History

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Region- and nation-building in nineteenth-century Europe
Talitha Ilacqua

By means of archival documents, newspapers and a variety of printed sources, this book studies the French Basque country’s process of acquisition of a folkloric regional identity in the long nineteenth century. It maintains that, albeit originating in pre-‘modern’ customs, such stereotypical identity was not the product of ancestral tradition. It was invented in the nineteenth century as part of France’s process of nation-building. The book analyses the role of local and European intellectuals, state authorities and the Basque population in the creation of a ‘modern’ Basque regional identity in the nineteenth century. It identifies the turning point in the French Revolution of 1789. The replacement of privilege with language as the marker of identity in provincial France prompted the local notability to develop a new interest in local culture. Such transition influenced scholars’ approach to Basque literature and philology, as well as Franco-Basque relations in the army, in education and in the tourist industry. The book contributes to a growing body of historiography that regards Europe’s regional identities as both a product of the age of nationalism and an inherent aspect of nation-building. The relationship between the region and the nation, though, was complicated. On the one hand, regional culture favoured the integration of the French Basque provinces into the French nation-state. On the other, it strengthened local pride and French Basques’ relations with their Spanish Basque neighbours. Since 1789, then, it has created tensions that expose the strengths and weaknesses of the unitary model of French nationhood.

in Inventing the modern region
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Agnès Delahaye
,
Elodie Peyrol-Kleiber
,
L.H. Roper
, and
Bertrand Van Ruymbeke

Expanding the scope of colonisers beyond the corporation, the Introduction presents all the vehicles that were employed in the conduct of early modern European overseas colonisation and trade, as well as the array of actors who employed these vehicles, so as to embrace the diversity of imperial experiences and the means by which imperial authority was validated and put into practice. Built upon Atlantic history, and moving away from the state-centred analysis of empires and colonisation, Agents of European Overseas Empires offers cases of private ventures mingling national and private interests, thus emphasising the diverse agents involved in colonisation by the English, French, Spanish and Dutch.

in Agents of European overseas empires
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Jesús F. Cháirez-Garza

This introduction offers a general outline of the book. It defines the concept of untouchability and the terms used in this work. The main events in Ambedkar’s life are highlighted to contextualise his life. This does not intend to be a full-fledged account of Ambedkar’s career. This short narrative is only meant to help the reader understand the changes in Ambedkar’s career and the transformations in his political writings. Finally, an outline of the chapters and the main arguments of this monograph are presented.

in Rethinking untouchability
Talitha Ilacqua

In the nineteenth century, European states regarded the preservation and restoration of the national past as a sign of ‘civilisation’. Disregard for one’s own past was a sign that a nation did not deserve the right to self-determination. Basque scholars worried that the Basque country’s scarce literary production challenged their claim of being a cultural nation and placed it among the ‘peoples without history’. Thus, French Basque scholars worked hand in hand with Spanish Basque ones to invent a Basque literary tradition. Basque elites’ efforts to equip the Basque country with a literary history produced paradoxical results. On the one hand, the construction of a Basque ‘literary renaissance’ was a transnational and international endeavour. It involved European scholars, as well as the concerted effort of French and Spanish Basque savants, whose work strengthened the sense of a shared Basque cultural identity across the Pyrenees. On the other hand, regionalist culture strengthened the relationship between the Basque country and France, because French intellectuals regarded Basque folklore as a means to enrich the cultural patrimony of the French nation. As a result, the Basque opus, despite referring to the Basque country as a nation, was not an attempt to break away from France and Spain. It was a way of providing the Basque country with a literary history which strengthened both the position of the region within the bigger nation and of the nation within the new Europe of nation-states.

in Inventing the modern region
Basque identity and the French nation-state
Author:

This book studies the French Basque country’s process of acquisition of a stereotypical regional identity in the long nineteenth century. It maintains that, albeit originating in pre-‘modern’ customs, the standardised and clichéd character of Basque identity, as it emerged in the nineteenth century, was a product of the ‘modern’ age of nationalism. The book identifies the turning point for the creation of the ‘modern’ region in the French Revolution of 1789 that replaced privilege with language as the marker of identity of provincial France. The shift from privilege to ‘culture’ prompted local elites to reconceptualise the position of their locality within the new nation-state. The book contributes to a growing body of literature that regards Europe’s regional identities in the age of nationalism as invented ‘imagined communities’ which became an essential and validating aspect of nation-building. Since Basque-speaking communities lived in both French and Spanish territory, the invention of the Basque region had paradoxical consequences. On the one hand, it strengthened the cultural unity of the French and Spanish Basque provinces, which, in turn, challenged the authority of the central state. On the other, regional culture, like the German Heimaten, favoured the integration of the Basque provinces into the French nation-state. Thus, the story of Basque region-building in the age of French nationalism is revealing of the oxymoronic relationship between Jacobin centralisation and omnipresent regionalism that has defined the dominant idea of France since 1789.

