Monday, 20 October 2008
A National Flag for India
A National Flag for India: Rituals, Nationalism and the Politics of Sentiment / Arundhati Virmani. Delhi : Permanent Black, October 2008. 380 p.
The historiography of modern India generally emphasizes the innumerable conflicts which divide the subcontinent’s society (communalism, caste, irridentism, gender, language), thus suggesting a nation perpetually on the edge of collapse – a disintegration which somehow never happens. The present book revises this picture of divisions and differences, and proposes to examine the history of India also as the construction of new forms of cohesion and successful cohabitation.
Unearthing the complex history that lies behind the construction of a unifying political symbol – the country’s national flag – Arundhati Virmani painstakingly reveals this material object as the result of a long cultural process. Despite huge conflicts, it eventually imposed a set of values and sentiments that came to be largely shared or at least accepted by an incredibly diverse and scattered body of people.
Arundhati Virmani was Reader in History at Delhi University until 1992, when she moved to France. Today she teaches at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales Marseille. Her publications include an essay in Past and Present, as well as two books: India 1900–1947. Un Britannique au cœur du Raj (Paris, Autrement, 2002), and Inde. Une Puissance en mutation (Paris, Documentation Française, 2001).