P05


The empire at the margins: subaltern voices from Portuguese colonialism in India 
Convenorss:
Antonio Alito Siqueira (Goa University)
Rosa Maria Perez (ISCTE-Lisbon University Institute)
Location:
C301
Start time:
25 July, 2012 at 14:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:
2

Short Abstract:

This panel elucidates subaltern voices and current echoes from Portuguese colonialism in India. It explores remnants of colonial subalternity and hegemony coming from long before British Orientalism and the Enlightenment narrative justifying colonialism as modernity.

Long Abstract

This panel privileges anthropological and ethnographic observations and non-canonical archival research. Its primary focus lies on a distinct fissure notable in the colonial archive: the silence of native and antagonist voices that is lost or omitted in most official texts. These voices may be recovered from non official texts like bulletins, almanacs, family biographies, diaries and confidential reports and the range of oral traditions.

This silence testifies the suppression of the subaltern in the Portuguese colonial archive, written by colonial and national elites. Narratives of dominant groups tend to be privileged even where not consensual or uniformly shared. Marginal and subaltern views are absent from Portuguese accounts. This gap reverberates in subsequent analysis of Goan society which tends to privilege again the view of elites and to ignore the groups at the margins of the social structure.

This panel seeks to identify groups at the margins of the social structure and non-canonical texts that elucidate subaltern voices of Portuguese colonialism. What arguably makes these 'other' voices interesting is that the radical cultural transformation in the Portuguese colonies (what Perry Anderson called 'ultra colonialism') began already in the 16th century long before an enlightenment perspective on the evolution of societies that informed the 'civilising mission' of the British. The echoes of this early transformation continue to inform the construction and contestation of post colonial spaces.

Accepted papers:

Author:

Sammit Khandeparkar (Arizona State University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper elucidates the process of the Gauḍa Sārasvata Brāhmaṇa caste formation in Goa and Konkan. My paper is based on Marathi language literature published by Hindu elites from Goa during the first half of the twentieth century.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I will discuss my preliminary research on the process of the Gauḍa Sārasvata Brāhmaṇa (hereafter GSB) caste formation in the region of Konkan on the west coast of India during the first half of the twentieth century. I will explore the fluid process of GSB caste formation by elucidating how a foundational text, Koṃkaṇākhyāna, made it possible for the men of historically related land-owning, dominant castes to imagine themselves as one cohesive community and then to establish themselves as the GSB caste through the constitutive practice of ritualized co-dining. The GSB caste formation process was happening in the context of institution of the first republic in Portugal, which had opened new opportunities of self-assertion for local elites in Goa. This paper is primarily based on my reading of, Koṃkaṇākhyāna, and other literature published by leading members of local Hindu elites with the manifest intention of fabricating the GSB caste.

Author:

Jason Keith Fernandes (ISCTE- IUL)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing from the experience of Portuguese-India this paper suggests contemplating the location of the subaltern, not in a definite subject-position vis-à-vis definite elite, but rather in a chain of subalternities.

Paper long abstract:

The general tendency with regard to locating the subaltern is to locate this subject position vis-à-vis the elites. Such a methodology may work when one locates the subalterns and elites within a definite, and assumedly closed-off, society. This idea of a definite and bounded 'society' however is not without challenge, and taking this challenge as a starting point would allow us to perhaps modify our understanding of the subaltern and subalternity.

This paper will look into the web of representations and relations that marked the Estado da India Portuguesa and the manner in which it produced the subaltern. The subaltern, this paper will argue, is not simply a matter of locating the non-elite within the boundaries of the former Estado da India Portuguesa, but of locating this search within a larger framework of international and intra-national web of representations and relations.

From within the territory of the Estado da India Portuguesa, this paper will look at the specific case of Goa, and argue for understanding and locating the subaltern through the framework of a 'chain of subalternities'. This investigation will take into consideration the continuing peculiarities of the capital of the Estado da India, both in colonial times, as well as in the post colonial, subsequent to the integration of Goa into the national politics of the Indian Union.

Author:

Cláudia Pereira (ISCTE - University Institute of Lisbon)

Paper short abstract:

Oral tradition of Catholic Gaudde in Goa, who traditionally were illiterate and had no land, acknowledges their own version of religious conversion, the underprivileged position in the Catholic caste system and their resistance to colonialism, by secretly rebuilding pre-Portuguese rituals and songs.

