The South Asian Studies Council South Asian Studies Colloquium Series presents:
Pratik Chakrabarti, The University of Manchester: “Gondwana and the Politics of Primitivism.”
This paper argues that primitivism, identified simultaneously in human and natural landscapes, was a key theme of nineteenth-century colonialism. It analyses the multiple historical tropes of Gondwana, the densely forested, hills, ravines of Central India, where ethnological studies among tribes and the geological studies of the oldest rock formations of the Indian subcontinent shaped ideas of Indian ethnological aboriginality and geological primitivism simultaneously. Gondwana was also vital to British imperialism for its coal and cotton.
Through a history of Gondwana, the landscape, its geological and anthropological evolution and its social history, this paper identifies the colonial conquest of time; appropriating India’s remote antiquity to the colonial present. The sciences of geology, archaeology, anthropology, and history aligned the aboriginal in Indian culture to the nineteenth-century quest to locate a proto-Indian-ness that found affinity with the British colonizing mission in both its metaphysical and material domains. Primitivism became a mode of colonisation in this simultaneous imagination and conquest of the landscape.
Pratik Chakrabarti (Chair in History of Science and Medicine, Centre for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, University of Manchester) has contributed widely to the history of science, medicine, and global and imperial history, from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. His current research interest is in the convergence of histories of science, environment, and deep history. He has published four sole-authored research monographs and numerous research articles and chapters in leading international journals on history of science, medicine and imperialism and edited collections. His forthcoming monograph is titled Inscriptions of Nature: Geology and the Sciences of Antiquity.