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Partha Chatterjee
Interviewed by Manu Goswami
Manu Goswami (MG): Some thirty years ago you became
a founding member of the Subaltern Studies Collective. Yet your graduate train-
ing was in the heartland of Cold War American social science, in game theoreti-
cal analysis of international relations. Did this early encounter breed distrust of
mainline social science or just hasten your involvement with subaltern studies?
Partha Chatterjee (PC): That is a history that somebody else should disentangle.
I'm not the best person [laughing] to analyze this early biography. It was largely
serendipity that I ended up in the political science department at the University
of Rochester, the cradle of what would become rational choice political theory. I
went there in 1968, when I was just twenty years old. It wasn't necessarily that I
wanted to do what they taught, but I had a certain facility in mathematics. Obvi-
ously, I was still growing up and hadn't quite found myself intellectually. But
what was attractive, and looking back I can say this now, was the intellectual
rigor of an essentially axiomatic deductive analysis. The kind of model building
that became fashionable at that time was part of a very positivist philosophy of
science. The idea that you could model political processes in a rigorous way had a
certain attraction. In the specific field in which I trained, and where quite interest-
ing work was done at that time, many of the usual difficulties of political analysis
could be set aside. In thinking nuclear arms strategy, it was plausible to conceive
that the decisions were being made by very, very few people accustomed to hard-
headed rational calculations. This was the ideal situation that game theorists like
to think about. You could assume rational players who had a clear idea of what
their information was, what their uncertainties were, and what their objectives
were, and you could then devise strategies like a chess player would. This was
the late 1960s, when talks for limiting the number of missiles were just begin-
ning between the United States and the Soviet Union. There were lots of counter-
intuitive ideas that this literature produced at that time. It was better strategy, for
Partha Chatterjee
Pubiic Cuiture 2^:^ 00110.1215/08992363-1890504
Copyright 2013 hy Duke University Press
Public Culture instance, to let the other side know exactly what arms you have rather than keep
it a secret, as old-fashioned conventional military thinking would counsel. I was
interested in not only how people came upon these kinds of arguments but also
the way states and statesmen actually thought and worked. But it was a very, very
restricted field. I could see even then that attempts to generalize these methods to
elections or the way political parties mobilized votes would not work. I went back
to India immediately after my thesis was defended and realized that this work
simply had no prospects. There was not a second person with either the knowl-
edge or interest in this mode of analysis ! So I just gave it up. It's just one of those
things that ended almost as soon as it began.
MG: It was an early experience of incommensurability. ; _
PC: Yes, it was. Although, in my most recent book. The Black Hole of Empire,
I do go back and think about the way in which the global imperial system of
the nineteenth century transitioned to the twentieth-century order, first with the
League of Nations system of mandates and trusteeship, and then later to the post-
war global order. And I realized that the work I had done many years before was
still relevant as an analytical framework. After almost forty years, I could refer
back [laughing] to the work I had done as a graduate student.
AAG: When you began your career, your scholarly career, India was an object of
social science research, not an instigator of social science theories. This is a major
shift that your own work and the larger trajectory of subaltern studies track.
PC: It is completely true that in the discipline of political science, including politi-
cal theory, India was entirely an object of analysis. There were no scholars, no
institutions that were recognized as having any role to play in producing theo-
ries for what would become the field of Indian politics. Yet, interestingly, this
was the time when sociology, or what was then named Indian sociology, was
a recognized field with several practitioners. There was a clear awareness that
there were institutions and practices that required a rather more specialized set
of conceptual frameworks and that simply extrapolating from Weberian sociol-
ogy would not do. By the late 1960s, there was an established field within which
M. N. [Mysore Narasimhachar] Srinivas and his students and people like Andr
Bteille were publishing. And even foreign scholars such as Louis Dumont, a
major figure of the time, were necessarily in conversation with Indian practitio-
ners, who were accepted as equal interlocutors. Looking back now, I think that
part of what subaltern studies accomplished was to bring the questions raised by Interview:
Indian sociology and Indian anthropology into political and social history. You Partha Chatterjee
could not understand Indian politics without looking at the questions posed by .
Indian sociology, and the adoption of methods such as ethnography, oral history,
and so on were absolutely essential. Subaltern studies was able to create a disci- , .^
plinary overlap, though it was not alone in doing this. But this was, I think, an
example of what you were suggestingof turning something that was purely an .
object of analysis into a field with its own apparatuses of thinking and analysis. ri ' . i
We were saying that in addition to whatever Western social science had to offer, .; -. ']
you needed experience-based knowledge from the field. All serious scholarship
would now require that. - " ' . ' '. .
