Is the Personal beyond Private and Public?: New Perspectives in Social Theory and Practice
Publication Year: 2018
Is everything personal also private? The modern world is neatly compartmentalized into the private and the public, and the personal is often used interchangeably with the private as if they are the same. But are they? The book starts a new discourse by distinguishing the two and analyzing existing discourses of history, culture, politics, ethics, and law, asserts that the underlying theory is vastly different, often antagonistic. It radically changes the notions of the public, private, and personal by introducing the public–private–personal “triad,” challenging the modern binary of the public and private. This original and insightful book will provoke readers to rethink their use of the personal and the private as two different notions for the same thing.
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
Part 1: : Recovering the Personal in Politics, Ethics, Culture, Law, History, and Theory
- Chapter 1: Personal in the Public Sphere: The Politics of Modernity
- Chapter 2: Gandhi and the Ethics of the Personal: Is Personal the Terroristic Unity of Private and Public?
- Chapter 3: Universal and Cultural Histories of the Personal
- Chapter 4: Toward a Theory of the (New) Personal
Part 2: : Engaging the Personal: Modernity, Legality, and the Practice of Helping
First published in 2018 by
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Copyright © Arnab Chatterjee, 2018
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Chatterjee, Arnab, author.
Title: Is the personal beyond private and public?: new perspectives in social theory and practice/ Arnab Chatterjee.
Description: Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd,  | Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2017055386 | ISBN 9789352805204 (print (hb): alk. paper) | ISBN 9789352805211 (e pub 2.0) | ISBN 9789352805228 (e book)
Subjects: LCSH: Privacy. | Social interaction.
Classification: LCC BF637.P74 C43 2018 | DDC 302.5/4—dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017055386
ISBN: 978-93-528-0520-4 (HB)
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Published by Vivek Mehra for SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd, typeset in 10/12 pt Times New Roman by Fidus Design Pvt. Ltd., Chandigarh.
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Advance Praise[Page D]
In this book, Arnab Chatterjee attempts the difficult task of describing the place of the personal in the public/private divide that is supposed to form the basis of modern institutions in Indian society. His methods are both phenomenological and historical. Of particular interest is his treatment of the little-known works of Indian Hegelians such as Brajendranath Seal and Hiralal Haldar. This book promises to draw the attention of scholars of everyday practices in modern Indian life.
Partha Chatterjee, Professor of Anthropology Columbia University
The book is very engaging.
Dipesh Chakrabarty, Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History, The University of Chicago
This book crosses the boundaries of philosophy and social theory in very interesting ways and is a great contribution to the development of the ideas of discourse, criticism, and subjectivity.
Veena Das, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University
To my (late) ma, mejdi, bacchiya, Chotu Singh, and lately, Anuradha
Those who deeply mourned my slowness and the non-being of this work—over a long time; now, finally…
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Unlike Lyotard who wanted to “stroke his [Marx's] beard as a complex libidinal volume, reawakening his hidden desire and ours along with it,”1 we must be serious enough and consider that when such an energetic and forceful theorist as Marx wrote “the [modern] state is founded upon the contradiction between public and private life,”2 it rehearsed in one breath as if the taxonomic key to understanding modernity—which is the public/private divide; and notwithstanding Marx's own resolution (i.e., the abolition of private property), a corresponding failure (of thinkers including Marx) to find a way beyond the conflictual binary of the public and private, could be said to have been, pace Marx's own words, momentously, unboxed. Marx's agenda and resolution are well-known, but while Marx had an effective concern with smashing the liberal divide, there is a long list of other thinkers who have grappled—being imbibed with an unputdownable “interpretive” interest—with the problem of finding a way beyond the binary. For the great, canonical thinkers of the public sphere, Hannah Arendt had previously rejected intimacy as a “deep private;” for Habermas, it reappeared as the beyond of private and public. The personal remains manifestly and immanently under-theorized in the works of both the thinkers, and this book steps in with caution to fill this gap. Recent researches—while tracing “the ongoing struggle [since two hundred years ago] in Locke, Shafetusbury, Hutcheson, Hume, and Smith to find a framework to mediate between the public and private,”—in order to grasp our own times, switch over to—“Levinas's belief that a certain mediation between the public and private is possible and in Derrida's insistence that a discourse predicated on a clear and [Page x]absolute distinction between the public and the private can only fall into ruins.”3 Now, what is the register of this crucial, mediating mark? These researches—of which Gaston's book is the most competent and poignant example—advocate (albeit erroneously) the “secret”4 in Derrida's (and Levinas's) works to have been the tempting solution. Death (“language about death is nothing but the long history of a secret society, neither public nor private, semi-private, semi-public, on the border between the two”), the postcard (“half-private half-public neither the one nor the other”), and the telephone are Derrida's three examples of the secret meant to solve the liberal dichotomy.
