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On Theories of Nationalism for India and China 


 Prasenjit Duara



Whereas most nationalists believe that there is a continuous history of the nation from ancient times to the present, identifiable as the history of a self-same people, scholars of nationalism, particularly in the last fifteen or so years, have debunked all such notions of a continuous path as mythical. I am basically in agreement with the scholarly critique of nationalist myths, but the scholarly critique can be equally unhelpful when it denies any historical connection between the modern nation and the historical society from wence it emerges. In this article I want to suggest that these are both complex societies with distinct historical connections to the past, but these connections are not simple and continuous and nor are they singular. Modern Indians and Chinese are heirs to multiple narratives of political community which they have drawn upon and transformed.

Since at least Ellie Kedourie there has developed a tradition in the scholarship of nationalism which rightly debunks nationalist histories for their mythologies and suppressions of uncomfortable events. Alerting us to the self-consciousness of this exercise, Benedict Anderson has recently pointed out the unproblematic way in which Ernest Renan could write about being "obliged to having already forgotten" wars between different polities: and how these wars subsequently came to be written as "fratricides" among fellow Frenchmen (Anderson 1991, 200). While I am sympathetic with the critique of teleology in this literature, I am suspicious of the proposition which often accompanies it: that nationalism is a radically novel mode of consciousness. Suspicious (a) because this position ignores the complexity of the nature of historical memory and causality and (b) because it remains tied to the idea of self-consciousness as a uniquely modern phenomenon. In neither modern nor pre-modern society is it possible to sustain the notion of a unified consciousness presumed by the concept of nationalism.

Two of the most influential recent works on nationalism, by Ernest Gellner (1983) and Benedict Anderson (1983, revised 1991), emphasize the radically novel and modern nature of nationalist consciousness. Both are extremely fine studies and while I agree with many of their insights regarding the reproduction of nationalist ideology, I would like to challenge their interpretation of the nature and history of nationalist consciousness. Both analysts identify national consciousness conventionally as the co-extensiveness of politics and culture: an over-riding identification of the individual with a culture that is protected by the state. Both also provide a sociological account of how it was only in the modem era that such a type of consciousness-where people from diverse locales could "imagine" themselves as part of a single community-was made possible.

Gellner presents the following account of this discontinuity. Pre-industrial society is formed of segmentary communities, each isolated from the other, with an inaccessible high culture jealously guarded by a Gellner's general term for literate ruling elites. With the growth of industrialism, Society requires a skilled literate and mobile work force. The segmentary form of communities is no longer adequate to create a homogenously educated work force in which the individual members are interchangeable. The state comes to be in charge of the nation, and through control of education creates the requisite interchangeability of individuals, The primary identification with segmentary communities is thus transferred to the nation state as the producer of culture (1983). Thus a new type of consciousness, born of an homogenous culture and tied to the state, emerges in a industrial society.

In Anderson's view, nationalist consciousness was made possible with the breakdown of three defining characteristics of pre-modern society: sacred scripts, divine kingship and the conflation of history with cosmology. Together these had made for an unself-conscious coherence in society which broke down with the spread of print media through the engine of the Capitalist market. Print capitalism permitted an unprecedented mode of apprehending time that was "empty" and "homogenous"- expressed in an ability to imagine the simultaneous existence of one's co-nationals. Travel and the territorialization of the faith relativized this community defining it as limited and the decline of monarchy transferred sovereignty to the community To be sure, many of the characteristics of nationalism evolve historically through a succession of modular types of nationalist movements - one of Anderson's most interesting concepts. But he believes, nonetheless, that nationalisms have a defining systemic unity embodied in the unique type of self-consciousness of the people imagining themselves as one (1983, rev. 1991).

Consider first the argument empirically. The long history of complex civilizations such as that of China does not fit the picture of isolated communities and a vertically separate but unified clerisy. We now have considerable research about complex networks of trade, pilgrimage, migration and sojourning that linked villages to wider communities and political structures. We have also had a sense of how, through central place theory, these linkages worked to transmit resources and information though the society, as well as a differentiated picture of what areas, and when these areas, were more or less integrated with the central places of the empire (Skinner 1964, 1977). This was the case as well in Tokugawa Japan and 18th century India (Bayly 1983, Habib 1963). Moreover, even if the reach of the bureaucratic state was limited, notions of the culture-state indicate the widespread presence of common cultural ideas which linked the state to communities and sustained the polity.

It was not only, or perhaps even primarily, the print media that enabled Han Chinese to develop a sharp sense of the Other, and hence of themselves as a community, when they confronted other communities. The exclusive emphasis on print capitalism as enabling the imagining of a common destiny and the concept of simultaneity ignores the complex relationship between the written and spoken word. In agrarian civilizations this interrelationship furnishes an extremely rich and subtle context for communication across the culture. For instance, in pan-Chinese myths, such as that of gods Mazu and Guandi, not only were oral and written traditions thoroughly intertwined, but the myth provided a medium whereby different groups could announce their participation in a national culture even as they inscribed their own interpretation of the myth (through the written and other cultural media, such as folk drama and iconography) (Watson 1985, Duara 1988). As such, these groups were articulating their understanding of the wider cultural and political order from their own particular perspective. There were large numbers of people in agrarian societies who were conscious of their culture and identity at multiple levels, and in that sense were perhaps not nearly so different from their modem counterparts.

The point is not so much that national identity existed in pre-modern times; rather it is that the manner in which we have conceptualized political "identities" is fundamentally problematic. In privileging modern society as the only social form capable of generating political self-awareness, Gellner and Anderson regard national identity as a distinctly modern mode of consciousness: the nation as a whole imagining itself to be the cohesive subject of history. The empirical record does not furnish the basis for such a strong statement about the polarity between the modern and the pre-modern. Individuals and groups in both modern and agrarian societies identify simultaneously with several communities that are all imagined; these identifications are historically changeable, and often conflicted internally and with each other. As we shall see, whether in India or China, people historically identified with different representations of communities, and when these identifications became politicized they came to resemble what is called modern "national identities".