" , rf
AAG: Your work has been remarkable for its transdisciplinary purchase. Did your , '
membership in the Subaltern Studies Collective, which initially comprised mostly
historians, enable an indifference, a generative indifference, toward disciplinarity? . 5
PC: I think that is certainly true. For various reasons, even within India, I was
located, professionally speaking, outside the university structure. So that allowed . ;j
a certain freedom to hunt and gather [laughing] in the forests. Disciplinary ter- , . (
ritories were never very clearly marked in my case; there was no supervising ' ' , / .
authority to ask me why I was straying into other areas. This was an advantage.
Subaltern studies emerged, of course, out of the study of modern Indian history, |
but effectively we could mobilize resources from any field. After the initial vol-
umes, the group expanded, and it included people from many different disciplines. \, 1
We had literary scholars like Gayatri Spivak and political theorists like Sudipta ' V v ;
Kaviraj. The whole project was not conservative in any disciplinary sense. It was v -. i
quite the opposite. This association, along with the fact that I was located outside '., -. . \
the university structure, allowed me to roam more freely than I might have done .-3.. - ' *
in other circumstances. ' , ' ^' .'-' \ ,1
MG: The problem of popular politicsits genealogy, its modes, and its limits V J|
has been the central concern of your work. Could you talk about your own early - ^ ' ^^ jj
political formation? ; . - ' > ' 1
PC: I left India to become a graduate student in the United States when I was ll
twenty, just out of college. The mid- to late 1960s, when I was in college, was a !
period of immense political upheaval. This was really the moment of transition ? !
to forms of mass democracy in India. In 1967 the Congress Party was defeated ' j
Public Culture for the first time in several states, including in West Bengal, where I was based.
When I went back to India in early 1972, events were leading up to the emer-
gency of 1975-77. Politically, the emergency was a quite formative period. It had
been preceded by intense repression of the Left. The 1970s were the most severe
authoritarian phase in Indian politics. Several of my friends were deeply involved
in Left politics; others were at its fringes. But I quickly realized how indiscrimi-
nate this apparatus was and could be. Several of my friends were in prison. Three
very close friends from school and college were actually killed in prison.
The most active phase when I was involved in what one could say was street
politics was just before the emergency and then all the way through 1977-78.
Most of it had to do with campaigns for civil liberties and the release of politi-
cal prisoners. After 1977-78, in West Bengal at least, there was a long period of
Left rule with its ups and downs, its early promise and later degeneration into
an unthinking bureaucracy. [The period] 1977-78 was the most active phase of
political involvement that I have ever been through. And this was when I first
began my historical research. Subaltern studies hadn't been formed as yet, but I
had decided for my next project to look precisely into forms of popular politics,
especially rural politics, in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. The most intense educa-
tion I received stems from these years, when I traveled extensively in rural West
Bengal. For five or six years, I was in some village or other for twenty days in a
month. This opened my eyes to things that I would never have known, since I was
brought up in the city. This was an extremely formative part of my background as
a practicing social scientist. It was crucial not only in terms of my acquaintance
of rural India and, obviously, with the life of the poor. Even more, it taught me
how to talk to people and make myself understood and acceptable and get people
to tell me about their lives and their involvement in political struggles. I had never
formerly trained as an anthropologist, and so these were methods that I had to
work out for myself. This experience has stayed with me. I don't visit rural areas
that often now, but when I do, I have no problems in dealing with rural life or
rural people.
MG: The book that came right after this experience was on nationalism. :
PC: Yes.
MG: You were the first person to tackle the question of nationalism in colonial
worlds, to say that it was a distinct ideological and historical phenomenon.
PC Y e s ' - T . - ; I n t e r v i e w :
P a r t h a C h a t t e r j e e
MG: How did you arrive at the questions that animated Nationalist Thought and
the Colonial Worldl , - -^
PC: A^aiona/Mr/ioMg/z was actually the second part of what was supposed to be
a three-volume book. The first volume was Bengal, 1920-1947: The Land Ques-
tion. It looked at the agrarian structure and legal forms of ownership that were
part of the transition from colonial landlord proprietorship to the kinds of land-
holding that developed after India's independence. It dealt with the emergence of
an owner peasantry as the main population of rural Bengal. This research about
agrarian structuresthe arrangements of tenancy, relations among landlords and
tenants, landless farmersled me directly to consider popular organizational
and ideological forms. And in the 1920s and 1930s, that meant nationalism in
the countryside. So my research on agrarian structure led me to think about the
political and ideological forms of political movements centered on the peasantry.