All this is to make a single point: those thinkers who have been pivotal in finding (Western) modernity and continue to engage with its gestures through their breathing apostles, and also those who were prophets of colonial (and now postcolonial) modernities, could be seen to have been— though not always in an informed manner—struggling to solve the public/ private riddle with an answer of their own. This has been the story since 1767, and it runs amok till 2017. The public/private riddle is one of the strongest unsolved puzzles in the history of ideas. Strongest all the more because the dissenting strands always ran up to alternative versions or weak synonyms of either the private or the public (a classical example is the personal that appeared/and still appears as another version of the private being used as a moment of parole, that is, speech particularly in everyday life and language). The mix-up between the private and the personal has been naturalized to the extent that their doubtful assonance within texts and discourses go un-problematically, and dangerously, unheeded. Are the personal and the private the same and thus interchangeable? If not, in what ways could they be said to have been different? When did this confusion set in? Now, if it is possible to distance and distinguish them, then what are the results of such a revision? In this work, these issues will be broached to argue in favor of a trichotomy (personal, public, and private) to consequently arrive at a point beyond the debated dichotomy (where the personal and the private serve as a single algorithm and that has been conveniently pitted against the public).
This work, in an attempt to grapple with this dilemma in a new way, if not to resolve it altogether, argues the personal as a beyond of the private/public binary and distinguishes it from the private vis-à-vis [Page xi]the public. The private is opposed to the public and resists public scrutiny and publicity—the stuff of which the public is made. The way we do not know what a person is, what his/her real/final intentions are, or whether somebody is genuinely aggrieved or not—makes the personal largely unpredictable and indeterminate in the final instance, and not necessarily opposed to the public. Originally being legal-juridical categories, private and public have specific indicators. Personal relationships such as love or friendship remain outside legislation.