Behind this modern versus pre-modern polarity lies the assumption of modern consciousness as a unified episteme marked by an epistemological break with past forms of consciousness. As modern subjectivity, the nation is ipso facto denied any credible links with the past. At the heart of this break is a deep confusion between the novelty and indeed revolutionary character of institutional arrangements in the modern world, and the radical novelty of consciousness, specifically of a cohesive and self-aware collective subject. Indeed, the self-consciousness of modern subjectivity in the writings of these analysts bears an unexpected resemblance to Hegelian epistemology. For Hegel the unfolding of Spirit (reason) through History culminates as man "stands in a conscious relation to his Spirit" (Hegel 1956, 103) and that nation-state, unlike other communities, possesses a self-consciousness because it involves the production of History in its very progress. But having attained Self-consciousness it also stands at the end of History. Quite apart from the validity of such a characterization of "modem consciousness", we may also remind ourselves of the destructive side of this epistemology which justified domination of "unself conscious" societies and polities as the Other of the modern, rational self.

These modern analysts assume the cohesive collective subject of History as (b)possible and (b)possible only in me modern era. My alternative obliges me to reject both positions. In the strong sense, a cohesive self-conscious subject is an abstraction: as we have seen in the introduction, the meaning of the nation for the pluralities which inhabit and may identify with it-whether it be a denizen of New Delhi or an Assamese fisherman-are as different as they are themselves from each other. in a restricted and temporary sense, however, the nation may exist as a unified subjectivity: a provisional relationship, a historical configuration in which the national "self' is defined in relation to tine Other. Depending on the nature and scale of the oppositional term, the national self contains various smaller "others"- historical others that have effected an often uneasy reconciliation among themselves and potential others that are beginning to form this differences. Thus we must reject (b) in both the strong and the restricted senses and (a) in the strong, though not in the weaker, relational sense. But if we can salvage a unified subjectivity only in this weak sense, this subjectivity is by no means uniquely a product of modern society.

I will argue that there were totalizing representations and narratives of community with which people identified historically and with which they may continue to identify into the modern nation. Of course, pre-modern political identifications do not necessarily or telcologically develop into the national identifications of modem times and there are significant ruptures with the past. A new vocabulary and a new political system-the world system of nation-states - selects, adapts, re-organizes and even re-creates these older representations. But the historical memory of archaic totalizations does not always disappear and as this memory is periodically re-enacted, it often provides potent material along which to mobilize the new community. The real significance of the historical question lies in understanding that the relationship between the past and present is not a simple causal one, but a complex set of transactions in which the past remains materially and politically relevant in the present.


Historical Models of political Community

In India and China, representations of community as a social totality are not new. Historical conceptions of political community have lived off a process of radical "Othering" and were periodically re-enacted, thus keeping them alive in historical memory. Of course, at different times, different social forces have seized this memory and turned it to their own needs, but the very process of its pursuit has enhanced the power of this historical memory. At the same time, it was an awareness of social totality that co-existed historically with other representations, including competing visions of community.

Let us first consider the case of imperial China. Before the advent of the modern nation-state there were several models of political community in China. One of these has been called "culturalism" and has been counter-posed to modern nationalism. Joseph Levenson was the most articulate advocate of the idea of cultualism which he saw as a mode of consciousness distinct from nationalism. Levenson observed a radical discontinuity between a nationalistic identity which he believed came to Chinese intellectuals around the turn of the 20th century, and earlier forms of Chinese. The high culture, ideology and identification of the literati, he believed, were principally forms cultural consciousness, an identification with the moral goals and values of a universalizing civilization. Thus the significant transition here is from a "culturalism" to a nationalism to the awareness of the nation-state as the ultimate goal of the community (Levenson 1965). Culturalism referred to a natural conviction of cultural superiority that sought no legitimation or defence outside of the culture itself. Only when, according to Levenson, cultural values sought legitimation in the face of the challenge posed by the Other in the late 19th century, do we begin to see "decaying culturalism" and its rapid transformation to nationalism - or to a culture protected by the state (politicization of culture).

Levenson's notion of culturalism has enabled us to identify a particular conception or representation of political community that may have emanated from the literati (although, identification with this representation was not necessarily restricted to the literati). Where he is mistaken, I believe, is in distinguishing culturalism as a radically different mode of identification from ethnic or national identification. In order for it to exist as a pure expression of cultural superiority, culturalism would have to feel no threat from an Other seeking to obliterate these values. In fact this threat arose historically on several occasions and produced several reactions from the Chinese literati and populace. First, there was a rejection of the universalist pretensions of Chinese culture and of the principle that separated culture from politics and the state. This manifested itself in a form of ethnocentrism that we will consider in a moment. A second, more subtle, response involved the transformation of cultural universalism from a set of substantive moral claims into a relatively abstract official doctrine. This doctrine was often used to conceal the compromises that the elite and imperial state had to make in their ability to practise these values or to conceal their inability to make people who should have been participating in the cultural-moral, order actually do so. The universalistic claims of Chinese imperial culture constantly bumped up against and adapted to, alternative views of the world order which it tended to cover with the rhetoric of universalism: this was its defensive strategy.

Consider this second reaction first. The Jin and Mongol invasions of north China during the 12th century and their scant respect for Chinese culture produced an ideological defensiveness in the face of the relativization of the conception of the universal empire (tianxia). In the 12th, and 13th centuries Confucian universalists could only maintain their universalism by performing two sleights of hand: connecting individuals to the infinite - rather than to a regime espousing universal values, thus severing theory from fact; and internalizing the determination of personal values - rather than making it contingent upon the traditional Confucian concern with an objective moral order (Trauzettel 1975). During' the Ming ragine, a Han dynasty that succeeded the Mongols, Chinese historians dealt with the lack of fit between much of the known world and the Chinese world view simply by maintaining a silence. (Wang 1968, 45-46). When we look at the tribute trade system which is often cited as the paradigmatic expression of its universalistic claims to moral superiority, the imperial state adapted readily to the practical power politics of the day. For instance, in the early 19th century", the tiny northwestern khanate of Kokand successfully challenged the Qing tribute system (like the Jesuits, the Russians and several others before) and had established all but the formal declaration of equality with the Chinese empire. The Qing was forced into a negotiated settlement but it continued to use the language of universalism - civilizing values radiating from the son of heaven-to conceal the altered power relations between the two (Fletcher 1978b).

