Lecture for the Research network Utopia and Social Dreaming in Connected and Entangled Perspective, 1850 onwards, Europe, Asia and Beyond, Huizinga Institute
“Languages, Geopolitics, and the Search for Sovereignty in Bengali Germanism, 1919–45: An Intellectual History”
Arnab Dutta, PhD candidate HI, University of Groningen
Date & time: 30 May 2022, 15.15-17.00h
Location: Utrecht University, Kromme Nieuwegracht 80, 1.06 (Van Ravesteynzaal)
Drawing from the transnational reception of the ideas of Deutschtum / Germandom in British Bengal, Arnab’s doctoral dissertation shows as to how Interwar Germany had reshaped the Bengali understanding of nationhood; and why these conceptual transferences were translated in creating an alternative version of political action and political community within the anticolonial rhetoric of late colonial British India. In broad terms, Bengali anti-colonial intellectuals and activists who identified with Germany and ‘Germanism’ were fascinated by the idea that Germany and India shared a common ‘Aryan’ root. Most of them located this common root in the idea that there was a sharp divide between the ‘Aryan’ and the ‘Semitic’, a linguistic and racial doctrine that was well established in Indo-European Philology (which the Germans called Indogermanisch). These dynamics were visibly pertinent in the Bengali engagements with the interwar German projects of territorial remapping under Geopolitik and Lebensraum. In that context, what did it mean to learn the so-called indogermanisch German language in Interwar Bengal and how did it impinge upon the geopolitical questions of Bengali nationhood? Answering these questions, this talk charts the conceptual genealogy of the utopic use of language as a pretext to redefine political / geopolitical sovereignty.