A^aiiona/wi r/joMg/zf, in itself, looks like traditional intellectual history. But that
is not where the questions actually emerged. I had never wanted to do intellectual
history as conventionally defined. I was far more concerned with the traces of
mass politics in the realm of canonical ideas and doctrines.
MG: The book is notable for a strong political pessimism, especially its conclu-
sions. This disappears or dissipates in your later, more ethnographic, works that
turn to the logic of collective democratic practices. Could you talk about this
PC: Nationalist Thought was a move into the domain of ideas and discursive
analysis. I soon realized that the answers that one got in this domain led to a
sense of historical inevitability that, as you say, is the tone on which that book
ends. I needed to come out of the cage of intellectual history. In The Nation and
Its Fragments, I tried to move into other areas that no intellectual historian would
touch, such as popular theater and questions of caste. It was an attempt to con-
nect the domain of concepts and ideas with everyday political life. It was at that
level that it became evident that everyday political practices were so varied that
there was no single logic that unified them. At the level of grand conceptual ideas
such as nation or nation-people, there is an urge to unify and claim a certain uni-
versal validity for what is going on. But everyday politics was carried out in an
immensely heterogeneous social field. My later work attempts to find a language
Pubiic Cuiture foj {jjj^ social heterogeneity while recognizing at the same time that there was
something that held together, whether at the level of the state or the ideologi-
cal representations of something called the nation, including its summoning of
affects and loyalties. How does one make, whether structurally or otherwise, con-
nections between an enormous heterogeneity and claims to belonging to an utterly
homogeneous space called "us," the collectivity called the nation? This is where
my later work moved.
MG: Was this emphasis on coexistent multiplicity the pathway to your critique of
civil society arguments? In the post-1989 era, amid a general rediscovery of the
civil society concept, you begin to elaborate a counterargument about political
society. What is political society?
PC: The heterogeneity that concerned me was not the free associations of civil
society. Rather, it was the new form of democratic politics that emerged in post-
colonial India. The Indian constitution guarantees basic freedoms to citizens.
Read in a traditional liberal way, this simply means that everybody is the same as
far as the state is concerned. Everybody has equal rights, so therefore it is possible
to posit a homogenous sphere that everybody inhabits in their public life. Yet nei-
ther social life nor political associations conform to this topography of a modern
civic sector alongside a traditional sector that consists of caste, religion, patron-
client relations, and so on, as modernization theory would have it. Modernization
'. ' theory recognizes a split in placing the traditional outside the space of the civic
. - and in assuming that the former operates in terms of caste, patronage, loyalties.
The practices of democratic politics that I am concerned with are the new
forms of association produced by both the activities of modern governance and
the activities of modern politics. This was neither the politics of freely associated
modern citizens with knowledge of their rights nor a traditional sphere of caste or
religious obligations. The concept of political society names this disjuncture or
difference. It points to all the deviations and exceptions from the civic and consti-
tutionally sanctioned ways of association among citizens. Political society is pre-
mised on the existence of the domain of the civic and of the liberal constitutional.
Yet it takes other routes that are not simply a carryover of some traditional ways of
associating or protesting. These are entirely new forms. This inquiry is something
that subaltern studies enabled. But I would argue that built into the subaltern stud-
ies focus on peasant insurgency, for instance, was the assumption that the state
: and forms of governance were external to the immediate social world of peas-
ants. That's no longer true. Government agencies and nongovernmental organiza-
tions that essentially do governmental functions are part of the daily lives of most Interview:
Indians outside the domain of the properly civic middle classes. This domain Partha Chatterjee
could not have been studied properly in the original frame of subaltern studies.
The research question now is about the new forms and meanings of the popular,
including ideas of populism. . _ ,;^ .
MG: Political society is then a postcolonial problematic in both a chronological
and substantive sense. ? -.
PC: Ye s . - ,- ' ' . ; . " " " , , ,
MG: In Lineages of Political Society you argue for a political theory grounded in
and oriented by exceptions. This follows your critique of the abstraction of norma-
tive liberal democratic theory. Could you expand on this thesis?
- - I . .