Talitha Ilacqua

The Basque phase of the First Carlist War (1833–40) popularised a representation of the Basque country as the cradle of such conservative values as collective liberty, religion and tradition. In France, two main figures associated Carlism with the Basques. The first group were the legitimists, who had been ousted from power in 1830 and regarded the Basque country’s pro-Carlist position as their new hope for the restoration of absolutism in Europe. The other, at a local level, was the French Basque political intellectual Augustin Chaho, who supported Carlism as a way of protecting the Basque country from centralisation. Although legitimists and Chaho operated with different goals in mind, they produced a similar characterisation of the Basque country as a land of liberty, faith and tradition, aspects which became key to Basque political identity in the second half of the nineteenth century.

in Inventing the modern region
Eric Roulet

This chapter analyses Spanish royal control over migration to the Americas throughout the sixteenth century. It starts with the evolution of the Crown’s migratory policy from its relatively liberal beginning, and follows the imposition of a centralised licensing system run by the Casa de Contratación in the first half of the century. The aims of this were to manage and affect both the numbers and the quality of migrants required to settle Spanish territories abroad in order to recreate social rules and hierarchies close to those enforced in the metropole. Non-Christians, converts, foreigners and people of dubious morality were especially targeted by the exclusionary measures, attesting to the Crown’s desire to extend its control over its subjects in the remotest corners of its empire. The second part of this chapter demonstrates the limits imposed by colonial management upon the desire for uniformity and constancy in the power exerted by royal agents over distant territories. In spite of considerable, repetitive legislative and institutional efforts, evasion and fraud were rampant, highlighting the weakness and porosity of royal control over the licensing system it had established. The chapter proceeds with an analysis of the measures taken during the middle of the century to strengthen licensing measures through information requirements at each step of a migrant’s journey, and to punish those who transgressed them. Moving from Spain to the Americas, the analysis ends on the fraud, corruption and evasion at work in New Spain, to highlight the contradictions inherent in Spanish royal migratory policy.

in Agents of European overseas empires
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Pakistan and the erasure of untouchable politics
Jesús F. Cháirez-Garza

This chapter examines the political mobilisation of Ambedkar in the years before the Partition of India in 1947. During this period, Ambedkar’s politics shifted dramatically. In 1940, he supported the creation of Pakistan. From 1942 to 1946, he served as the Minister of Labour in the Viceroy’s Executive Council. In 1946, he started a series of satyagrahas (passive resistance) across India and joined Winston Churchill in his demands to delay independence. Yet, in 1947 Ambedkar rejected Pakistan, joined the Nehru administration, and eventually became the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee. Traditional narratives have explained these changes as part of Ambedkar’s political pragmatism. Instead, this chapter argues that Ambedkar changed his attitude towards Congress due to the transformation of the Indian and international political landscape elicited by Partition and World War II. Ambedkar reached out to Congress as a last resort to maintain a political and historical space for Dalits in independent India. However, this attempt was unsuccessful. By highlighting the links between Ambedkar, untouchability, and Partition, this chapter sheds light on how 1947 not only saw the birth of two countries but also virtually eliminated the histories of resistance of other political groups in India and Pakistan, such as Dalits. Ambedkar’s past as a critic of Gandhi and Congress was erased in favour of a more palatable image of him as the father of the Constitution. This chapter reconfigures traditional understandings of Partition by showing how the promise of Pakistan significantly shaped the way Ambedkar is remembered today.

in Rethinking untouchability
The politicisation of untouchability in late colonial India c. 1900–1930
Jesús F. Cháirez-Garza

This chapter examines the transformation of untouchability from a social problem into a political question. It focuses on the debates involving Indian nationalists, colonial rulers and Dalit politicians like B.R. Ambedkar. Considering Dalits as a national political minority became relevant for three reasons. First, nationalist leaders discovered the power of mass politics. They could not ignore the potential of representing millions of Dalits. Second, after World War I, the notion that minorities were to be protected both in Europe and the colonies gained force. Colonial rulers used the vulnerability of Dalits to justify their presence in the subcontinent. Third, the discussions about the political representation of Dalits allowed Ambedkar, and other low-caste politicians, to enter the highest level of politics in India and face major figures such as Gandhi and Nehru. Colonial authorities and nationalist politicians claimed to speak for Dalits using what I call ‘politics of ventriloquism’. They claimed to speak for Dalits while simultaneously representing them as ‘pre-political’ beings unable to understand politics. Nationalist leaders ‘ventriloquised’ the voice of Dalits by portraying them as Hindus and as part of the nation. Colonial officials depicted Dalits as a vulnerable minority. They sought to use their exclusion from Indian society to legitimise the British presence in the subcontinent. In other words, Dalits were ventriloquised by other political groups in their efforts to construct their role as the rightful rulers of India. Nonetheless, these politics of ventriloquism, perhaps unintendedly, also opened spaces for Dalit leaders to ask for political rights.

in Rethinking untouchability
The political thought of B.R. Ambedkar

Rethinking Untouchability brings new light to the political and intellectual life of B.R. Ambedkar, one of India’s most influential intellectuals of the last century. Usually under the shadow of Indian nationalists such as Gandhi and Nehru, the importance of Ambedkar’s political thought remains largely unexplored. Ambedkar’s primary concern throughout his life was the abolition of untouchability, which he fought throughout his writings and politics. Ambedkar’s place in the history of Indian political thought is unique. Coming from one of the most oppressed communities in India, he received doctoral degrees from Columbia University and the London School of Economics. Similarly, Ambedkar familiarised himself with the newest anthropological, political and sociological theories emerging at the turn of the twentieth century. Influenced by the thought of Franz Boas and John Dewey, among others, Ambedkar showed his followers that their condition of oppression was fluid and malleable; it could be changed as it was not dependent on karma from previous lives. By analysing untouchability and its links to religion and ideologies of racial supremacy, Ambedkar exposed untouchability as an economic, political and cultural system designed to oppress Dalits. He demanded political and educational rights to bridge the inequalities present in the lives of his followers. For Ambedkar, India required a social and political revolution beyond the scope of nationalist aspirations. At a time when inequality and injustice are still rampant in India and elsewhere, recovering the value of Ambedkar’s thought is paramount.