Workshop: Reading the Revolutionaries

Date:Thursday, October 11, 2012
Time: 2pm-6pm
Location: Room 638

This workshop (which complements the Annual Conference on South Asia double-panel the following day) argues for a fresh and sustained analysis of Indian radical anticolonial thought and action during the global interwar period. Diverging significantly from mainstream anticolonial organisation in several key aspects, the activists grouped together under the rubric of ‘revolutionary’ – ranging from the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) in Lahore, to the Ghadr party in San Francisco – have been, until recently, marginalised in historical and literary accounts of the Indian independence movement.

By bringing together scholars from the fields of history and literary analysis, this workshop emphasises the common lineaments of the two frequently disparate fields in the focused context of radical Indian anticolonial thought and agitation. As such, the workshop aims to create new analytic grounds on which a rich understanding of the interwar anticolonial moment can be created. Consequently, this workshop begins by returning to this moment in order to ‘read the revolutionaries’. On one hand, this workshop allows us new resources towards conceptualising the historiography of Indian nationalism, and thus complicating the simple teleological narratives of Indian independence. On the other hand, this workshop allows us to highlight the dispersed genealogy of modern literary and philosophical thought, which allows us new resources towards re-conceiving ethical, political, and aesthetic practices.

In the context of their own work and particular ‘case studies’, participants are invited to address some of the following questions:

How do we define the terms ‘radical’, ‘anticolonial’, and ‘text’ in the South Asian interwar/imperial context?

What are the protocols for reading revolutionary texts?

What are we looking for in radical Indian anticolonial texts when we read them?

The workshop is co-organised by Kama Maclean (University of New South Wales) and Daniel Elam (Northwestern University). For an extended concept note or more information, please email Daniel Elam at

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