For the second moot point in this work, I shall show, schematically though how the journey—at least in colonial modernity, and its aftermath— has not been from personality to impersonality, as has often been assumed, but from the realm of the natural personal to that of the juridical/group/ collective personality of organizations. This will be pursued specifically in Part 2 of the work: the inviting emptiness of legal fictions—plausible even in the wake of contemporary, originary capitalism, as Rose states, “The concept of capital brings the relation of person and thing to the crunch. Capital acts like a person [and] not a thing. The illusion of natural personality is destroyed by this personification.”5 This could be provocative for many, particularly for the specialists dedicated to postcolonial theory, but, given the volume and span of the present work, I could not assuage their hunger by delving into the burgeoning literature of legal personality and legal fictions—more than that was minimally required—excluding even the exciting oeuvre that engages with neo-Kantian jurisprudence, particularly Emile Lask, Radbruch, Stammler, and Dabin.6 But while this is trapped by and in law, the root metaphors of love and friendship-(stated before), again when instituted, escape the law as event. Finally, I intend to show that all the helping structures including the welfare state and social work—which raided by the whimsical and arbitrary metaphors of “personal” relational filiations, admittedly, with or against their own intended grain—cannot be grasped by the public/private motors.II
Personalism (which posits that the person is of the supreme value) forms the primary theoretical fillip to this study. Classic treatises in this tradition [Page xii]tend to trace the lineage back to medievalism and then to the interlocution recovered from the philosophic tracts of Lotze, Fichte, Jacobi, Scheler, Feuerbach, etc. And then the neo-Hegelians turned the world of the God-based personalism upside down when Marx came with a warrant: God also became radical and worn. Putting aside the various versions of personalism, I have tended to rely on the German version (against the view that “the American school [only] … is perceived by scholars to define personalism”7); here the person is irreducible—which I think relies on and, in turn, refers to the essence of personalism. An initial note of caution here (since there is a huge literature in analytical philosophy on personal identity): this work is not inspired by nor does it intend to contribute to the debate on “who is a person” or “what is personal identity” as such, though tangentially these notions do crop up as flowers by the wayside,8 but only as much as or as many times as they are relevant to the concept-metaphor “personal” as against that of the private vis-à-vis the public. If we are to go by the definition of persons as rational beings with rights (as the legal definition purportedly goes) or of intrinsic worth and dignity “not equaled by nonpersons”9 (as goes in moral theory, too), we are in for further dismay, since the nonpersons being the self-servicing, categorical constructions of the persons themselves is out-and-out discriminatory, solipsistic, and ideological (recall the nonperson status of women, children, and slaves to understand this detestable historical logos); they were (or are) nonpersons as they have been deprived of the rights that could be accrued to them when rightfully considered. Though the general, running paradigms of all schools of personalism, regardless of their origins, believe in the “personal reason and impersonal understanding,” the “personal absolute,” and the “personal unity in diversity,”10 all are treated in this work with a defamiliarizing effect, and thereby, the orthodox personalists will find their categories being addressed after all. It is to this German tradition, where what goes by the name of personalism in a phenomenological mode, that my debt is the most; Max Scheler (a dark disciple of Husserl, and whom the latter distinctly disliked) should be named as an inspiring instance here. While personalism informs this work, in the tradition of Hegel and Alasdair Maclntyre—as they practiced it—the methodological approach [Page xiii]to be borne by this work can be called philosophical history (when the proposal was first mooted), that is, a history of concepts, ideas, and so on. After many years, in hindsight, I still find the recommendation useful. A philosophical history is necessary to interrupt the self-complicity of concepts, which would have paraded—if it were only a philosophical study—as atemporal and uniquely essential. Therefore, philosophical history, simply put, is generated when we tend to philosophize history and historicize philosophy. Hegel thinks that these binaries (history and philosophy) are sometimes “necessary dichotomies” and “one factor in life,”11 necessary because “life eternally forms itself by setting up opposition[s].” 12 But he perceives that when the might of unity “vanishes from the life of men and the antitheses lose their living connection and reciprocity and gain independence, the need of philosophy arises.”13 This gaining of independence is important: as if history and philosophy become two independent autonomous sectors of a single thought. And we must also mark the moment that it is in modernity that such oppositions take an objective form: faith versus knowledge, objectivity versus subjectivity, rational versus speculative, critical versus dogmatic, and lastly history versus philosophy. Reason unites what intellect has divided—history and philosophy. The task of reason is the task of philosophy.