Paper long abstract:

The literature of Portuguese colonialism on Goan society has been centered on the elite, lacking knowledge on subaltern groups. Oral history is thus an important source to access voices that could not be heard as the ones of Gaudde, an original group that over time split into three different ones: the Hindus, the Catholics and the Neo-Hindus (Catholic Gaudde who became Hindu in 1928).

The representations of Catholic Gaudde on their own religious conversion from Hinduism are part of their oral tradition and have reconstructed their collective memory, contesting their naturalized inferiority in the Catholic hierarchical social system. Furthermore, simultaneously to Christian practices, the Dhalo ritual and songs are also creatively followed by Catholic Gaudde, who claim to perform it since their Hindu ancestors prior to the arrival of Portuguese. The lyrics of these Dhalo songs need to be read in the light of Hindu logic, although the names of gods have been replaced by Christian saints. The analysis of Gaudde's oral heritage allows us to see how Hindu ritual purity continues to structure contemporary ritual and social relations between Catholic Gaudde, side to Catholic forms. Moreover, they reveal a less known aspect of Portuguese colonialism: the invisible resistance of the Gaudde. Their resilience has developed through the maintenance of the songs, dances and rituals of their Hindu ancestors in secret because they were forbidden by the Catholic Church for being "non-Catholic" and have acquired nowadays a new meaning with their repositioning towards touristic audiences.

Author:

Pamila Gupta (University of the Witwatersrand)

Paper short abstract:

This paper takes the concept of the 'exotic' and situates it within overlapping discourses of colonialism and tourism, and in relation to the production of 'Goa' as a subaltern place within (the imagination of) the postcolonial Indian nation-state.

Paper long abstract:

This paper takes the concept of the 'exotic' and situates it within overlapping discourses of colonialism and tourism, and in relation to the production of 'Goa' as a subaltern place within (the imagination of) the postcolonial Indian nation-state. I complicate studies of the 'exotic' by suggesting that it is not applicable to the West or non-West as simply an a-historical static category, but rather that it effectively has been utilized, for Goa, to create a space of exoticism, one that is premised on its "Western-ness," located inside the non-West, a process enabled by this former Portuguese colony's distinct history and culture. Here 'South Asia' is re-conceptualized as a shifting site wherein tropes of the exotic play a defining role in its development. 'Goa' as an object of analysis is first exoticized through its historical difference from the rest of India, a premise explored through its distinct (Portuguese) colonial and Catholic missionary history (1510-1961). Secondly, 'Goa' is exoticized through its cultural difference from India, a premise explored through its production as a site of heritage and charter tourism in the postcolonial context (1961-2004). Nor are these differences—historical and cultural—mutually exclusive. Instead, it is their imbrication through space and time that constitutes Goa today. The Goan case illuminates the multilayered and historic dynamic of difference with regard to both object (Goa) and subject (South Asia), points to lesser known discourses of internalized 'exotics' which are required for sustaining postcoloniality, and helps to understand the politics of othering and subalternity more generally.

Author:

Parag Parobo (Goa University)

Paper short abstract:

Using text and ethnography data I explore subaltern resistance to the cultural dominance of the elite castes in colonial and post colonial Goa.

Paper long abstract:

Spectacular outbreaks against the colonial state receive scholarly attention when they originate from upper castes demonstrating yet again the elitist historiography of post colonial Goa. Fixing dominance exclusively on the colonial state narrows the agency of resistance to the elite. This leads to an emphasis on formal properties of macro level colonial power ignoring its local and micro context in which the upper castes are deeply implicated. The upper caste romanticise resistance against the Portuguese to the extent that resistance becomes the privileged marker of this elite in post colonial Goa. These elite reconstruct themselves as a primordial nationalistic being who's every act signals resistance against the colonial state and thus deny resistance and agency to the subaltern.

Caste honours of 'subaltern elites' are masked as liberal and secular virtues. Resistance qualifies only when it is against the Portuguese and in doing so the elite has succeeded in misrecognising their social dominance.

In the second part of the paper using Foucault's proposition that 'where there is power, there is resistance' I illustrate the use of resistance as a diagnostic of power. Analyzing the caste based movements among the subaltern, I emphasises how their selective use of tradition are indicative of forms of resistance to the dominant elite.