PC: Governments in societies like India often deal with departures from the civic
norm as an immediate, pragmatic issue. My favorite example here is the rela-
tion between the administration and urban squatters on public lands or minor
lawbreakers of all kinds. From a strictly legal interpretation, the administration
could deal with them as lawbreakers. But the sheer social heterogeneity, which .
is the reality of power in a society like India, cannot be dealt with in terms of
an abstract homogeneity on which the basic assumptions of liberal constitutions
are grounded. They don't correspond. The basic strategy of democratic practice
in contemporary India is improvised exception. It is to formulate a ground for
exception, to acknowledge that the law does apply equally, and yet claim that this
particular instance, whether squatting or stealing electricity, is a contingency that
necessitates a provisional exception. It is my claim that the entire task of admin-
istration has now become one of continual resort to the argument of exception. - . " _
Contemporary subaltern discourse today consists of an expansive use of the idea
of exception, by which different population groups are able to say that if gov-
ernments can make exceptions in the case of the rich all the time and get away
with it, so why won't they make one for us? I just came across a recent study of
popular criminality in Delhi slums. The slum organizers or minor criminal gangs
routinely make a show of strength in front of the police station, naming all the '
local politicians with arms in their houses. The police, they say, know that these > ']
people have arms in the house, so why shouldn't the slum dwellers be allowed
to keep theirs? Asserting a right becomes a right to be regarded as an exception. '-' -,.
This is now a pervasive modality of making political claims. What this suggests
Public Culture is the lack of a conceptual vocabulary or language to articulate claims in any kind
of positive sense rather than as a deviation from some abstract norm. Inherited
, normative claims, which come with an entire body of liberal constitutional think-
ing, are still in place and have claims to legitimacy. Yet political practices deviate
- enormously from these norms. And even as illegal practices are justified as legiti-
' mate exceptions, there is no definition of a new normativity. This is the situation
of democracy at the moment.
. ' MG: So one of the objects of postcolonial political theory is to confront this new
condition of conspicuous illegality and legitimate exception. Has this condition
-. intensified or altered with the worldwide ascendancy of neoliberalism?
PC: It has, but I'm not certain what the full implications are. The ascendancy
. . o f neoliberalism does amplify the onus on the efficient delivery of government
:/'.: services. Earlier modes of legitimate state action had needed to conform to the
> , ethical prescriptions of liberal constitutional norms. This is no longer the main
,' -, ^ object. For instance, a neoliberal administration would say that it just happens
' . ' to be the case that there are all these squatters without real title to the land, and
' ' yet we need to recognize them and give them certain services. What's the best
way to proceed? Simply ignore the fact tbat they don't have title? Create a certain
claim? Even institutions like the World Bank make the distinction between having
" a right and an entitlement. So it is acknowledged that some have a right because
they have legal title to land and others have certain entitlements because they have
been on the land for years and a good administration must recognize that. The
exception is made part of a modality of governmental operation, where the onus
is on a consequential evaluation of outcomes. Is this outcome better in terms of
,1- some objective criterion of performance or delivery of services?
' . This modality of neoliberal governance has brought populations considered
outside the pale into some kind of legitimate and legible presence within a market
domain. Practices like microcredit, for instance, are precisely targeted to such
populations, which are then integrated into larger institutional circuits of credit
and capital. The interesting question to pursue is what effect this has on the way
these populations respond to governments and the market. This is still a murky
area, for the conceptual division between a formal and informal economy no lon-
. , , _ ^ ger bolds. This goes back to the argument I was making earlier, that there is one
- ^ ' kind of legitimate normality and the rest is all deviation. The practices that com-
pose the so-called informal economy are neither outside the world of capital nor
a legal sphere. Yet they are at a tangent from it, and we do not fully understand
their inner workings and complexity. Simply describing them as a difference from interview:
some normative domain elides a great deal of internal diversity. The informal sec- Partha Chatterjee
tor in India today is not just the household or small manufacturing or service units
of the self-employed. It involves very large production units that are networked
in ways we do not fully understand. There are entire manufacturing facilities
that are really cities, industrial cities. Almost every unit there is informal. They
are not formally incorporated units because they want to dodge taxation, pol-
lution control, labor laws, and so on. Yet they have to acquire capital without
being incorporated. From what one knows, this happens through caste relations
or credit relationships based on trust rather than legally validated contracts. The
informal sector no longer consists of economic activities of a relatively marginal
kind. These shifts have large implications. For all the talk of China and India . >
as the next great manufacturing industrial powers of the world, we still do not .
understand the contours of the new capitalist organizations that are emerging in
those countries. It is certainly possible to think that they are quite distinct from ' ;
the incorporated civic associations of Western capitalism. But we need to know ,
more before we can assess the consequences for democracy or capitalism.