Similarly, the person and the personal are not reducible to history and philosophy, too! But while transcendental phenomenology teaches us the irreducibility of the person to an act or agency (I extend it in this study to mean that the person is irreducible to the private or the public), it rarely engages with other discourses to see the consequences this view entails. The theological gloss often attributed to personalism derives, I guess, from this not-so-unclear apathy. This is abandoned in the present study to engage in a pluridisciplinary feat. This work is at the cusp of social and political philosophy, welfare sociology, social work, moral and legal theory, and philosophical history—and that too in the continental tradition. Not that the analytic tradition—as I have hinted at before— cannot offer intriguing thought forms or insights into the personal and personal identity and others, but there is a hunch that it can rarely explicate, self-reflexively, its own politics and bring back in politics, history, law, or literature in the style of cultural formations in which they occur in [Page xiv]terribly mixed moorings, in the practice of everyday life.14 This dawned on Husserl, who brooked the life-world, and Heidegger, who pushed it to extremes. Consider, for instance, when Derek Parfit concludes, “our reasons for acting should become more impersonal…it would often be better for everyone,”15 he chooses to be unaware (in fact, he could very well be) of the very fact that this is a political proposition, and public, political modernity appeared with such an axiom to be maintained and administered for its rational regime of technology; but the immanent reality of it, as I unravel it, could be examined for its truth in Chapter 1.16 But this investment does not come from nowhere. “It results as well from a kind of double censorship which the philosophy of language exercises as it sets the stage for thinking about language: Anglo-American philosophy of language not only censors the personal, it also obliterates all signs of this censorship.”17 It was incumbent upon us to restore the personal when it is seen to have been silenced in the classical continental tradition; at least, that is the complaint of Nietzsche—the first philosopher of the personal.18III
Then, the present task—the task at hand—in all its homelessness in the present work, expands along the following registers and could be [Page xv]delineated as follows in an attempt to describe the thematic matrix of the chapters.
Chapter 1 theoretically narrates how modernity arrives with a burgeoning impersonality and a formal rationality spread to life-spheres. A separation of the private and the public and the constraints of formal law are idealized. But the person with his/her “politics of dirty hands” overwhelms this disjunction and projects a peculiar crisis. In response, “personal attacks,” with their Greek origins and reaching their heights in 18th century political pornography, are such iconic examples, pointing out at the underbelly of objective events, ethics, and their symbolic dressing. The first signs of the person standing apart and standing out of the judicious separation of the public and the private, then, spillover. The person is the one, then, who can manipulate the private and the public.
Now, if Chapter 1 delineated how the person is capable of deceiving and escaping the limits set out by both the private and the public realms, the call for integrating them have been enormous and stifling, (as if) the public preacher and the private practitioner have to be reconciled in the same person and at some level of virtue! But how is it possible to integrate the private and the public at the site of an “echo” without dissolving the differences on which they are found? Taking cue from a neglected exchange between Mahatma Gandhi and Motilal Nehru, Chapter 2 brings out the dilemmas inherent in such an experiment and opens up the personal to its own prehistory. The monarch and the dictator unite the private and the public in the same, sovereign person. This chapter prefaces the prehistory of the person and the personal.
Having made in Chapter 2 a short detour into charting the pre-history of the personal in telegraphic terms—from the monarch to the dictator— we took Gandhi's desire as drive. In Chapter 3, we delve deeper into this prehistory—which because of its unavailability has to be reconstructed from disparate and disseminated sources and is bound to be episodic, while subsequently being the inscription of cultural history—which, as will be evident, could be reconstructed willfully in its sutured adequation.
After hinting at a historical and a subsequent cultural historical reconstruction of the personal in Chapter 3, it was necessary to examine if the distinction could be sustained theoretically as well. In Chapter 4, we pursue it in a short and sharp—albeit simple—manner. In concurrence with the definitive part of our book, this chapter tends to deploy the personal as recovered in history and tested in theory where the personal seems to have been problematized—matching the impersonal essence of modernity—and ought to have been expelled from the public sphere.[Page xvi]
Chapter 5 shows how the indeterminate, whimsical personal subverts all rationally determinate welfare schemes in modern civil society, and how, against its well-honed intentions, it is a journey from personality to personality. The chapter charts how the affirmation of ordinary life generated a secular ethic of social virtue. Through this, helping (among other actions) and a helping canon (social work) was to be emancipated from the personal character of an individual and his/her idiosyncratic virtues of whimsical giving. The chapter documents how Hegel— appreciating the universal aspects of poverty—had proposed the mediating institutions of civil society to order this transition. The fate of such a hunt for the universal in 19th century Bengal is examined through the texts of a Bengali neo-Hegelian, Brajendranath Seal. Part 2 (on Hiralal Haldar) of this chapter takes cue from the preceding part and expands on the journey of our modernity from natural personality to the personality of organizations. To graph this journey is fairly straight: we've deployed the personal in mirroring how the Western universal forms of impersonal civil-social helping has been smeared with the whimsical and arbitrary forms of personalistic polemic, finally, coalescing in the personality of organizations or group personalities—evident even in postcolonial India.
