Whose Homeland? Territoriality and Religious Nationalism in Pre-Partition Bengal

Abstract from author: Scholarly inquiries into communalism in South Asia have often exclusively focused on politically constructed religious and ethnic identity categories. This article challenges these assumptions by arguing that territoriality and the designation of homelands played an important, but largely unrecognized, role in developing social and political boundaries in the region. By analyzing the writings of Bipin Chandra Pal during the Swadeshi period, this article points to the territorialization of a Hindu-based version of the national homeland as a key process in the development of communal difference in Bengal and South Asia more generally. It is concluded that the Hindu-dominated rhetoric of the early nationalist movement implicitly marked Hindus as the only true members of the nation. By implicitly excluding all other forms of social affiliations from the narrative of the homeland, it is argued that the stage was set for the contestation of territorial identity categories that played out through the 20th century in Bengal.

Reece Jones
University of Wisconsin-Madison