It seems evident that when the universalistic claims of this culture were repeatedly compromised and efforts were made to conceal these compromises, advocates of this universalism were operating within the tacit idea of a Chinese universalism - which is of course none other than a hidden form of relativism. We have tended to accept Chinese declarations of universalism at face value far more readily than we do other official doctrines. Is it perhaps because it plays a crucial role as the Other in interpretations of the encounter with the nation-states of the west?

Viewing "culturalism" (or universalism) as a "Chinese culturalism" is to see it not as a form of cultural consciousness par se, but rather to see culture - a specific culture of the imperial state and Confucian orthodoxy - as a criterion defining a community. Membership in this community was defined by participation in a ritual order which embodied allegiance to Chinese ideas and ethics centred around the Chinese emperor. While this representation of political community may seem rather distant from nationalism, one should consider the fact that the territorial boundaries and peoples of the contemporary Chinese nation correspond roughly to the Qing empire that was held together ideologically precisely by these ritual practices.

Just as significantly, during the Jin invasion of the 12th century, segments of the scholar class completely abandoned the concentric, radiant concept of universal empire for a circumscribed notion of the Han community and fatherland guo in which the barbarians had no place. This ethnocentric notion of Chineseness was, of course, not new. Chinese authors typically trace it to a quotation from the ancient classic, the

Zuozhuan: "the hearts of those who are not of our race must be different" (Li Guoqi 1970, 20; Dow 1982, 353). Others (Langlois 1980, 362) find it still earlier in the concentric realm of inner and outer barbarians found in the; Shang Shu: pacific cultural activities were to prevail in the inner part whose inhabitants were not characterized as ethnically different, with militancy towards the outer barbarians who appeared to be unassimilable. Trautzell believes that in the Song, this ethnocentrism brought together state and "the people". The state sought to cultivate the notion of loyalty to the fatherland downward into peasant communities from among whom arose resistance against the Jin in the name of Han Chinese culture and the Song dynasty (1975).

While we see the representation of the ethnic nation most clearly in the Song, it re-appeared after the Manchu conquest in 1644. Its most explicit advocate in the late imperial period was Wang Fuzhi. Wang likened the differences between Manchus and Han to that between jade and snow, which are both white but different in nature, or more ominously, between a horse and a man of the same colour whose natures are obviously different (Li Guoqi 1970, 22). To be sure, it was the possession of civilization (wen) by the Han that distinguished them from the barbarians, but it did not stop him from the view that "it is not inhumane to annihilate (the barbarians) ...because faithfulness and righteousness are the ways of human intercourse and are not to be extended to alien kinds (i-lei (yilet) (in Langlois 1980, 364). Although Wang may have espoused the most extreme view of his generation, several prominent scholars of the Ming-Qing transition era held on to the idea of the fundamental unassimilability of the yi (barbarian) by the Hua (Chinese) (see Onogawa 1970, and Wu Weito 1970).

Despite the undoubted success with which the Qing made themselves acceptable as the legitimate sons of heaven, they were unable to completely suppress the ethnocentric opposition to their rule either at a popular level or among the scholarly elite. The anti-Manchu writings of Wang Fuzhi, Huang Zongxi and Gu Yanwu during the early period of Qing rule, together with collections of stories of Manchu atrocities during the time (Mingji Yeshi: Unofficial history of the late Ming) staged a re-appearance around the middle of the 19th century (Wu Weito 1970, 263). Zhang Taiyan, for instance, claims to having been nourished by a tradition both in his family and in wider Zhejiang society which held that the defense of the Han against the barbarians (V : Xia) was as important as the righteousness of a ruler (Onogawa 1970, 216). Certainly Han exclusivism seems to have reached a height by the late 18th century when the dominant Han majority confronted the non-Han minorities of China in greater numbers than ever before over competition for increasingly scarce resources (Naquin and Rawski 1987). Thus it is hardly surprising to find that, from at least the time of resistance to the increased foreign presence in south China after the Opium Wars through to the Boxer rebellion of 1898-1900, there existed a general expectation, not only among the elite, but also among the populace, that the state would protect the culture and the people of the empire (Wakeman 1966, Esherick 1987). Although not all segments of the population were affected by it, this representation of political community was sufficiently rooted to make it a powerful mobilizing force in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Thus we are able to discern at least two representations of political community in imperial Chinese society: the exclusive Han-based one founded on an ascriptive principle, and the other, based on the cultural values and doctrines of a Chinese elite. What has been described as culturalism was a statement of Chinese values as superior but, significantly, not exclusive. Through a process of education and imitation, barbarians could also become part of a community sharing common values and distinguishing themselves from yet other barbarians who did not share these values. Thus the cultural conception resembled the ethnic conception in that both periodically defined the distinguishing marks and boundaries of a politicized community; only the criterion of admissibility into the community differed.

In history, the two representations were both separate and related. As we have seen, at any point in time, the efforts to realize the one or the other could have very different effects - indeed, life and death effects - regarding who was to be considered inside and who outside the community. But as John Fincher has pointed out, "culturalism" and "racism" were also intertwined in such a way that the "historian's vocabulary has no very satisfactory definition of the strong sense of political community in 'traditional' China." (Fincher 1972, 69). Fincher looks at the writings of the anti-Mongol thinker, Fang Xiaoru (1357-1402) who in the face of general literati support of the Mongol dynasty, made a clear racialist distinction between the Mongols whom he likened to animals and Han Chinese. Yet, if the border between Chinese and barbarians was impermeable and based on biological fact, Fang was still only "half a racist" (Fincher 1972, 59), because he also believed that Chinese who enabled barbarians to rule could themselves become barbarians. He thus invoked the culturalist principle, although in reverse: that birth among the Han did not ensure inclusion in the community. We will encounter several such examples of separateness and inter-penetration and we may invoke the concept of the "Supplement" to grasp the relationship between "culture" and "race" here. The supplement embeds the paradox of being separate from, yet necessary to the completion of a phenomenon. It thus complicates the binary opposition between "race" and "culture" which some of the historiography we have discussed above has found useful in its expianation of modern nationalism.