The last chapter (6) tries to weigh the analytical use the category personal could have in laying bare the similarities and differences between various informal helping modalities and social work—the disciplinary helping canon. The perusal—selectively—has been dispersed along the essential registers of etymology and genealogy.IV
The impact of this study may be conjectured along the following lines. Apart from re-invoking a long-lost philosophical history, the substantive content of this work—if persuasive enough—will correct and contribute to a long overdue lack in social theory and social philosophy, which—being trapped and allegedly engaged in the act of sacrificing either the private to the public or the public to the private (i.e., either domesticate the public or submit the private to public scrutiny)—went on, in an act of mourning, as if to discover alternative privacies or proletarian counter publics. The personal emerges in this book, as a distinct first, neither incorporated nor “assimilable” in either the private or the public.[Page xvii]
As it is evident, this might entail—in future—via the domestication through research of those forgotten comportments (those institutions, people and their work as social texts) a large-scale theoretical revision of the present history of modernity, philosophy of helping, and the ethics of care; it would be interesting to watch how disciplinary social sexual and legal-ethical care try to thematize this disturbance through the narrative management of historical differences.[Page xviii]Notes
1 Jean-Francois Lyotard, “The Desire Named Marx” in Libidinal Economy, transi. I. H. Grant (1994; repr., London: Continuum, 2005), 94-150.
2 Karl Marx, Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy, eds. T. B. Bottomore and M. Rubel (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1961), 222.
3 Sean Gaston, Derrida and Disinterest (London: Continuum, 2005), vii-viii.
5 Gillian Rose, Dialectic of Nihilism: Post-structuralism and Law (England: Basil Blackwell. 1984), 46.
6 Rose's book is perhaps the only classic on this (in English) which is neither used nor cited extensively.
7 Jan Olof Bengtsson, The Worldview of Personalism: Origin and Early Development (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006), 271.
9 Bengston, The Worldview of Personalism, 31.
10 Ibid., 272.
11 G. W. F. Hegel, “The Difference Between Fichte ‘s and Schelling ‘s System of Philosophy: The Need of Philosophy” in The Hegel Reader, ed. Stephen Houlgate (Blackwell Publishers: UK, 1998), 40-43.
14 In endorsement, consider the following from Habermas:
Since analytic philosophy of language more or less confines itself to issues it has inherited from the epistemological tradition, it lacks a certain sensibility for as well as the tools for dealing with the looser and larger issues of a diagnostics of an era. Since Hegel, the philosophical discourse of modernity has, therefore, been the domain of so-called continental philosophy. In this regard, the opposition between analytic and continental currents, which has otherwise become obsolete, still somewhat makes sense.
See Jürgen Habermas, Truth and Justification, ed. and trans. Barbara Fultner (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003), 79.
15 Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), 442.
16 So far as Parfit's augmentation of a “rational altruism” [we should “give no priority to our own children, this would be better for all our children” (Ibid., 444)] is considered, my discussion of altruism in Chapter 6 critiquing Nagel and others could be considered a beginning. I pick up the analytic tradition on the person in a separate study.
17 Hagi Kenaan, The Present Personal: Philosophy and the Hidden Face of Language (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2005), 6.
