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  • Julian Murphet (a1)

Vivek Chibber’s new book has stirred up a good amount of controversy and passionate position-taking in recent months. This review probes its avowedly Marxist critique of subaltern studies in order to test the validity of some of its central claims and to offer a provisional appraisal of its political implications. A related question is what such a critique might have to offer literary studies, postcolonial or otherwise.

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1 See the back cover blurb for Gaonkar, Dilip Parameshwar, ed., Alternative Modernities (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2001).

2 Jameson, Fredric, A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present (London and New York: Verso, 2002), 1213.

3 Tim Brennan begins his stinging review of Neelam Srivastava and Baidik Bhattacharya’s co-edited The Postcolonial Gramsci (London: Routledge, 2012) with the words “Postcolonial studies has always been deeply divided politically. These divisions signal sharply opposed, not just different, relationships to theory and history.” See Brennan, “Joining the Party,” Postcolonial Studies 16:1 (2013): 68. This review, along with Chibber’s book, seems to signal a new open phase in the ongoing hostilities between the two main camps.

4 This debate has itself been the subject of innumerable position-takings, on either side, with a fair majority giving victory to the aged warrior Partha Chatterjee over his Young Turk rival. Chatterjee’s performance is indeed a bravura one; his tactical decision to out-Marx the Marxist on spec is masterfully carried out. See the clip at

5 “Introduction,” in Chaturvedi, ed., Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial (London: Verso, 2000), vii.

6 And there is much resonance between Chibber’s arguments for a nondemocratic European bourgeoisie and Neil Davidson’s striking work, How Revolutionary Were the Bourgeois Revolutions? (Chicago: Haymarket, 2012).

7 Taylor, Chris, “Not Even Marxist: On Vivek Chibber’s Polemic against Postcolonial Theory,” April 29, 2013, Of C. L. R. James, at

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Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry
  • ISSN: 2052-2614
  • EISSN: 2052-2622
  • URL: /core/journals/cambridge-journal-of-postcolonial-literary-inquiry
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