Culture After Empire


Frantz Fanon called for a new humanism in writing about the world after the empire. He envisioned it not only in terms of political sovereignty but as inaugurating a new world, the Third World. Fanon was not alone in thinking about the postcolonial future in this way. Other anticolonial leaders, such as Jawaharlal Nehru, also thought of decolonization as ushering in a new period of history. A new culture was to mark this new world, this new history. After all, since colonialism was not only about military conquest and economic exploitation but also cultural conquest, he called for a new national, not nationalist, culture. Yet, the last few decades have witnessed the resurgence of precisely this nationalist culture globally. This is particularly evident in Narendra Modi’s India. What happened? How did we get here? Drawing from the historical experience of postcolonial India, the talk addressed the project of building a national culture after empire and its limits.

Gyan Prakash is a historian of modern India and the Dayton-Stockton Professor of History at Princeton University. He is IWM Visiting Fellow and works on his current project, "Reimagining the World After Empire: India and the Cold War, 1950-1970s". 

Dilip Gaonkar is Professor in Rhetoric and Public Culture and the Director of Center for Global Culture and Communication at Northwestern University, he moderated the lecture and the ensuing Q&A. 

Ludger Hagedorn, Permanent Fellow at the IWM, opened the lecture and introduced the two guests of the Institute.

A recording of the lecture is available below.