This book is not “an accident of chapters” as some would like to fashion the print-orientation that is inscribed here; this goes back to an investment of a decade and more than six years of labored, active imagination.
In fact, throughout these years, an array of publications and seminars sustained my interest in the work and even authenticated its place among the learned (the “warm fraternity of useless erudition”)—where a paradigm is performed co-constitutively. For instance, the thesis of this book (which was sent as a paper to Sandra Harding and she was kind enough to confirm it in a letter on February 23, 2005) was first published in the year 2006 in the Indian Journal of Social Work as an article. It is indexed—as a student working on it informed me—with the US Library of Congress; London School of Economics (Sarah Hayward, Library Assistant, LSE Library, was kind enough to correspond with me on this [beginning May 8, 2016]), Sociological Abstracts, Inc. with International Sociological Association, US; Social Science Citation Index with the Institute for Scientific Information, USA; etc. I gratefully remember the gesture of scholars such as Professor Sharmila Rege who made the article a reference reading material in the Women's Studies Center at the University of Pune in 2007; I mourn her untimely demise.
I will cite the reason for rememorating all these with the help of an apparent, and immediate, hypothetical imperative. In the Prologue, I had deployed Paul Halmos who proposed a transition from pastoral social work (comprising pre-social work forms of helping) to professional social work (scientific, institutionalized disciplinary and paid form of helping). My spin on it will be available in Chapter 6 and also in others. What, however, is ridiculous—even scandalous—is to have someone who claims to have been “proposing” a pre-social work indigenous form (whose translation is even erroneous with him) as pastoral. In terms of an episodic and periodic history, too (Chapter 5 here, in longer version) while holding onto a few neo-Hegelian 19th century philosophers of colonial Bengal, I arrived at the distinction that marks and remarks [on] modern and pre-modern helping forms, and learnt how the personal not only invades the [Page xx]impersonal-rational universal modern motors of helping but contaminates and nearly destroys them (referred to in Chatterjee 2008 and published differently in 2010). I have not moved an inch away from that observation. Therefore, if any activist-scholar of the nationalist phase of a helping form bribes him/herself with the new found relata of modernity and in trying to forge an unacknowledged but inspired, labored linkage fails to match his/her otherwise empirical stuff, few would empathize. So keenly I remember (my wife's favorite) Thoreau here:
Shall I not have words as fresh as my thoughts? Shall I use any other man's word? A genuine thought or feeling can find expression for itself, if it have to invent hieroglyphics. It has the universe for type-metal. It is for want of original thought that one man's style is like another's.
Grateful thanks to Ms Nandita Bhattacharya, Professor Gautam Gupta, Professor Nilanjana Gupta, Professor Sadhan Chakraborti, Professor Soumitra Basu, Professor Gautam Bhadra, and the Governor of West Bengal, Shri Kesari Nath Tripathi.
My tryst at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (HAS), Shimla, during 2013-15 will always remain memorable—with Professor D. N. Dhanagare, Professor Radhaballav Tripathi, Professor Udayan Mishra, Sri Rajesh Joshi, Professor Kunal Chakraborty, Shri Sumanta Banerjee—a constellation of academic and creative stalwarts. Professor Chetan Singh, the Director, and Mr Premchand, Secretary and Librarian, are the best of peoples I have ever met. Moidul Islam, Rahul Govind, Amitranjan Basu, and Enakshi Mitra were excellent academic partners and interlocutors. Dr Moidul Islam—especially—combines in him the highest standards of academic excellence, competence with a down to earth, helpful generosity and intellectual honesty that is seemingly without a parallel.
Professor Nasrin Siddiqui of Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA), Pune (in 2008), Shuddhabrata, Jeebesh, Monica, Sadan Jha, and Vivek Narayanan (in 2007)—the poet—besides Professor Pratiksha Baxi, Professor Lawrence Liang, and V. Sanal Mohan who remain as the Delhi-based authors whom I admire, acknowledge, and keenly follow.
