The central argument in this volume is that contemporary social consciousness is marked by an underlying ambivalence that resists analysis in terms of neat binary categories. Exploring the interplay of contradictory impulses and the confluence of apparently irreconcilable forces in the making of social and political phenomena, the essays here deal with a wide range of issues concerning our colonial past and the post-colonial present.
The author deals with the stirrings of the nationalist consciousness in nineteenth-century India to show that the same person(s) or movement often revealed both progressive and reactionary attitudes. The ambivalence, further, reveals itself equally in the texts of nineteenth-century writers and in cataclysmic events like Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujarat today. Two essays on Govardhanram Tripathi, a Gujarati litterateur, bring out the unresolved contradictions that underlay his own consciousness and that of his society. More than a century later, the post-1992 riots in Surat and the Hindutva terror in Gujarat in 2002 reveal the vulnerability of broader social forces. Gandhi's realization of the failure of swadeshi in the wake of Noakhali, as indeed the dilemma posed by his attitude to religious conversion, further prove the point.
Sudhir Chandra is the author of Enslaved Daughters: Colonialism, Law and Women's Rights (1997), The Oppressive Present: Literature and Social Consciousness in Colonial India (1992), Dependence and Disillusionment: Emergence of National Consciousness in Later Nineteenth Century India (1975).