University of Virginia, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Book Seminar on South Asian Politics, History, and Culture (Featuring Prathama Banerjee & Rochona Majumdar

November 11, 2021

The seminar will feature talks and a discussion on two recent publications on South Asian political thought, history, and culture by the featured authors.



Prathama Banerjee, Elementary Aspects of the Political: Histories from the Global South

Duke University Press, 2020


In Elementary Aspects of the Political Prathama Banerjee moves beyond postcolonial and decolonial critiques of European political philosophy to rethink modern conceptions of "the political" from the perspective of the global South. Drawing on Indian and Bengali practices and philosophies from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Banerjee identifies four elements of the political: the self, action, the idea, and the people. She examines selfhood in the light of precolonial Indic traditions of renunciation and realpolitik; action in the constitutive tension between traditional conceptions of karma and modern ideas of labor; the idea of equality as it emerges in the dialectic between spirituality and economics; and people in the friction between the structure of the political party and the atmospherics of fiction and theater. Banerjee reasserts the historical specificity of political thought and challenges modern assumptions about the universality, primacy, and self-evidence of the political



Rochona Majumdar, Art Cinema and India’s Forgotten Futures, Columbia University Press, 2021


In this pioneering book, Rochona Majumdar examines key works of Indian art cinema to demonstrate how film emerged as a mode of doing history and that, in so doing, it anticipated some of the most influential insights of postcolonial thought. Majumdar details how filmmakers as well as a host of film societies and publications sought to foster a new cinematic culture for the new nation, fueled by enthusiasm for a future of progress and development. Good films would help make good citizens: art cinema would not only earn global prestige but also shape discerning individuals capable of exercising aesthetic and political judgment. During the 1960s, however, Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, and Ritwik Ghatak—the leading figures of Indian art cinema—became disillusioned with the belief that film was integral to national development. Instead, Majumdar contends, their works captured the unresolvable contradictions of the postcolonial present, which pointed toward possible, yet unrealized futures.


Prathama Banerjee is Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi, India, and author of Politics of Time: "Primitives" and History-Writing in a Colonial Society (2006) and Elementary Aspects of the Political: Histories from the Global South (2020).


Rochona Majumdar is Associate Professor in the Departments of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Marriage and Modernity: Family Values in Colonial Bengal (2009), Writing Postcolonial History (2010), and Art Cinema and India’s Forgotten Futures (2021).


Aswin Punathambekar is Associate Professor in the Department of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. He is the author of From Bombay to Bollywood: The Making of a Global Media Industry (2013), co-author of Media Industry Studies (2020), and co-editor of Global Bollywood (2008), Television at Large in South Asia (2013), and Global Digital Cultures: Perspectives from South Asia (2019). 


Samhita Sunya is Assistant Professor in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Virginia. She is the author of Sirens of Modernity: World Cinema Via Bombay (in press,). Her interests span world film history, informal practices of media distribution across South / West Asia and the Indian Ocean, and intersections of audio-visual media and literary forms.

Homer Statue
10:00 am - 12:00 pm