Wages of Violence: Naming and Identity in Postcolonial Bombay

Madhavi Kale, Thomas Blom Hansen
2003 Journal of Asian Studies  
independence politics. The point is supported by evidence drawn from a number of different contexts, such as the divergent concerns of different social groups involved in the development of akhara culture (pp. 226-27) and the development of festivals such as the Ramlila, not as sites of community affirmation, but precisely as sites of contestation among groups within that imputed community. As Gooptu states, the urban Ramlila emerged as "multi-vocal, registering varied levels of social
more » ... of social construction of meaning" (p. 237). As with most classic works of history, at the heart of this book is a meticulous approach to the historian's craft. Several years of zealous archival work have furnished Gooptu with some fascinating primary material on which to build. This material ranges from official publications and documents to vernacular newspapers, locally produced pamphlets, and interviews with key individuals. In particular, she has plundered the Weekly Police Abstracts of Intelligence of the Government of the United Provinces to great effect, extracting a host of valuable points on issues such as the conduct of Adi Hindu Sabha meetings, the increasingly martial character of Holi festivities, and the surfacing of class-based tensions around the activities of tanzeem organizations. This kind of material not only provides a valuable resource for students and scholars, but it also points the way for further research. In addition, Gooptu has examined a broad range of secondary material, using it or challenging it judiciously in the course of her argument (Sandria Freitag's work on the development of community identities is critiqued to particularly good effect). In addition to the latest secondary sources, Gooptu uses relevant material from older and rather more obscure works such as biographies of the untouchable leader Swami Acchutanand and the evangelical town planner Patrick Geddes. The latter yields the priceless tale of Geddes's attempt to promote public health through a Diwali procession in Indore in 1917. In this procession, Ravana was depicted as "the Lord of Dirt, along with a gigantic model of a mosquito crawling with malarial microbes and 'a colossal rat of the kind it is necessary to exterminate, which was covered with quivering insect forms representing the fleas which were carriers of plague germs"' (p. 81). The book is indeed punctuated by such fascinating images of urban life during the late colonial period, drawn from both primary and secondary sources. Gooptu demonstrates a real sense of how to bring these urban spaces to life-suggesting that her close attention to the sources has been augmented by a direct knowledge of the spaces themselves. Overall, I can only reiterate that this is a book of rare quality which constitutes a vital contribution to our understanding of the colonial era in India. No graduatelevel course on the development of modern Indian politics would have a complete bibliography without it.
doi:10.2307/3591809 fatcat:2dbeghm3gjhkxbuvy2ijzfax6m