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Naregal, Veena (1998) English in the colonial university and the politics of language : The emergence of a public sphere in western India (1830-1880). PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The introduction of English as 'high' language and the designs to reshape the 'native vernaculars' under its influence through colonial educational policy altered the universe of communicative and cultural practices on the subcontinent. Colonial bilingualism also introduced hierachical and ideological divisions between the newly-educated and 'illiterate', 'English-knowing' and 'vernacular-speaking' sections of native society. On the basis of an analysis of the possibilities for a laicised literate order opened up through the severely elitist project of colonial education, the thesis proposes an argument about the structural links between these crucial cultural shifts and the strategies adopted by the colonial intelligentsia in western India to achieve a hegemonic position. The main argument of my thesis is set against a discussion of the relations between linguistic hierarchies, textual practices and power in precolonial western India. My thesis is a study of the bilingual relation between English and Marathi and it traces the hierarchical relation between the English and vernacular spheres in the Bombay-Pune region between 1830-1880. The initiatives to establish the first native Marathi newspaper, the Bombay Durpan. a bilingual weekly, in 1832 signified the beginning of the intelligentsia's efforts to disseminate the new discourses among wider audiences and to establish a sphere of critical exchange through the vernacular. Later attempts, from the 1860s onwards, to aestheticise vernacular discourse by creating 'high' 'modern' literary forms were undoubtedly important in enhancing the intelligentsia's hegemonic claims, but they also corresponded with crucial shifts in their self-perception and their ideological orientation. The emergence of Kesari and the Maratha in early 1881 indicated that the bilingual relation that structured the colonial-modern public sphere had, by this time, yielded two separate, largely monolingual literate communities within native society. Concomitantly, by the early 1880s, the upper-caste intelligentsia had renounced even the minimal scope that had existed for them to act as agents for a more egalitarian cultural and social order. In analysing the conditions under which the colonial intelligentsia in western India were able to achieve a position of ideological influence, the thesis also aims to raise questions about the displacement of the meanings and spaces for hegemonic articulation within colonial modernity.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:04

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