AMBIGUOUS IMPERIALISMS British Subaltern Attitudes towards the 'Indian Wail'
Projit Bihari Mukharji
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Military science (General)
Bahadur Shah II 1837–1857
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Projit Bihari Mukharji
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The battle for the past is the battle for the future Must be the winners of the memory war Smash, reach out and then grab the flower At the end of the day their defeat will be for sure. —`Memory War', Asian Dub Foundation.
WITH the demise of Liberal, as well as Marxist, Humanism in intellectual circles and the rise of a post colonial regime of difference, colonial historiography has often lapsed back into an ironically Kiplingesque assertion that the `east is east and west is west and ne'er the twain shall meet'.2 Nowhere is this tendency more pronounced than in the scholarship on the Indian Mutiny. Even as localised studies proliferated in the 1990s, adding nuance and shade to the Indian side of the picture, talk of a unified and often monolithic 'British imagination' continued to haunt much of the scholarship on the Mutiny and Rebellion of 1857.3 The Briton and the Indian in this narrative are two mutually opposed identities ranged across the imperial divide. Even when one occasionally hears of the odd 'White Mughal' actually fighting on the side of the rebels, this is usually a one-off. For most people 1857 continues to mark a watershed, after which a thoroughly arrogant imperialism inspired every Briton in her/his attitude towards India. Even studies of popular culture in mid-century Victorian Britain have usually served to strengthen this picture of rampant imperial arrogance.4
* I am thankful to my colleague Dr Jane McDermid for helping me see the trees from the woods of the Scottish Highlands. Discussions with Prof. Waltraud Ernst and Monjita Mukharji have also helped me clarify and develop this chapter in myriad ways. The chapter has also been greatly enriched by the comments of many of the participants at the 'Mutiny at the Margins' conference. I remain thankful to all of them. Whatever failings remain are of course mine alone.
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Very good information.
Shah Sharaf Barlas
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