At the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC) in Kolkata, my past, elective affinities with Shri Prabir Basu (whose non-administrative poetics—he being a great translator of Jibanananda Das) relieves and robs me of any nightmares; Professor Partha Chatterjee, Professor Pradip Bose, Professor Tapati Guhathakurta, and Professor Rosinka Chaudhury contributed to my work with longstanding empathy, [Page xxi]at times deliberate pity due to the prolong, era-taking attitude of mine (in response, my shy answer was always Walter Benjamin: “under the shadow of Saturn, I'm slow.”)
Dr Debarshi Sen—a perfect academic administrator at IIAS first and then at CSSSC, Kolkata—sets a standard too high for any bureaucrat, but is an absolute well-wisher. Only Sandip Chatterjee, the ex-registrar of TISS and JNU, gloriously matches the level set by Prabir Basu and Debarshi Sen and is with force an honorable exception.
Dr Palash Mandai, Professor Arya Ghosh, Arunangsu Guhathakurta, Mohid Hyder, Sanjib Ganguly, and Ranjan Banerjee bear the remnants of the Deoghar and the Santiniketan gang. Professor Rajsekhar Basu, Professor Sanjeeb Mukherjee, Professor Someswar Bhowmik, Dr Abhijit Roy, and Shri Bibhas Bagchi are all stars of the Kolkata academia. Subodh Sarkar, Roro Sarkar are superstars. I owe each of them a mental nail. Professor Manas Roy, Professor Dipankar Gupta, Professor Mahendra Pal Singh, Professor Surinder Singh Jodhka, Professor Abha Chauhan, Professor Aditya Nigam, and Professor Rajeev Bhargava, with their distant presence, do not always know that they epistemically excite me and I have an inheritance of gain. The same goes for Soumyabrata Choudhury and Prasenjit Biswas—two continental stars, besides our own Aniruddha Choudhury and Rahul Govind—in the Indian and international philosophical space.
Also, the late Niranjan Chatterjee, Atonu Chatterjee (who introduced me to the Subaltern Studies when I was in higher secondary), Manisha Chatterjee, Paramita Chatterjee, Tathagata (Nanda) Ray, Sushmita (Minti) Chatterjee, Sujit and Srirup Kanjilal—as my immediate and extended family—suspect that even in social intercourse, I'm engaged in “fake encounters,” but the kinship—they know—is too real, even if materially absent at times.
My wife, Anuradha Chatterjee, came from nearly nowhere in 2016 and has defamiliarized my life to the extent it is not recognizably the same anymore. Having worked on Emerson and Thoreau and American neo-transcendentalism, she is equally eloquent about poets who were auto-destructive and often killed themselves. That is a (mis)match with her conservatist orthodoxy and hides the immense duties she caps and carries on her lean shoulders.
Finally, the book is dedicated to my mother Dipali Chatterjee (among other fellow tragedians) who even months before her death on October 30, 2006 was scared about my tryst with obscure and sometimes scandalous thinkers and writers and urged me to come to terms with acceptable academia in Kolkata and India. She wished me to put to rest my habit of [Page xxii]“polemicizing,” which has earned me a team of fierce and active “well-wishers.” Her unforgettable concern will always remain higher than my unforgivable stubbornness. Higher all the more because she, apart from Guddie, would have been the happiest to know that my work has had such a large and informed audience that goes with the prestige and stardom of SAGE.
And I must confess now, “particularly” before you “actually” read the book, that my fiancé and companion Chotu-Chotu Singh—whom some erroneously call a parakeet—dug her heels and nails in every letter and ate some of them too. It is Chotu who screamed in her shrill voice once, “You can read nothing except through appetite” and thereby obliged me to be in a frozen standstill. And I'm still standing there, here and nowhere, only to later find Chotu sitting on my shoulder, wings bare.
Grateful thanks to all!
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