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The Mortal God Gives a Glimpse of the Sovereignty of the Subalterns and Margins of the Society

  • TheThe Mortal God gives a glimpse of the Sovereignty of the Subalterns and Margins of the Society


The book, “The Mortal God imagining the Sovereign in Colonial India” explores the need for liberating sovereignty. The book through its assessments and varied narratives gives rise to several interpretations and spark off several debates. German historian and researcher at Ludwig Maximilians Universitat Munich has worked on similar issues and debates which features the need for ‘decolonizing and subalternising sovereignty’ transcending the theories of Hobbes of the state being a “mortal god”.  The idea for such a theme was provoked by three great philosophers namely: Thomas Hobbes and his theory of Leviathon, Rabindranath Tagore and his poem later turned to a song “amra shobai raja amader ei rajar rajatve” and lastly Kazi Nazrul Islam’s Dhumketu through which he asks the most potent question of what is “swaraj” and answers it as self-rule by all where everyone is a king.

Young historian Milinda Banerjee; Assistant Professor of Presidency University Kolkata, in his book has emphasized on this nuanced notion with several examples. He gives the example of Rabindranath Tagore’s song, the first stanza of which when incorporated as the National Anthem implanted the notion of Indian Unity by eulogizing all Indians to the divine monarch of the country. During the period of armistice in Bengal, acclamations to Pranavananda; the Hindu yogi who founded the Bharat Sevashram Sangha led to the development of militant Hindu Nationalism. This development was forged to bring in the peasants into the political forefront.

Vivekananda and Bal Gangadhar Tilak according to Banerjee experienced uncertainties and hesitations regarding the monotheistic political rulership. Even though Rabindranath Tagore was fascinated by the idea of reformist rulership, he was one of the most important exponents advocating a democratic political theology. He believed that divinity and regality were present even among the masses. Kazi Nazrul Islam also believed in the divinity of the masses and hence, was of the opinion that everyone deserved basic democratic rights and could be the destructor of the evil.

Banerjee, further poses the question of sovereignty in an age when transnational capital gets hampered by promotion and patronization of the interests of the electorates of various nation-states.  Nation-state sovereignty subsidises the basic notions of power which encourage transnational capital to flourish today and poses major threats to social equality. As a result, violent chauvinistic behaviour gets encouraged and the margins of the society continue to be exploited. The book provides us with several debates and the workings of the society before and in the present day which makes for a good read. It provides a great food for thought and helps us realise the dichotomies of the society.

Note to the Editor:
About The Author

Dr. Milinda Banerjee conducted his PhD at the Cluster “Asia and Europe,” where he was a research fellow in the Junior Research Group “Transcultural Justice: Legal Flows and the Emergence of International Justice within the East Asian War Crimes Trials, 1946-1954”. He was also part of the research project A5 “Nationising the Dynasty. Currently, Banerjee is teaching at the Department of History at Presidency University in Kolkata and is a research fellow at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. 
Publication: Cambridge University Press; First edition (19 April 2018)
Price: Rs. 875.60