Visiting Fellow: Neilesh Bose Event Series

April 11, 2016 - 8:00am to April 15, 2016 - 5:00pm

Location and Address

Humanities Center

602 Cathedral of Learning 


{View the event flyer here}

Neilesh Bose is Assistant Professor and Tier II Canada Research Chair of the University of Victoria in Victoria, BC, Canada. As a historian of modern South Asia (the Indian subcontinent) from the eighteenth century to the present,Neilesh is interested in the history of nationalisms, cultural and intellectual histories, histories of religion, and the global history of decolonization. Additionally, he holds interests in theater studies, performance studies, and dramatic criticism. His recent book, _Recasting the Region: Language, Culture, and Islam in Colonial Bengal_ (Oxford, 2014), examines the intersections between linguistic identity, literary history, and cultural history in late colonial India. Current projects include the history of religious reform in colonial India as well as a collaborative oral history of Bengali intellectuals in India and Bangladesh centered on the history of decolonization. 

Neilesh Bose is Assistant Professor and Tier II Canada Research Chair of the University of Victoria in Victoria, BC, Canada. As a historian of modern South Asia (the Indian subcontinent) from the eighteenth century to the present, Neilesh is interested in the history of nationalisms, cultural and intellectual histories, histories of religion, and the global history of decolonization. 

Schedule of Events

Lecture: “Vernacularization, Globalization, and Intellectual History: South Asia and the World”
April 12, 2016 - 5:00pm

Whether we point to ongoing debates about the status of humanist (particularly Indological) scholarship of South Asian texts and practices by researchers in the Western world, the continual attacks on students and their political and intellectual freedom in Indian universities, or the ongoing debates about the status of Islam in Bangladesh, the role of ideas for South Asia’s past and present, and the ability to conduct an intellectual history of political thought  – especially to come to terms with colonialism, decolonization, and the many ideas of the nation under-girding those two processes – has assumed critical urgency in our contemporary moment. As many have noted, the historical entry into any of these issues must encompass some sense of the global, or at least trans-regional, nature of intellectual history, but how to do so remains a point of contention. In this lecture, I will discuss how the history of religion in nineteenth century colonial India – debates about its definitions, uses, and purposes – links not to a history only of colonial knowledge, but to a world of vernacular intellectual histories. Such vernacular intellectual histories, for colonial South Asia, show how the historical and philosophical resources of Islam and Buddhism figure in ways that lift those two global religions out of only political instrumentalization or minoritization. Through a critical historical discussion of how a major reformist organization, the Brahma Samaj, engaged with the sources of Islam and Buddhism, I will explore how vernacular intellectual histories open up paths toward new global histories that re-orient our understandings of religion and nation in contemporary South Asia. 

Colloquium: “Voicing Futures Past: Bengali Intellectuals in the Age of Decolonization, 1950 – 1980”
April 14, 2016 - 12:30pm

As a contribution to social and cultural theory in the late twentieth century, postcolonialism has been pioneered to a great extent by intellectuals grounded in the particularities of South Asian intellectual and political life, and within South Asia, the even more particular conditions of colonial and post-colonial West Bengal (India) and East Bengal (East Pakistan, 1947 – 71 and Bangladesh, 1971 – present). Although the individual writings of intellectuals such as Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Partha Chatterjee, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and Ranajit Guha from West Bengal, India, or Badruddin Umar, Hameeda Hossain, and Anissuzaman in present-day Bangladesh, may be familiar to the broader community of scholars working in postcolonial studies, the broader intellectual history of postcolonialism, within its local and trans-regional contexts, has rarely been pursued. Intellectuals across the global South occupy an uneasy ground within the field of intellectual history.  Inspired by recent intellectual histories of decolonization in Middle East and African diasporic contexts, this essay analyzes the life histories of sixty West Bengali and Bangladeshi intellectuals as a lens into the intellectual history of the twentieth century. Through an analysis of these life histories, the relationships between intellectuals signaled within oral histories, and the relationship between intellectuals and changing state power in the post-war world, I argue that a loosely interconnected group of Calcutta- and Dhaka-based intellectuals transformed early twentieth century forms of anti-colonial nationalism into late twentieth century forms of post-colonial critique. Secondly, this transformation illuminates twentieth century global history, prompting comparisons to epochal shifts traced by European intellectual historians, such as the rise of the Frankfurt School, post-structuralism, or post-modernism. These Bengali intellectuals were by no means the only cohort to interrogate the intellectual reservoir of the Western world, as during this period thinkers as diverse as Anibel Quijano, Jose Carlos Mariategui, Gloria Anzaldua, and Walter Mignolo in Latin American contexts, Ali Shariati, Ilyas Murqus, Sayyid Qutb, and Sayyid ‘Uways in Middle Eastern contexts, and Frantz Fanon, Aime Cesaire, and Ngugi Wa’Thiongo in African and African diasporic contexts (among of course, others) grappled with the inheritances of humanist and social science disciplines and the simultaneous engagement with local knowledge systems in reshaping the world out of the embers of empire. This essay points to the social history underneath the South Asian intellectual world, given its wide range and iterability, in order to enable comparative future work in other regions.

With a response by: Armando Garcia (Hispanic Languages and Literatures)

Humanities Center Colloquium Events typically involve conversations around a pre-distributed piece of writing. You can download the piece of writing for this event here.


History, Literature, and Amitav Ghosh's Ibis Trilogy: A Conversation with Neilesh Bose and Jonathan Arac
April 15, 2016 - 12:00pm

Ghosh's trilogy of historical novels (Sea of Poppies [2008], River of Smoke [2011] and Flood of Fire [2015]), is deeply researched and movingly imagined.  Centered on Calcutta and reaching west to Mauritius and east to China's Pearl River delta,  the trilogy engages Oceanic history, subaltern history, and the global history of capitalism, culminating in the Opium War of 1841-2.  Bose and Arac will present brief statements and then encourage conversation among those present, whether about the specific works or about larger issues of historical representation, through fiction or its alternatives.