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Routledge New Horizons in South Asian Studies Language, Identity, and Power in Modern India Gujarat, c. 1850-1960




206 pages




October 29, 2021



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Language, Identity, and Power in Modern India

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This book is a historical study of modern Gujarat, India, addressing crucial questions of language, identity, and power. It examines the debates over language among the elite of this region during a period of significant social and political change in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Language debates closely reflect power relations among different sections of society, such as those delineated by nation, ethnicity, region, religion, caste, class, and gender. They are intimately linked with the process in which individuals and groups of people try to define and project themselves in response to changing political, economic, and social environments. Based on a wide range of historical sources, including official records, periodicals, literary texts, memoirs, and private papers, this book vividly demonstrates the impact that colonialism, nationalism, and the process of nation-building had on the ideas of language among different groups, as well as how various ideas of language competed and negotiated with each other.
One of the themes discussed here is how the “standard” form of the Gujarati language with which we are familiar today was defined and became dominant in the colonial period, and how in this process, other forms were relegated to the status of “dialects.” How did this process start? Who were the leading forces behind this development? How was the “standard” form of the language defined? What implications did this process have for Gujarati society and different social groups in the region, and how did it affect the relationships between them? How was it related to the reconstruction of a regional identity taking place at the time? How did the people whose ideas of “our” language differed from the dominant discourse of the Gujarati language resist or/ and negotiate this process? The book, however, is not exclusively concerned with the debates over the Gujarati language. It also examines the views of the Gujarati elite regarding English, Sanskrit, Persian, and Hindi. It investigates how they discussed the questions of the medium of education, the national/common language of India, the relationship between this language and regional languages, and the relationship between language and territory.
By examining a wide range of ideas on language expressed by different people involved in educational and literary activities as well as those who took part in the nationalist movement (including M.K. Gandhi, who was also from Gujarat) and politics after independence, the author presents the complex process in which group identities were recast during this period. Although there are by now a significant number of scholarly works that have examined the debates on language in different parts of India in modern times, the case of Gujarat has not attracted much attention and thus needs further investigation. While trying to fill this gap by considering debates on language in Gujarat from different historical moments from the mid-nineteenth century until 1960, the year in which the linguistic state of Gujarat was founded, this book provides yet another perspective on the construction of the Indian nation and its regions in the modern age.

(Written by ISAKA Riho, Professor, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences / 2022)

Table of Contents

1. Gujarat Society and its People
2. Educational Institutions and Language
3. The Gujarat Vernacular Society and the Press
4. Debates over Gujarati Language and Literature
5. Nationalism and Language
6. The Formation of Gujarat State

Related Info

Book Reviews:
Reviewed by Mona G. Mehta  (International Quarterly for Asian Studies Vol. 54 No. 4 pp.461-463  Dec 22, 2023)

Review by Amrita Shodhan  (South Asia Research Vol. 43(1) pp. 129–150  2023)

“Debates on language in modern Gujarat: Dialogues between past and present”  (online[IIT GANDHINAGAR HUMANITIES & SOCIAL SCIENCE] 2022年4月20日)

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