Chakrabarty- A Small History of Subaltern Studies

Chakrabarty’s A Small History of Subaltern Studies is a review article in which he takes a Marxist approach to class analysis. The term subaltern refers to the study of the homeless, the oppressed, the poor, etc. Throughout history there have been a wide array of subaltern peoples that can be studied, including slaves, native americans, women in general, Holocaust victims, indigenous populations of territories that were conquered and colonized and the early American colonists as well. All of these people were considered oppressed by some higher form.  Considering this article is primarily focused on Indian history, Chakrabarty mentions the ideas of nationalism and colonialism in his essay as being the two major areas of research and debate defining the field of modern Indian history in the 1960’s and 1970’s. For many years, India was colonized and controlled by the British and it was referred to as the Crown Jewel of the British Empire. One historian, Bipan Chandra viewed Indian history of the colonial period as being “an epic battle between the forces of nationalism and those of colonialism” (5). To understand this difference, it is important to have a general background of the history of India and to be familiar with concepts of nationalism and colonialism.

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