“Debashish Banerji's study of Abanindranath is a significant addition to existing scholarship. Departing from the received tradition of looking at Abanindranath as an artist shackled by his commitments to nationalism he recognizes the complexity cross-cultural encounters bring to the colonial world and locates Abanindranath squarely within this new space of intersubjectivity, dialogue, and mutual transformation. Deftly combining theoretical insights with a wealth of historical and familial facts he demonstrates how Abanindranath through his simultaneous engagements with the pre-modern communitarian and the colonial modern brings in not only an alternate modernism but also intuits the postmodern itself.”
—R Siva Kumar
The Alternate Nation of Abanindranath Tagore provides a revisionary critique of the art of Abanindranath Tagore, the founder of the national school of Indian painting, popularly known as the Bengal School of Art. The book categorically argues that the art of Abanindranath, which developed during the Bengal Renaissance in the 19th-20th centuries, was not merely a normalization of national or oriental principle, but was a hermeneutic negotiation between modernity and community. It establishes that his form of art—embedded in communitarian practices like kirtan, alpona, pet-naming, syncretism, and storytelling through oral allegories—sought a social identity within the inter-subjective context of locality, regionality, nationality, and trans-nationality.
The author presents Abanindranath as a creative agent who, through his art, conducted a critical engagement with post-Enlightenment modernity and regional subalternity. He sought the transcendence or individual autonomy on one hand and communitarian inter-subjectivity on the other, which became the underlying principles of the postcolonial legacy of his art. The author theorizes this modernity and communitarian inter-subjectivity as the alternate nationalism which theoretically offers a reversal of the mainstream evaluation of Abanindranath's art.
This book is well-illustrated with many of Abanindranath's creations. It will be an invaluable reference material for students, researchers, and academics from various subject areas such as arts and humanities, sociology, and cultural studies. It will be precious for artists, art collectors, connoisseurs, museums, and art galleries.
Chapter 3: Regional Subalternity
THE 18th/19th-century discourse of cultural nationalism which has been called the Bengal Renaissance, resulted in the constitution of an internal regional domain by the bourgeois/bhadralok elite of Calcutta, which could, by its separation, engage critically with colonial culture, translate, assimilate, resist and assert its autonomy from this vantage. Partha Chatterjee sees it also as an elite strategy to create a domain of distinction from the subaltern, an elite cultural identity positioning itself to wrest national power from the British and maintain it against the subaltern.1 While there is some truth to this taxonomy of cultural classes and their politics, it ignores the liminal spaces of intersubjectivity between such cultural classes, hybrid zones of ongoing creative struggles, negotiations and transformations which reformulate modernity ...