MG: One of the arguments you make about contemporary shifts in India concerns , ;, . . .
what used to be called the peasant question. This is being posed, you claim, in a ;'
qualitatively new way because of the unstable mix of market-oriented neoliberal-
ism and electoral democracy. Could you elaborate on this? .: I . , :
PC: Let's take the much talked about case of farmer suicides in India. They are .
an extraordinary phenomenon. There is, on the face of it, nothing new about ' :
indebtedness among the peasantry. But the context has utterly changed from the .
one assumed by earlier work in subaltern studies. For one of the most persistent
dimensions of peasant life in late colonial India, from the mid-nineteenth cen-
tury onward, was both peasant indebtedness and the many instances of collec-
tive resistance to indebtedness. There were insurgencies against landlords and s.
moneylenders from the 1860s and 1870s all the way through to the early twentieth ; : ^
century in northern India. Why is the response to indebtedness today that of indi- , '
vidual suicides? Many would say that this is a function of neoliberal governmen-
tality where all forms of collective resistance have disappeared. Yet we still need
to explain why this is the case. It is not as though there is no collective politics
at all. There are powerful collective movements that make collective demands.
But something has changed. Is it that peasants are now indebted to banks, not
moneylenders? But public institutions like banks in India find it very difficult .
Public Culture to recover loans from individuals by taking away their land. It is far more likely
that private moneylenders are able to coercively appropriate land. So it remains
puzzling why collective resistance against them is no longer possible. What are
the legitimate and feasible forms of political protest in postcolonial democra-
cies? Certain combinations that were entirely possible and expected fifty years
ago have just disappeared, even as others such as regional identity politics have
flourished. While there is a notion of exploited peoples, it no longer corresponds
to localized face-to-face communities. What is the domain of the popular today?
What are the media through which it coalesces and mobilizes? These are the new
tasks of research.
MG: Does your project on political society intersect with contiguous attempts to
rethink the political? I'm thinking here of Ernesto Laclau's idea that populism is
the signature political form of Latin America's twentieth century.
PC: Populism is a particularly important category to think about. As a descrip-
tive category, it refers to specific forms and modalities of mobilization. But it
also raises evaluative questions about different kinds of popular mobilization,
not all of which are worthy of support. So I don't think we can only consider the
first and forget about the second. Populism does offer, however, the possibility of
. rethinking modalities of collective action, including accounting for why certain
mobilizations take place at great speed but also dissolve very fast. I think many
_ " distinctions have to be made to understand contemporary mobilizations. Popu-
lism is a phenomenon all over the world today, but we cannot assume similarities
across contexts. I think these questions need serious new work.
MG : Subaltern studies was forged in the wake of authoritarian populism. Did this
prohibit thinking about populism in other ways, of aligning it with more experi-
mental democratic forms? > ^
PC: It's interesting you say that, because we were very aware of the authoritarian
uses of populism in the 1970s in India. What was enabling at the time was Antonio
Gramsci's idea of the people-nation and the possibility that the idea of the people
could have ambiguous political resonances. The ideas of Caesarism and passive
revolution were particularly crucial for subaltern studies. But populism then was
restricted to something negative, even as we stuck to the idea of the people. All
' ^ /; of this needs to be rethought. We have to think anew about the forms of passive
revolution, how its structures have changed enormously, and the implications of interview:
this for something like state populism, on the one side, and populist mobilization Partha chatterjee
against the state, on the other. We need to think through these distinctions much /
more closely. We do not as yet have good evaluative criteria for differentiating
between modes of populism. I wish some of you would do it. [Laughing.]
MG : An implicit theme of your work has been a critique of approaches that sim-
ply assume the comparability of the phenomenon under consideration, whether
democracy, state forms, or nationalism. There is now a wider crisis of received
models of comparison in the social sciences. How does your project on post-
colonial political theory speak to questions of comparison or rather comparability?