Author:

Madhavi Sardesai (Goa University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper attempts to uncover the historical play of foregrounding and suppression of meanings around ‘Konknno’ “native of Konkan” in Konkani literature of the colonial period. ‘Konknno’ was marginalized when it came to be used in the sense of ‘gentile’ and eventually came to signify “Hindu”.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is a journey with 'Konknno' along the recesses of Konkani literature of the colonial period. Konknno , a derivative of Konkann , " Konkan coast " and basically denoting "native of Konkan" was used by the seventeenth century writers in the sense of gentile or pagan. If 'Cristau' was the Self, 'Konknno' became the Other. It eventually came to signify "Hindu" in common Christian parlance and lost its original denotation. Christian by definition was one who was 'not a Konknno', and a Konknno did not want to remain one, was eager to become Hindu. Konknno was lost as the self and remained only as the other. Konknno restored to its original sense was central to Shennoi Goembab's subversion of the established Linguistic ethos of his time and his project of Konkani identity.

Author:

Alexander Henn (Arizona State University)

Paper short abstract:

In this presentation I will explore syncretistic intersections between Hindus and Catholics in Goa. I argue, that the belief that the village is an embodiment of the divine and practical concerns (neighborhood, genealogy,health) are at stake when Goan Hindus and Catholics cut across doctrines.

Paper long abstract:

Coexistence and syncretistic intersections between Hindus and Christians have become a widely studies subject in recent years. Research comes above all from Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa. One major hypothesis is that the interrelationship between Hindus and Christians is based above all on the organization of the villages. Hence, it is argued that the close connection between caste hierarchy, economic redistribution and ritual honors brings the two religious communities together in a 'common system'. Christianity in Tamil Nadu has been described as 'a caste lifestyle' (Bayly) and the Hindus and Christians in Kerala are said to 'form one total community' (Fuller). While, acknowledging the similarities in South Indian and Goan village organization, I argue in this presentation that the coexistence and syncretistic intersection between Hindus and Catholics in Goa follows a different rationale. Rather than functional interactions between the social, the economic and the religious, I argue, epistemological perspectives such as the belief that the village is an embodiment of the divine and saintly and practical concerns, such as the concern for contiguity and neighbourhood, the concern for genealogy and family relations, and the concern for health and well-being are at stake when Goan Hindus and Catholics cut across doctrinal boundaries.

Author:

Robert Newman

Paper short abstract:

From 1510 to 1961, the world viewed Goa from Portuguese eyes. Colonial hegemonial discourse relegated Goans to subaltern status---“those acted upon” rather than major actors. Liberation from colonialism should have changed matters but the new discourse of Hindi films has created different, but still subaltern, roles for Goans in modern India.

Paper long abstract:

In Hindi films, Goans have been depicted as clowns, idiots, and gangsters. But as serious people, with a role in modern India, they are nearly absent Goa has been represented as a "free" enclave in the rest of "tradition-bound" India; it is "the West" on the Subcontinent. Bollywood took (unwittingly) Portugal's "Aqui é Portugal" and made Goa into "This is not India." Goa has been repeatedly mythologized over the centuries and Goans' image has been consistently dominated by others.

The incredible growth of Indian domestic tourism to Goa has been fuelled by one thing---the mythological image of Goa presented in Hindi films and its follow-on effect among the public. This paper will trace that image in its various forms and argue that "the silence of native…voices…lost or omitted" in the highly-popular medium of film has had drastic consequences for Goan society and its natural environment. Goans are nearly invisible in the tourist flood. The narrative of the dominant group's media, of commercial giants, is of course the starting point of the story. In modern India, Goans are still subalterns in popular culture and thus in the eyes of millions. Are they full Indians ? Aren't Indian Christians still Indians? My paper will address such issues

Author:

Antonio Alito Siqueira (Goa University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the compulsions that accompany the attempt to facilitate subaltern voices in the University Classroom. The context is the recent recognition of Tribes by the State in post colonial Goa

Paper long abstract:

With the expansion and democratisation of higher education over the last two decades subaltern students have joined the University in Goa. Those who were once the subject of anthropological research now sit opposite the teacher in the Class room.

In the context of learning practices, what does inclusion and diversity mean and how do these students experience it. How do such students speak and how are they heard?

This paper is a conversation between a teacher and a student. Does the subaltern find a voice within the classroom? The discussion reflects on and explores ambivalent, contradictory and fluid experiences and consequences of resistance, stigma, pride, shame, silence and marginality. The conversation also explores how concepts such as identity, strategic essentialism and intersectional identities might play out. What are the compulsions, possibilities and inhibitions that accompany the attempt to welcome the subaltern 'voice' within the University framework?

The context is inscribed by Goa's experience: Tribes have been officially recognised only as recently as 2003. What does this recent official declaration of tribal status mean? How was community and its imagination negotiated with the colonial State and how does post colonial experience refract the past.

END