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India's Revolutionary Inheritance

Book description

What do anti-colonial histories mean for politics in contemporary India? How can we understand a political terrain that appears crowded with the dead, heroic figures from past struggles who call the living to account and demand action? What role do these 'afterlives' play in the inauguration of new politics and the fashioning of possible futures? In this engaging and innovative analysis of anti-colonial afterlives in modern South Asia, Chris Moffat crafts a framework that takes the dead seriously - not as passive entities, ceremonially invoked, but as active interlocutors and instigators in the present. Focusing on the iconic revolutionary martyr Bhagat Singh (1907–1931), Moffat establishes the problem of inheritance as central to the forms and futures of democracy in this postcolonial polity. Tracing Bhagat Singh's revenant presence in India today, he demonstrates how living communities are animated by a sense of obligation, duty or debt to the dead.

Reviews

'In this tightly argued investigation of the figure of the revolutionary nationalist Bhagat Singh, Moffat explores the relationship between history as documentary facts, and history as political mythology. A timely intervention at a juncture where Indian history is more contested than ever before.'

Thomas Blom Hansen - Stanford University, California

'A highly original study of India's revolutionary history, Chris Moffat's book is unique in exploring the surprising afterlife of this past. More than nostalgia for a losing argument in Indian politics, Moffat argues that the revolutionary past has come to possess a spectral agency. This is a nuanced and sophisticated study of historical consciousness in modern India.'

Faisal Devji - University of Oxford

'In this imaginative reckoning with the spectacular and spectral afterlives of Bhagat Singh, Chris Moffat offers a brilliant account of history as hauntology. Based on sustained archival research and wide-ranging field work, India’s Revolutionary Inheritance compels us to understand why and how some dead continue to have such a purchase in the world of the living. A historical and conceptual tour de force.'

Sumathi Ramaswamy - Duke University, North Carolina

'This impressive book offers not only a deeply insightful account of Bhagat Singh's afterlives, but also a very timely and critical reflection on disciplinary history's rigid boundaries between past and present. Moffat makes an exceptionally important argument about how politics is often more about gesture and action than doctrine and belief.'

Ajay Skaria - University of Minnesota

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