studying various vernacular texts disseminated through periodicals and other scholarly endeavours like study circles and academic societies like Bangiya Dhanabijnan Parishad headed by the prolific Bengali intellectual Benoy Sarkar, I seek to explore the material basis of this dichotomy between historicity and contextuality appearing and evolving out of various political concerns and mobilisations.

Iman Kumar Mitra completed his PhD from Jadavpur University and the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, in 2015. His dissertation explored the history of dissemination of economic knowledge in colonial Bengal through various pedagogical and institutional networks. His research interests include modes of popularisation of the discipline of economics in colonial and post-colonial India, links between migration and urbanisation, post-colonialism and logistical governance. His publications include: ‘Urban Planning, Settlement Practices and Issues of Social Justice in Contemporary Kolkata’ [Policies and Practices 72 (2015), 16-31]; ‘Recycling the Urban: Migration Settlement and the Question of Labour in Contemporary Kolkata’ [Economic and Political Weekly (Special Issue on ‘Migrant and the Neo-liberal City’, 2016, forthcoming)]. He has edited a volume with Ranabir Samaddar and Samita Sen on Accumulation in Postcolonial Capitalism (Singapore: Springer, forthcoming).

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