Accepted paper:

Commemorating the Bhadralok: A Study of Culture as Governance in the Context of West Bengal


Diksha Dhar

Paper short abstract:

How has the Kolkata Book Fair achieved an aura of pilgrimage among the people of Bengal? Can this be seen to reinstate the image of the bhadralok on citizens? I want to read such spaces of commemoration that generate within the domain of governance higher overtones of political subject formation.

Paper long abstract:

Leftism and Bengal have a long history. The 34 year Leftist rule (1977-2011) is a long standing proof of it. A particular characteristic of its rule has always been to prioritize culture to a different dimension and to govern with a particular emphasis on ethics, morals and boundaries. Through the creation of cultural icons that are incapable to pose a threat to the existential identity of the regime itself, it has constructed, in my opinion, a strong ideological paradigm synchronic to the immediate goal of its governance. With the hegemonization of the bhadralok identity (this section of the bhadralok comprised is primarily of the urban middle class), as a signifier of cultural capital, the battle of identity and consequently governance becomes easy. It is in this domain of cultural governance that I wish to look at the role of events like the Kolkata Book Fair, that have come to form a major part of the cultural landscape of present day West Bengal. It would also be interesting to see how the space of consumption and the commodity form determines and is determined by the project of cultural governance. In the course of my paper I would like to trace the origin of the Bengali intelligentsia and demonstrated how symbols of knowledge/power, notions of progression, and liberation have been linked to literacy. Further, with this 'power' located in the hands of the Bengali elite or the bhadralok we will see how a certain section comes to acquire superiority over others

panel P28
The aesthetics of governance