Ertegun Staff and Scholar Profiles

Gautham Shiralagi

MSt in South Asian Studies | 2016 Graduate

I believe societies contest their history at the juncture of its academic cloisters and popular conversations. In India the delicacy of the membrane separating the two contains within it democratic and emancipatory potential, but can also act to censor dissent. From the late nineteen-seventies histories have proliferated both in type and also in the mediums of dissemination.

My Thesis proposes to study this fragmentation of historic discourse. I hope to ask how the claim of writing ‘the people’s history’ came to define the central ideological ground of this culture, even as the existence of ‘the people’ was contested? How the Indian ‘diaspora’ influenced this historical writing, both as an ‘enunciatory position’, and as a group to be furnished with a past? How concerns of ‘identity’ and ‘difference’ shaped the construction of the historical subject in these narratives? And finally, how the articulation of historical ideas is a strategy concerned with epistemic and political power, interacting closely with social change?

In this study I will utilise Marxist and post-Marxist critical theory to examine a space at the boundary of intellectual history and popular culture. I particularly hope to draw on Benjamin and Adorno’s debates on the nature of materialism and the philosophy of history, alongside later insights on discursive regimes and the structure of narratives.

I completed my undergraduate degree in Oxford last year, writing my dissertation on the production of the colonial subject and constructions of the colonised, read through the letters of a colonial administrator in South India in the 1910s.

Outside of my degree I am enjoy modernism in the arts, Marxist thought and film of all kinds. I will be organising a conference this year discussing post-colonialism through the lens of the cricketing world, drawing on the writings of C.L.R James.  I view political activism, cultural journalism and studying the humanities as entwined aspects of my intellectual life, all of which are essential to sustaining a dynamic culture of dissent. Consequently, Ertegun house provides me with a wonderful opportunity to pursue my interdisciplinary interests and interact with other scholars.