Committee on Global Thought
- Professor of Anthropology
- Professor of Political Science
Centre for Studies in Social Sciences
Partha Chatterjee is a Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University and a Professor of Political Science at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences in Calcutta, India. A major focus of Partha Chatterjee’s work is nationalism, but in order to follow his thoughts on this topic, one must simultaneously think also of colonialism, post-colonialism, modernity, and the idea of the nation-state, and also summon up, simultaneously with that cluster of concepts, a not-nationalist and counter-colonial viewpoint about what these terms actually represent (or could actually represent), with special reference to India. One of Chatterjee’s basic arguments is that the concept of nation-state is one formed in Western social scientific thought, and thus it may not even work for all states as the given it is often taken to be. The practical problem (according to Chatterjee) is that post-colonial administrators adopted the paradigm of nation-state and thus blinded themselves to new possibilities of thinking outside Western categories. These new possibilities are what Chatterjee is striving for. Chatterjee also studies issues of national borders, sovereignty, citizenship, welfare and democracy. Chatterjee was a founding member of the subaltern studies group of historians. The subaltern studies collective began as a group of historians of India who felt, in the early 1980s, that Indian history was limited because it adopted a nationalist perspective. While this perspective claimed to be comprehensive, the collective argued that it took the perspective of an elite, the nationalist bourgeoisie. The perspectives and voices of those outside the centres of power - peasants, workers, tribal peoples and women - were neglected. The subaltern studies collective attempted to listen to these subaltern voices and utilize the radically different ways of seeing history they represented.
For more information about Partha Chatterjee, please visit http://www.columbia.edu/cu/anthropology/fac-bios/chatterjee/faculty.html