This panel explores discourses of the popular that emerged as the cornerstone of left-wing politics in late and post-colonial Bengal. It traces the productions (and repression) of new vocabularies, ideals and ethics of political action that impacted political mobilisation and cultural resistance.
The ubiquity of personality cults in the politics of West Bengal and Bangladesh obscures a longer history that privileged the plebeian praja (peasant) as the ideal subject of popular politics. This panel foregrounds left-wing discourses of popular politics which emerged in late and post-colonial Bengal across the fault-line of partition. Under particular focus is the idea of the popular that developed as cornerstone of left-wing politics since late-1930s, spreading into spheres of anti-colonial movements, refugee politics, activism and cultural resistance. The panel will explore productions of new vocabularies, ideals and ethics of political and culture action crafted by the Left under the rubric of 'popularisation'. It will probe mechanisms of circulation, continuities and ruptures that accompanied this, and foreground a comparative analysis of the growth and/or repression of left ideologies and parties in East and West Bengal during the transitional decades of decolonsiation. The panel will aim cross-disciplinary dialogues around the role played by migration, refugees, communist party workers and left-wing intellectuals in the production of discourses around the popular, and rethink the emergence and myriad iterations of the Left in Bengal, in terms of its social alliances, ideological nuances and the production of its intellectual hegemony.