For Hegel, the ancient cultures of China and India each represented a lack in relation to the full development of Spirit which complemented the other. Spirit had made its progress through these cultures but found them wanting in tie unity of the freedom of individual and state, of Unity and Difference, which made for true self-consciousness. China possessed objective rationality in the State but the state and its laws belonged to the One individual (the Emperor). These laws ruled the individuals as of from outside and the individuals were like children obeying their parents without will or insight. In India, the contemplation of inner subjectivity led to the Negation of Reality - the Hindoo nature is Spirit in a state of Dream' (Hegel 1956, 140) and thus awareness of Stare as the embodiment of Rationality was denied. Thus, "if China may be regarded as nothing but a State, Hindoo political existence presents us with a people, but no State" (Hegel 1956, 161). This complementarity of lack, as it were, plays the role of something like an archetype in the comparative historical sociology of India and China.

The notion of a lack of a state in India, or conversely, the overpowering role of society (read caste) is so deeply ingrained in both lndology and general understandings of India, that we tend to be especially suspicious about characterizations of totalizing political communities in pre-colonial India. Let us consider the cosmic ideology of Brahmanism because, in many ways, Brahmanic universalism (an obviously more specific and serviceable term than Hinduism) is interpreted similarly to Chinese culturalism. Ainslee Embree has summed up its core features: it includes the concept of tie cosmic order and the role of the Brahmin in maintaining and interpreting this order; the concept of multi-levelled truth, of a hierarchical but rational order of society, of karma, of re-incarnation, and of the concept of dharma (religious or moral duty) (Embree 1985, 23-24). As in Confucianism, Brahmanic universalism is not dependent upon the wielding of state power, but rather exercises its control from outside and upon the state.

To be sure, a scholar like Embree believes that in some ways Brahmanism did provide a historical basis of a unifying ideology. Brahmanic texts became the source of political and social legitimacy for Hindu rulers since the 1st century B.C. Moreover, these texts showed some familiarity with the natural boundaries of the sub-continent and an awareness of Aryavarta (land of the Hindus/Aryans) as a cultural region and a common heritage of language and value with others of their class throughout the sub-continent (Embree 1985, 27). But he believes that it is precisely this Brahmanism which prevented actual states from achieving a conflation of polity and community within the state because its universalism constantly directed the attention of Hindu rulers away from this goal and towards a de-territorialized, cosmic order (Embree 1985, 32). Thus the sum of Embree's argument appears to be that while Brahmanism provided the framework for a cultural community, it did not and could not produce that conflation of culture and polity so necessary to the emergence of nations.

More recent work, however, indicates that such a judgement of culturalist determinism may be premature. Just as cultural universalism was relativized (even while retaining its doctrine officially) as a result of the great Central Asian invasions in China, Brahmanic India was also so affected by the Central Asian invasions from the 11th to the 14th centuries. In a nuanced and detailed analysis of the Ramayana epic before and during this period, Shelaon Pollock, finds that this epic became the principal means of creating a representation of the politicized community in medieval Hindu India. Such was not the case with the other famous Indian epic, the Mahabharata, in which the problem of political power "man is slave to power, but power is slave to no man" - cannot be strictly said to be resolved because the fratricidal struggle is accompanied by a profound moral ambiguity. As Pollock puts it, not only is the antagonist not "othered" in the Mahabharata, but rather, they can never forget that they are indeed "brothered"(Pollock 1993, 281-3).

In contrast, the Ramayana responds to the problem of political power by a straightforward divinization of the king, Flama. According to Poilock the divine king is the only being on earth capable of combatting evil and evil itself is clearly othered", or more exactly, demonized. The period from the 11th to 14th centuries witnessed the Turkic invasions of India and Muslim political control came to be more or less established by the end of the period. This was also precisely the time when the divine political order of the Ramayana became historically grounded as numerous dynastic histories began to read the political world through the Ramayana narrative (Pollock 1993, 273-277). Although Pollock furnishes many examples, particularly clear is the explicit identification of the historical ruler, Prithviraja II (12th century), with the divine Rama and the explicit demonization of the enemy, the Turkic forces from Central Asia. The Ramayana enabled a totaiizing conception of society built upon a radical distinction between self versus Other.

Thus, once again we discover that relativization finds its way into a cosmic ideology and creates a representation of political community - in this case, a Hindu political community - where culture and polity are conflated. Pollock also emphasizes that the Ramayana was repeatedly instrumentalized by Hindu elites of the medieval period to provide a "theology of politics and a symbology of otherness" (Pollock 1993. 286). To be sure, we are not referring to a real identification with this community among all who considered themselves Hindu, nor was it territorially coextensive with all of India. Rather, we are speaking of a representation of political community with which it was possible to identify and around which to mobilize. Migration, sojourning, and pilgrimage which often followed trading networks and which probably intensified during the medieval period, brought these ideas and rituals to a large community of believers Pilgrimage is perhaps the privileged means by which a religious community is both ritually and spatially delimited. In India, pilgrimage centres marked an inter-linked, sub-continent-wide territory not simply as a sacred space, but in the face of a demonized Other living in this territory, as the sacred space of Hindus.

While no Hindu power was able to successfully construct the politicized religious community across the sub-continent, we should not ignore the fact that it existed as a representation and several rulers, from Prithviraj II in the 12th century to the Marathas or Jai Singh of Jaipur in 18th century, did try to actualize it. At the same time, the drive towards the Brahmanical goal of a Hindu community. Bharatvarsha or Aryavarta, was countered by the urge to create the regional political community. The literature on regional states is most abundant for the 18th century successor states to the Mughal empire such as the Sikh and Maratha kingdoms. At one level, these 18th century polities were a product of state-building processes developing around emergent capital markets, professional service classes, modern European military technology and standing armies (Bayly 1983).

