The idea of "Indian civilization" now gets bad press among academics in India and elsewhere, as many argue, with good reason, that the idea was based on texts and artifacts that said little about inequities and oppressions in Indian society. Chakrabarty looks at the history of the idea, how Europeans invented it, and how Indian nationalist leaders made it their own. Chakrabarty goes on to show how the assumption that there was something called Indian civilization actually provided a basis for India's adoption of democracy based on the principle of universal adult citizenship rights.
Dipesh Chakrabarty is the Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of History and South Asian Languages and Civilizations and the College, and he is a former faculty director of the University of Chicago Center in Delhi. He is also a faculty fellow of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory and an associate faculty of the Department of English and holds a courtesy appointment at the University of Chicago Law School and a visiting position at the Research School of Humanities and the Arts at the Australian National University in Canberra. He is a founding member of the editorial collective Subaltern Studies, a coeditor of Critical Inquiry, and a founding editor of Postcolonial Studies. Chakrabarty's current research is focused on three areas: objectivity in history with a focus on the Indian historian Sir Jadunath Sarkar (1870-1958); the implications of climate change science for historical and political thinking; and democracy and political thought in South Asia.
To learn more, read an essay by the poet Rabindranath Tagore.