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Samaj And Perspectives On Unity

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Chapter Summary

This chapter interrogates the relatively unexplored conceptual category of samaj as deployed by the literati to see how it acted as a means for negotiating complex sets of loyalties and identities, and envisioning a wider unity cutting across variations of caste, region and locality. The deployment of samaj by the literati reflected a nuanced interplay between the themes of continuity and unity in the ontology of nationhood. The chapter illuminates how the notion of a nation in colonial Bengal was produced through a complex interaction between reorientations of indigenous ideas of past unities and the influences and contexts of the late colonial situation. The idea of samajik (social) unity in terms of radiating oneness from the familial nucleus was deeply rooted in dharma, the ideological basis and the welding force of samaj. Samajik unity rethought in terms of dharma presupposed a divide between indigenous and western/European society.

Keywords: colonial Bengal; dharma; literati; nationhood; samajik unity



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