At another level, they were built around medieval devotional cults (Bhakti) which had integrated the regions linguistically. The syncretic impulses of these cults which created a popular literature of regional identification co-exited in some tension with the pan-Hindu model of political community we have outlined above. In the 18th century Maratha state, for instance, N. K. Wagle (1989) reveals how Maharashtrian Hindu chroniclers, Muslim saints and local judges sought ways to create a syncretic, regional tradition of adaptation and compromise even while the distinction between Hindus and Muslims was all too clear.

Finally, there existed a concept of political community which the Rudolphs have called the sub-continental empire. This appears to have been a regulative ideal among those who sought to rule South Asia as an empire. According to the Rudolphs, the sub-continental empire was a polity of ancient origins which recognized "ordered heterogeneity" - a polity which legitimated distinct cultural and functional communities, but who "lived as races apart" in their relations with each other (Rudolphs 1985, 43). In this conception, state power was limited by society's autonomous claims to self-regulation Although this ideal was sanctioned by classical Brahmanical texts it informed the ideals of the Moghuls and the British as well. The nature of this political conception is such that it is difficult to imagine it asp the object of identification among ordinary people or collectivities. Nonetheless, to the extent that this tradition was articulated and kept alive in historical memory, it was perhaps an important influence upon the modern Indian nationalistic rhetoric of "unity in diversity".

To characterize pre-modern India and China simply as universal empires whose elites (mandarin or Brahmin) were concerned with cosmic values while the peasants lived with their noses to the soil misses the complex and dynamic nature of these societies. Individuals, strata or groups identified not only with one or more of the different representations of communities we have outlined above, but with others as well: provincial, linguistic and sectarian for example. We have also observed the unstable, intersecting and supplementary character of these representations and correspondingly, the identifications of people with them. Even while such a self-aware historical community may later disappear socially, the trace of it often lives on in historical memory and can return to haunt the present.


The Analytics of Community Closure

How do historical groups try to transform a society with multiple representations of political community into a single social totality? This process involves the hardening of social and cultural boundaries around a particular configuration of self in relation to an Other. Its analysis is important for my larger argument about history because this process of closure is relevant to both historical and modern communities; moreover, it reveals the role of existing historical and cultural resources in the transformation.

Sociologically, we may think of communities not as well-bounded entities but as possessing various different and mobile boundaries that demarcate different dimensions of life. These boundaries may be either soft or hard. One or more of the cultural practices of a group, such as rituals, language, dialect, music, kinship rules or culinary habits, may be considered soft boundaries if they identify a group but do not prevent the group from sharing and even adopting, self-consciously or not, the practices of another. Groups with soft boundaries between each other are sometimes so unselfconscious about their differences that they do not view mutual boundary breach as a threat and could eventually even amalgamate into one community. Thus, differences in dietary and religious practices may not prevent the sharing of a range of practices between local Hui muslim and Han communities. The important point is that they tolerate the sharing of some and the non-sharing of other boundaries.

An incipient nationality is formed when the perception of the boundaries of community are transformed: when soft boundaries are transformed into hard ones. This happens when a group succeeds in imposing a historical narrative of descent and/or dissent upon both heterogeneous and related cultural practices. I will permit myself a deconstructive excess and coin the word, discent to suggest the porosity of these two signifiers. It reveals how the tracing of a history is frequently linked to differentiating the self from an Other. The narrative of &cent serves as a template by which the cultural cloth will be cut and given shape and meaning. When this narrative is imposed upon cultural materials, the relevant community is formed not primarily by the creation of new cultural forms - or even the invention of tradition - but by transforming the perception of the boundaries of the community. The narrative of discent is used to define and mobilize a community often by privileging a particular cultural practice (or a set of such practices) as the constitutive principle of the community - such as language, religion of common historical experience - thereby heightening the self-consciousness of this community in relation to those around it. Not only do communities with rigidified boundaries privilege their differences, they tend to develop an intolerance and suspicions toward the adoption of the other's practices and strive to distinguish, in some way or the other, practices that they share. In this sense, communities with hard boundaries will the differences between them.

Because the narrative succeeds in privileging certain cultural meanings as the constitutive principle of a community, it shapes the composition of the community: who belongs and who does not, who is privileged and who is not. Thus if common history (or Confucian ritual)~ is privileged over language and race, language and race always lie as potential counter-narratives: mobilizers of an alternative nation that will distribute its marginals differently. Thus within the hard community there will always be other soft boundaries which may potentially transform into hard boundaries, or new soft boundaries may emerge and transform into hard ones. A bifurcated history (see below) will be particularly attentive to these emergent narratives which are often effaced or appropriated by the dominant narrative.

This mode of analysis challenges the notion of a stable community that gradually develops a national self-awareness like the evolution of a species (History). Rather it asserts a deliberate mobilization within a network of cultural representations towards a particular object of identification. In the following essays, we will examine the role of various social actors - often different groups of intellectuals and politicians - who develop and deploy narratives to re-define the boundaries and identities of a collectivity with multiple identifications. But even when this closure is successful, it will unravel in time; the privileged practices that organize this identification will also change.

Consider the example of Manchu identity. The Qing dynasty (1644-1911) originated from a Manchu ethnic community which maintained an ambivalent attitude towards the dominant Han culture that it ruled. In the early stages of its rule it actively sought to maintain Manchu distinctiveness through a variety of means, including a ban on inter-marriage and Han migration to Manchuria, and the fostering of different customs. In time, however, not only was the ban on migration and inter-marriage ignored, but Manchu embrace of Chinese political institutions caused it to blur the distinctions between it and the communities it ruled. More importantly, and unlike the Mongols, the Manchus recognized early the roots of politics in culture and rapidly became the patrons not only of elite culture, but also of popular Han gods like Guandi and Mazu. Thus by the 18th century, in terms of their social and cultural relations, the Manchu Communities resident in the hundreds of garrisons outside of their homeland in the northeast were losing their literacy in Manchu as well as contact with their folk traditions and melding into the general Han populace (Crossley 1990, 3,30; Kuhn 1990, 68-70).

