‘The Colonial Other’ as Cultural Phenomenon: Rabindranath Tagore's Reception in London, 1912

By:
Dr Michael Collins
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Rabindranath Tagore’s arrival in London in June 1912 was the subject of intense interest amongst Britain’s intellectual avant-garde. A year later, his Gitanjali -- a poem in which W. B. Yeats declared that western readers had “met our own image” -- won the Nobel Prize for literature. This paper uses archival research to examine elements of intellectual and cultural exchange under the conditions of colonial modernity. It argues that the reception and interpretation of Tagore was driven by conflicting currents of colonial discourse; some seeking intellectual renewal through a romantic engagement with ‘otherness’, others seeing Tagore’s work as representative of the spread of a liberal humanism that could be used as justification for British imperialism.


Keywords: Cultural history, Intellectual history, Colonialism, Britain, India, Culture, Identity, Power, Postcolonial theory
Stream: History, Historiography
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: History and the Postcolonial


Dr Michael Collins

PhD candidate, Faculty of Modern History, University of Oxford
UK

Michael Collins is a D.Phil. candidate in Modern History at St John’s College, University of Oxford, working on Rabindranath Tagore and the cultural history of colonialism. He holds a B.Sc. in Government with First Class Honours from the LSE and an M.Phil. in Political Thought and Intellectual History from King’s College, Cambridge. His doctorate is entitled ‘Rabindranath Tagore and the West: 1912-1941’. It uses archival research to examine interpretations and misinterpretations of the Bengali poet, philosopher and social reformer by his Western interlocutors. The historical work is tied into wider theoretical themes concerning the nature of culture and power under the conditions of late colonial modernity. He is supervised by David Washbrook, Director of the Institute for South Asian Studies at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford.

Ref: H06P0304