AAS Annual Meeting

South Asia Session 113

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Session 113: Portuguese India Beyond History : From the Colony to the World (II)

Organizer and Chair: Rosa Perez, Independent Scholar, Portugal

This panel will seek to elaborate on the requirements for an interdisciplinary approach to Portuguese India that was initiated in the previous and accompanying Panel. This earlier panel sough to articulate such an approach based on four concrete case studies. The broader effort aims at breaking with previous Luso and Eurocentric perspectives, to highlight crucial perspectives that have been neglected by social sciences. Dominant traditions within scholarship related to the Portuguese empire in the East privilege historical readings. This historiography however has limited itself to specific times and contexts. New perspectives need to necessarily problematise the manner in which classical historiography has avoided certain time-spaces and thematics. The interaction between the disciplines will allow, we hope, to articulate an agenda toward an ethnography of the colonial archive within this particular context. This panel will suggest that the conceptual terms developed when contemplating dominant forms of European colonialism do not sit as comfortably when used in the context of Portuguese colonialism. The discussion will seek to critically engage with the terms cosmopolitanism, nostalgia and Empire.

Revisiting the ‘Black Legend’: Corruption in Early Modern Portuguese India
Nandini Chaturvedula, Independent Scholar, Portugal

In virtually every general history of the early modern Portuguese presence in India, mention is made of the rampant corruption that plagued the colonial administration there. Multiple forms of corruption, it is argued, were ubiquitous, and yet paradoxically, within the historiography of Portuguese India corruption is nowhere to be found. Only one, now dated, monograph refers specifically to this Portuguese “Black Legend” which has otherwise not been examined in any systematic way. This is due in part to the difficulties of analyzing such a loaded concept; ‘corruption’ automatically brings to mind certain practices or behaviors, however when thinking about early modern forms of corruption we must be extremely wary of historical anachronism. This paper addresses the methodological problems associated with the study of early modern corruption and examines how the early modern Portuguese themselves understood the concept. I argue that the various manifestations of corruption (administrative, economic, political, spiritual or moral) were all intertwined, making it not only necessary to consider corruption from a political perspective, as is usually done, but also in relation to the dominant moral and religious values of the early modern Portuguese. It is impossible, I believe, to analyze corruption without taking into account the social and cultural milieu in which the concept circulated and the subsequent mentalities in relation to corruption that emerged during this period. This examination of corruption also opens up different perspectives and insights that further allow us to contemplate the challenges and specificities of the Portuguese colonial experience in India.

Nostalgia for the Empire and the dreams of the subalterns
Jason Keith Fernandes, Independent Scholar, Portugal

A casual journey through the roadways of Goa (especially in a tourist taxi) will force us to recognize a rather large number of Portuguese flags that hang as mobiles on vehicles – be they four-wheelers or two-wheelers. A read through a recently published book on the migrations of Goans across the world, and specifically the British empire will indicate a certain fascination for the empire and the desire to approximate to the white man. Are these all expressions of nostalgia, which we are told, by significant post-colonial theorists, is the biggest sin of post-colonialism? This presentation, will seek to challenge this assertion by suggesting that what appears to be nostalgia, could in fact represent assertions by subalterns within now national spaces. To comprehend this possibility this presentation will engage with a rethinking of the idea of Empire and suggest a comparison between the spaces for the subaltern within imperial formations and within the national. Could it be that this nostalgia for the imperial, castigated roundly by nationalists, could hold the key for a different kind of cosmopolitanism, a cosmopolitanism of the subaltern? In making these observations, this paper hopes to join the discussion of the need for differently nuanced theoretical models that deal with Portuguese colonialism and post-colonialism.

Reclaiming the colony: Goa, Daman and Diu as a resource
Constantino Xavier, Johns Hopkins University, USA

The debate about former Portuguese India’s comparative difference with the rest of India or other postcolonial societies is all too often guided by ideological considerations, caught in-between the extremes of Luso-nostalgic and Hindu revisionist positions. Beyond such partisan approaches, this paper argues that the larger Indian perspective on Goa, Daman and Diu has undergone a radical transformation since the economic reforms initiated in 1991. Instead of denying or underplaying the Portuguese colonial influence on these territories, the tendency now is to approach this difference as a resource. In this perspective, the distinctive colonial past of Goa, Daman and Diu is now recognized, selectively identified and reworked to the advantage of specific interests. This papers uncovers five such sites of reclamation: the tourism industry and its official marketing campaigns; the new diaspora policy and the Overseas Citizenship of India provisions; the legal campaign to universalize the Goan civil code to the rest of India; the resurgence of Portuguese language as an economic resource; and the political disposition to use Goa as a sporting or diplomatic hub to engage with the eight Portuguese-speaking countries of the CPLP. From a disciplinary angle, this paper thus contributes to the field of comparative studies on post-colonial societies. The case of former Portuguese Indian seeks to understand how altered economic interests fuel a process by which traditionally ignored historical and cultural differences are recovered and capitalized as an advantage.

Nostalgic pasts, cosmopolitan futures. Goa at the crossroads of the world
Rosa Perez, Independent Scholar, Portugal

A number of edited volumes have recently been published (Vertovec and Cohen 2000, Robinson 2007, Werbner 2008) in which ‘cosmopolitanism’ is treated as a focal point for anthropological research. This treatment of ‘cosmopolitanism’ offers an important view upon matters of social policy: on integration in modern society, on citizenship and human rights, on the balance between tradition and community membership and self-authored ongoing identities. Nevertheless, at this juncture in anthropological production, it is worth asking whether this notion of ‘cosmopolitanism’ offers anything new or distinct from previous conceptualizations of ‘multiculturalism’, ‘globalism’, ‘diaspora’, ‘transnationalism’, ‘pluralism’, or ‘civil society’? In other words, does the concept identify a new anthropological agenda or does it merely offer a new terminology for problems that anthropologists have long been debating? This paper aims at addressing some of these questions through the illustration of two opposing trends of cosmopolitanism in Goa: a colonial one, experienced by the Catholic elite along the lines of metropolitan networks (Europe, Brazil and Africa), and a contemporary one, connecting Goa to India and India to the world, experienced mainly by Hindus and the young generation of Catholics. By the same token, I hope to show how cosmopolitanism has been shaped by a political rather than a cultural agenda.