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The use of the Gramscian conception of "subaltern groups" by Indian Subaltern Studies (1980s, 1990s and 2000s): conceptual innovation?

Abstract

This research project intends to investigate the forms of assimilation of the Gramscian conception of subaltern groups made by Subaltern Studies. Subaltern Studies have been developed since the early 1980s by a group of Indian researchers led by historian Ranajit Guha to promote a renewal of Indian postcolonial historiography by focusing on the history of their subaltern groups. Complementing this research, we intend, therefore, to test the epistemological fidelity with which the same authors employ the Gramscian concept of subaltern groups. The work will be guided by the application of the Gramscian concept of "translatability" between the ways of approaching similar social issues in different social formations. The "translation" of concepts, ideas and categories of other authors and theoretical and historical traditions was a procedure often used by Gramsci himself. His purpose was to prevent the reception and assimilation of these ideas as an incoherent process with the absolute historicism characteristic of his reasoning, as well as with the materialistic perspective his method. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the levels of translatability achieved by the Subaltern Studies project by claiming Gramscian categories such as "subaltern groups" and "subalternity" for the postcolonial Indian historical and cultural context. It is not suggested here to make use of Gramscian categories as if they were immanent, applicable only to their original context of elaboration, nor to propose a schematic approach of such categories. On the contrary, it seeks to clarify the main concepts present in the elaborations of Guha and his group, notably those originating and tributary to Gramscian materialism. The contribution to be provided by the proposed research points to the substantive elucidation of important elements of the contemporary debate on the nature of subaltern groups and social classes, as well as the degree of rigor with which this concept is employed by Subaltern Studies. In addition, this research project intends to supply part of the still insufficient Brazilian academic production regarding the relations between the thought of Antonio Gramsci and the Subaltern Studies. (AU)

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