At the same time, however, powerful counter-tendencies worked to shore up - or reconstruct - a Manchu identity. Most noteworthy was the effort of the Qianlong emperor (1736-1795) to introduce a classic narrative of discent of the Manchus - the "Researches of Manchu Origins" discussed by Crossley (1987). "Researches" traced the descent of the Manchu clans to the first attestable peoples of the northeast thereby demonstrating a "racial" distinctiveness which Crossley defines as "immutable identity based on ancestral descent" (1987, 762). Moreover, it celebrated the Manchus as inheritors of the imperial, tradition of the region which was independent of (dissented from) the Han Chinese imperial tradition and most closely associated with the Jin empire of the 12th century. To be sure, this narrative of discent played a part within a wider representation of power necessitated by the imperatives of ruling an empire which ~ encompassed both Han Chinese and Central Asian politics (Crossley 1987; Kuhn 1990, 69). Confucian universalism was off-set by racial exclusivism, because as Crossley says, every "racial" group - Manchus, Mongols, Tibetans, Han and others - had their proper status according to their race. These races bore a relationship to the emperor set by the historical role of their ancestors in the creation and development of the state (Crossley 1987, 780). But this narrative which endorsed a conception of "race" as a constitutive principle of community, was also motivated by the fear on the part of the emperor of total cultural extinction of the Manchus. Thus, the Qianlong emperor took it upon himself to champion the Manchu language and values and punish those who forgot their roots (Kuhn 1990, 66-68).

Manchu identity flowered tragically in the late 19th century, both in response to Qianlong's efforts and also as a reaction to a Han ethnic exclusivism that became most evident during the years of the Taiping Rebellion. As early as 1840, in the days before the British attack on the lower Yangzi city of Zhenjiang during the Opium War, the tension in the city led to hostility between the Manchu soldiers in the garrisons and the civilian Han populace in which countless Han were slaughtered by Manchu soldiers on the allegation that they were traitors, Elliot shows that the entire event was interpreted as ethnic conflict both by survivors and by local historians (Elliot 1990, 64). This simmering tension culminated in the horrifying massacre of Manchu bannermen and their families during the Taiping Rebellion and again in the Republican revolution of 1911 (Crossley 1990, 130, 196197). Manchus in the Republican era sustained their identity only by hiding it from public view and by quietly teaching the oral traditions to their children and grandchildren within their homes. Today Manchu identity finds expression not only in their status as a national minority in the PRC, but as Crossley observes, in such forms as the Manchu Association formed in Taipei in 1981 (Crossley 1990, 216).

The Manchu search for its own separate identity may be traced back to a narrative which privileged "race" as the definer of community. The tragedy of it was that this rhetoric forced a highly, if incompletely, assimilated people to turn their back on what had, after all, become their culture. And yet it would be wrong and untrue to the mode of analysis I have tried to establish here to posit an essentializing evolutionary trend in the growth of Manchu identity and the worsening of Han-Manchu relations. Crossley is sensitive to the ambivalences of Manchus towards this identity and important leaders of the Confucian intelligentsia were committed to a cosmopolitanism within their nationalism that included the Manchus as Chinese. Perhaps least understood in this regard are the Boxer "rebels" and various secret society groups in the last decades of the 19th century, who actually sought to support the Qing court - as the representative of Chinese culture - in the effort to expel the hated Westerner.

My effort to link narratives of discent to the self-definition of a group is relevant not only for ethnic nationalisms such as those of the Manchu or Mongols, but also for those less visible communities within. These include regional and provincial groupings within the Han such as the Cantonese, the so-called "sub-ethnic" groups such as the Tanka boat people, the Hui and Subei people. For example, the mid-19th century Taiping Rebellion was built up by the Hakka minority of south China who discovered a narrative of discent in a version of Christianity which depicted them as a "chosen people". This narrative gave them a mission as "god-worshippers" in their protracted, dreary battle against the earlier, and now, idolatrous settlers in south China and caused them to celebrate their own distinctive traditions over those of the larger Han community of which they were a highly ambiguous part. As the movement developed imperial ambitions, the Hakka coupled their anti-idolatrous message with appeals to an older rhetoric of the struggle of the Han against the Manchu (Kuhn 1977). The Taiping movement is instructive in showing how a community which had been successfully hardened by a redemptive narrative of discent was once again forced to re-negotiate its identity.

The process of community closure which we have analyzed here principally for a period before the establishment of modern nationalism is, as we shall see, also relevant. for modern nationalism. Moreover, the conceptualization of a narrative of discent which I will apply to the later period as well, suggests that the process forging an exclusive or over-riding identity is not usually constructed de nova, but built from existing representations of community, although much is lost and transformed in the process. Finally, I wish to show that in both pre-modern and modern societies a plurality of representations and narratives continues to persist, even though the technical and institutional means of both closure and resistance differ in the two societies.


The Modern Nation-state System and the Question of History

We have observed that what is novel about modern nationalism is not political self-consciousness, but the world system of nation-states. Over the last century, this system, which sanctions the nation-state as the only legitimate form of polity, has expanded to cover the globe. Externally, the nation-state claims sovereignty within distinct, but not undisputed, territorial boundaries. Internally, the state claims to represent the people of the nation and through this claim, has steadily expanded its role in society, often at the expense of local authority structures. For instance, Children" have come increasingly under the jurisdiction of the state as the institutional rules governing childhood were diffused to all types of nation-states over the last hundred years (Boli-Sennet and Meyer 1978). It is important to grasp that the form of the nation-state is sanctioned by a battery of discourses generated from the system as a whole. We have seen how Social Darwinism joined race and History to the nation-state. Later, anti-imperialism and even socialism and Marxism would come to sanction the nation-state. At the same time, these nation-states also have to confront other alternative or historical representations from within the societies they govern.

The territorial conception of the nation also has a history which may be traced to what William McNeill has characterized as the system of competitive European states. From as far back as 1000 A.D., each of these states was driven by the urge to increase its resources, population and military technology over the others. In their competition, these states gradually became dependent on capital markets, both externally and internally, which further propelled the development of their economy and the competition between them (McNeil1 1982). In time, the Church came to sanction some of these emergent regional states by endowing them with a theory of sovereignty without at the same time obliging them to achieve universalizing empire. This was possible because of the separation of temporal and spiritual authority, or, in other words, the source of legitimacy from actual exercise of power (Armstrong 1982). The culmination of this conception of the nation was first seen in the French revolution and exemplified in the idea of citizenship for all within the territory (Eley 1981).