PC: I am suspicious of comparisons that simply facilitate a certain application of
general theory. A great deal of comparison in comparative politics, for instance,
uses empirical data that are not strictly comparable. Things are made, rather than
found, comparable. All too often this does violence to one's findings. My own
inclination would be to be a little more modest about how much we can general-
ize. When comparisons are oriented toward showing contrasts or difference, they
actually help sharpen the object that you began with. And they also establish con-
nections across phenomena where such connections were not previously seen. All
of these uses are extremely enlightening. But I think one should take small steps '
toward building larger comparable sets. This is a slower process and you probably
get far less dramatic results. But I would prefer that to the kind of cross-country
comparisons made on the basis of extremely dubious data that have been forced .
into a certain grid where they don't really belong. Of course, it depends on the
structural level at which you're making comparisons. There are some kinds of
comparisons more easily made across contexts because you're dealing with large
structures, with fewer variables, much fewer uncertainties. It is easier to make
comparisons of that kind. But the sorts of phenomena we're interested inthings
like everyday life, the political practices of ordinary peopleare far more dif-
ficult to render comparable.
MG : Your most recent work is The Black Hole of Empire. Could you say more
about this return to imperial history?
PC: For the past four to six years, I have returned to international politics, to :
where I began as a graduate student. I was impelled by an effort to understand .
Public Culture the emergent world orderthe making of new regional and economic powers,
the implications of the global financial crisis for Western powers, and the like.
In recent times, the scale of intervention, military and diplomatic, in many world
regions can only be described as imperial. This prompted my return to the his-
tory of empire as a political form, especially to what I think was the watershed
moment of the second half of the eighteenth century. This was the moment of a
new geopolitical order where supposedly modern and newly capitalist European
states acquired overseas land territories and took on the business of governance.
I "^ This was a departure from the historical experience of empire in the Americas.
Although a large part of the thinking about empire during this period was shaped
by the experience of the Americas, the problems encountered in other regions
were of a different order.
It seems to me that the emergence of the modern state itselfits constitu-
tional forms, representative government as a normative idea, the so-called law
of nationswas forged in the late eighteenth century. One of my arguments is
that the kinds of solutions devised in the early nineteenth century in the context
- of utilitarian thinking, stage theories of social development, and ideas of liberal
tutelage that were part of liberal theory came to constitute the new form of empire.
:: It is in the early nineteenthcentury that a whole range of techniques of power were
devised that allowed for enormous flexibility in facilitating different ways of exer-
cising power over other peoples, ranging from direct administration and outright
annexation of territory to what would be called protectorates. These allowed for a
measure of internal sovereignty while taking over effective external sovereignty.
There was a clear recognition of gradations of sovereignty within legal domains
where the law of nations applied only to countries with equal sovereignty. What
seems crucial is how the two questions of sovereignty, on the one side, and gover-
nance, on the other, get separated after the coalescing of ideals of popular sover-
eignty as the only legitimate locus of sovereignty in the modern world. Utilitarian
thinking was absolutely fundamental in enabling such a distinction, in making it
possible to say that what mattered was less who rules than whether the rule was
good or efficient. Modes of ruling could be compared on a consequentialist basis,
that is, whether imperial rule was for the good of most people or not.
The great burden of anticolonial movements was to reassert the question of
popular sovereigntyto say that whether or not foreign powers are ruling in good
or bad ways is irrelevant. It's a question of who rules. From the early nineteenth
to the early twentieth centuries, anticolonial nationalism struggled to enshrine
the nation-state, which came to a place of dominance only after the end of World
War II, as the universally legitimate form of the state. Once this was recognized.
you would think that empire should have vanished. But it does not. One of my Interview:
arguments is that already in the nineteenth century, you have a range of imperial Partha Chatterjee
practices and exercises of power that do not require direct territorial coloniza-
tion. Imperial power can be and was established through a range of other means.
Empire resides in who claims the privilege to make exceptions within a world
order of states. The imperial privilege is precisely the privilege to make excep-
tions. In contemporary international institutions, despite the operation of a one-
member, one-vote system, a wbole range of exceptions to national sovereignty are
made and can be made. The question becomes who can effectively claim to make ' '
exceptions, to decide what rules apply to whom. Tbe book, then, is a conceptual
history of empire over tbe past 250 years.
Worics Cited
Chatterjee, Partha. 1984. Bengal, 1920-1947: The land question. Calcutta: K. P.
. 1986. Nationalist thought and the colonial world: A derivative i/w-
coarse.^ London: Zed Books for the United Nations University.
. 1993. The nation and its fragments : Colonial and postcolonial histories.
Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. " ".
.2011. Lineages of political society: Studies in postcolonial democracy. ; . "
New York: Columbia University Press.
. 2012. The black hole of empire: History of a global practice of power.
Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
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