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

The Center of Global Culture and Communication (An interdisciplinary initiative of Northwestern University’s School of Communication)
Center for Transcultural Studies

jointly present

Questioning the Present: An Online Public Forum on
 Elementary Aspects of the Political: Histories from the Global South
(Duke University Press, 2020)

Prathama Banerjee
(History and Political Theory,
Center for the Study of Developing Societies-CSDS, New Delhi)

Humberto Beck
Center for International Studies, El Colegio de México
Murad Idris
Political Science, University of Michigan
Rochona Majumdar
South Asian Languages and Civilizations/ Cinema & Media Studies, University of Chicago

 ON ZOOM, Friday, February 3, 2023, 10:00 am to 12:00 pm CST


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 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. Throughout, Banerjee reasserts the historical specificity of political thought and challenges modern assumptions about the universality, primacy, and self-evidence of the political. In formulating a new theory of the political, Banerjee gestures toward a globally salient political philosophy that displaces prevailing Western notions of the political masquerading as universal.