However, no contemporary nation-state is a nation exclusively in this territorial sense. Even among the early modern European states, European dynasts had to combine the theory of territorial sovereignty with ethnicity to create modern nation states (Armstrong 1982). While most historical nations, defined as self-aware and even politicized communities, may have lacked the conception of themselves as part of a system of territorially sovereign nation-states, at the same time, modern nations seek the sources of their cohesion not in the territorial conception but from a narrative of the nation that privileges a particular principle defining community, say language, race, religion et al (and repressing the others). It is true, as Salibar (1991) and others point out, that territorial boundaries can themselves acquire a salience and develop powerful attachments for their citizens. Yet, even these territorial identifications have to be founded on an inherited, if contested, narrative of the "homeland" such as the "central plain" (Zhongyuan) or Aryavarta. The shape and content of national identities in the modern era are a product of negotiation between remembered historical narratives of community and the institutionalized discourses of the modern nation-state system.

How did modern representations of the nation engage with historical narratives in China during the years before the Republican revolution of 1911 when modern nationalism took hold among the Chinese htelligentsia? The constitutional monarchists, represented by Kang Youwei, inherited the Confucian culturalist notion of community. Although Kang was influenced by modern ideas, the conception of political community that he retained drew on culturalist Confucian notions, We see this in his lifelong devotion to the emperor (protect the Emperor Society), which in the political context of the time meant more than a nostalgia for monarchy. Since the monarchs were Manchu and not Han it implied that he was convinced that community was composed of people with shared culture and not restricted to a race or ethnic group (imputed or otherwise).

In his debates with the anti-Manchu revolutionary Zhang Taiyan, Kang cited Confucius to argue that although Confucius had spoken of barbarians, barbarism was expressed as a lack of ritual and memory of the cultural community, Kang declared that during the Warring States, Wu and Chu had been different countries, but had become parts of China by the time of Han. Similarly, although Manchus were barbarians in the Ming, by now they had acquired Chinese culture and so had become Chinese. Kang asked whether it was necessary for China to get rid of the Manchus in order to build a new nation or whether the nation could embrace all ethnic groups on a harmonious basis, including the Manchus, Hans, Miaos and Moslems, as well as the Tibetans? (Onogawa 1970, 245,249).

The revolutionaries, such as Zhang Taiyan and Wang Jingwei, articulated their opposition to this conception by drawing on the old ethnocentric tradition that acquired new meaning in the highly charged atmosphere of the 1900s. To be sure, Zhang was a complex figure whose thought can scarcely be reduced to any single strain. But he and Wang Jingwei succeeded in articulating an image of the new community that was persuasive to many in his generation. At the base of this re-formulation of the old ethnocentrism was a dialectical reading of Wang Fuzhi's notions of evolutionism inter-woven with a new Social Darwinist conception of the survival of the fittest races. Thus each group was engaged in dialogue with disputed legacies which were, nonetheless, real and by no means completely reducible to modern discourses.

We can gain a deeper understanding of the complex transactions between the past and present through the discourse and the representations of the revolutionaries than through their elaborated theories, For instance, several scholars (Dikotter 1992, Price 1992) have pointed out the way in which the values of the Chinese lineage or descent line, perhaps one of the most important social institutions in late imperial China were "translated" to develop the modern concept of race. The transition from lineage to this conception of race as a community united by blood ties was enabled by the common semantic source, the signifier zu, which referred to the descent group and also to race or kind (a term also of greatest importance to Wang Fuzhi in the 17th century (Dikotte 291). Republican revolutionaries like Chen Tianhua, Zou Rang and Song Jiaoren were able to maneuver within the play of this signifier and, hence, with the emotions it evoked such as filiality. Thus Chen Tianhua pronounced: "The Han race is one big family. The [mythic] Yellow Emperor is the great ancestor, all those who are not of the Han race are not the descendants of the Yellow Emperor, they are exterior families. One should definitely not assist them" (cited in Dikotter 117). According to Dikotter, "race" became the "symbol of fictive biological cohesion that could link lineage loyalties in the face of foreign aggression (71). Donald Price believes that the representation of the nation embedded in the new conception of common descent from the Yellow Emperor was enabled by an extended and re-defined filial piety (Xiao). Racial vengeance against the Manchus was now an obligation one vowed to one's ancestors whether or not they were of one's immediate lineage (Price 1052-1053).

These notable contributions to our understanding of early 20th century anti-Manchuism have emphasized the manner in which historical ideas have enabled the transition to the new evolutionist conception of the racial-nation. By linking race to the more tangible cultural institution of lineage, the revolutionaries were able to deploy an unfamiliar narrative-which as we have seen in chapter I emphasized the strife between Historical and non-Historical races-as their narrative of discent. In this way they could mobilize existing cultural symbols to build the walls of a community without the Manchus. At the same time, the new evolutionist narrative of History also tried to re-cast and so to appropriate the dispersed meanings of existing symbols and practices. Ancestor worship, filial piety and kinship terminology which tended to be focussed within the lineage (zongzu) were now sought also to be turned outward to the race and nation (Zongzu, minzu). Thus, the mythic Yellow Emperor whose status as national symbol came to dominate nationalist discourse through the first few decades of the 20th century, continued to be officially revered as the originator of the race and the founder of the nation until 1941. In 1957, the religion of the Yellow Emperor was established in Taiwan with government approval (Dikotter 1 16-117). Neither the notion of simple continuity nor that of invention can do justice to the subtle transactions between the past and the present. The past does not shape the present simply by persisting in it. It enables the transformation of the present and in that transformation, is itself much transformed. Attention to the manner in which dominant narratives seek to inflect and mobilize the meanings of existing symbols and practices offers a more promising beginning to understanding history.

The revolutionary position also retained the capacity to invoke the oppositional culturalist model of community as its supplement. The revolutionary invocation of the racialist memory at the turn of the century could not confine the othering process to the Manchus alone. The construction of the Han Chinese, self as the national subject necessarily threatened other non-Han groups, as Kang Youwei had warned it would. Most of the large minority communities had viewed their incorporation into the Qing empire as being on a par with the enforced incorporation of the Han: they did not equate the Qing empire with Zhongguo (China). The overthrow of the Qing in 1911 created for them the possibility of independence; the rhetoric of racialist nationalism made it urgent. Given their own equation of nation and race, the revolutionaries could hardly counter the growing Mongol independence movement, the establishment of an independent Mongolia in 1911 (Nakami 1984), and the threatening situation in Tibet and Xinjiang. It was in these circumstances that Sun Yat-sen and the leaders of the new Republic sought to supplement their racialist narrative with the culturalist narrative of the nation espoused by their enemies - the reformers and the Qing court itself. The Chinese nation was now to be made up by the "five races" (Manchu, Mongol, Tibetan, Muslim and Han) and so it happened that the boundaries of the Chinese nation came to follow the outline of the old Qing empire just as the Indian nation was sought to be made in the image of the British empire. Later, the narrative of race as constitutive of the nation would itself be dispersed, or perhaps, absorbed inside a larger nationalist narrative of the common historical experience against imperialism.

In India, several models of political community furnished the framework within which the modern nation was contested. We can find these historical conceptions within the motley body of the Indian National Congress itself which emerged in the late 19th century as the representative of Indian nationalism. Thus for instance, the secularist model of Jawaharlal Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore drew upon the idealized conception of the sub-continental empire. The Rudolphs (1985) point out that each of the empires in South Asia built upon the symbols of the classical idea of a universal ruler: Akbar restoring the Hindu idea of a chakravartin in the Persian idea of shahanshah; the British using Mughal ceremonies and language to re-vitalize the imperial state. Thus colonisers and conquerors reinforced a process of political formation whereby communities and regional kingdoms were incorporated (and not subsumed or obliterated) into an ordered heterogeneity.

Nehru may have been the first to narratives a history of the sub-continental empire into what comes to be known as the secular History of India. In his view, what he considered India was the secular unity of different communities and religions, each of which had made distinctive historical contributions. The achievements of Hinduism, for him was merely one of the sources of India's greatness, together with those of Buddhism, the Turkic emperors, traditional science among other sources. For Nehru, the History of India was the most authentic testimony to the capacity (read necessity) of Indians to maintain a "unity among diversity". The high points of Indian history were the reigns of Asoka, the Guptas, Akbar and the great Moghuls all of whom attempted to develop a political framework to unite the cultural diversity of the sub-continent. While in contemporary India this idealized version is countered by a forceful process of state-building, nonetheless, the memory of ordered heterogeneity is perhaps visible in the notion of Indian secularism, which is not so much a strict separation of state and society, as it is the equal support of the state for all religions (Nehru 1960, 121-128).

The memory of Brahmanic universalism as the foundation of the new political community, filtered through Orientalist discourses of the 19th century, was appropriated in its split form as universalism and its supplement of closure. Its universal form was articulated by Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) and others and influenced Mohandas Gandhi. Aurobindo emphasized Advaita Hinduism, a radically monistic faith which believes in the unity of all being and denies the reality of the many particular entities in the universe. In this highly abstract system, a communal framework was created to absorb or tolerate heteregenous elements domestically within an essentially Brahmanic universalism. Thinkers like Aurobindo and Gandhi had of course to develop strategies to square the circle: to contain their universalism within their terminal political community of the nation. One such strategy was to devise the Spiritual East/Material West duality whereby India remained the privileged locus as the origin and repository of true (Hindu?) Spirituality.

The supplement to Brahmanic universalism, which in recent times has threatened to overcome this universalism, is the historical memory of the nation-space as Aryavarta whose charter is traced to the medieval political readings of the Ramayana. Hindu nationalism has drawn much attention by its violent mobilization campaigns to recover the site of the alleged birthplace of Rama in Ayodhya from a Muslim shrine which existed there until Hindu nationalists destroyed it in December 1992. The Ayodhya destruction is only the most recent expression of a series of campaigns launched by Hindu nationalists since the end of the 19th century, such as the protection of the cow, the promotion of religious ceremonies to capture public spaces and the take over of other Muslim shrines. These nationalists, like the anti-Manchu revolutionaries, foreground atavistic revenge in their narrative of discent. Through this narrative of vengeance, they seek to re-invest local gods, local issues and local conflicts with national meaning. Hindu nationalism has no use for universalism and declares a homogenized Hinduness (Hindutva) to be the sole or privileged criterion for inclusion in the political community of the nation. They thus seek to transform the relative porous boundaries of local communities into an over-arching hard boundary between a national community and its Muslim Other. It is a project that recalls the radical othering we found in representations of medieval Hindu community. Although on the face of it, the lofty universalism of Aurobindo and Gandhi seems far removed from such a thorough-going communalism; the supplement of Hindu nationalism could easily exploit the ambivalence towards outsiders within their thought.

I have described a multiplicity of historical representations of political community in China and Indian which may be seen as examples of complex agranian polities. This multiplicity includes the representation of totalizing communities that both resemble modern nations and continue to be relevant to them. As Such, even in recent theories of nationalism, notions of differences between the modern nation and traditional empire turn out to be highly exaggerated. Moreover, these notions reflect and reproduce a highly suspect presumption of an epistemological gap between national consciousness as cohesive and self-aware and pre-modern consciousness as dominated either by universal cosmologies or parochial identities. The modern nation is formed through a process similar to that of its totalizing predecessors which deploys a narrative of discent-the tracing of a history which legitimates its difference from the Other - to fix and privilege a single identity from among the contesting multiplicity of identifications. In neither society can this closure prevent alternative narratives from challenging the hegemonic representation of political community. Contemporary theories of nationalism are fascinated by the ways in which nations "invent" or "imagine" their pasts. The old, literate, and what Asish Nandy has called "capacious" civilizations of India and China reveal that while these histories are by no means determinative and are often highly mediated modern nations still have to negotiate with the memories of past communities.



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