SYNCRETISM / From East and West to the Darker Nations
Passage to India!
Lo, soul, seest thou not God’s purpose from the first?
The earth to be spann’d, connected by network,
The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage,
The oceans to be cross’d, the distant brought near,
The lands to be welded together.
—“Passage to India,” Walt Whitman (1871)
In a laudatory review of Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali published in the little magazine the Blue Review in 1913, a few months before Tagore received his Nobel Prize for Literature, the British poet Lascelles Abercrombie connects the import of Tagore’s work to its ability to fuse East and West—the kind of world-unifying alchemy that Whitman associates with network technology in the extract from Leaves of Grass above. By performing this synthesis, Abercrombie contends, Tagore’s collection contributes to “world politics as well as to poetry”:
As I read his own exquisite prose translation of his songs, I seem to have jumped right over that formidable clash which is, or ought to be, at the back of everybody’s mind—the coming clash of East and West; I seem to have landed magically in its serene and triumphant conclusion. All the great original civilizations of the world . . . have resulted from the East fusing somehow with the West. And always it has been the East that supplied impulse—Dionysus, the West that supplied form—Apollo. Now this seems to me exactly what has happened afresh in “Gitanjali.” The book is not only noble poetry, it is a new civilization.
On the one hand, he warns ominously of an epic “coming clash”—a popular notion related to the rise of anticolonial movements across the French and British empires and the perception of Japan as a newly formidable global power in the wake of the 1905 Russo-Japanese War. On the other, he imagines a triumphant union of East and West based on complementary aesthetic elements (“impulse” and “form”) that allow for a “magical” transcendence of conflict and give rise to “a new civilization.”
This version of the East-West binary, wherein Eastern spirituality was seen as a redemptive and renovating counter to Western materialism, had much currency at the time. Protap Chunder Mozoomdar, a representative of the Brahmo Samaj at the World’s Parliament of Religion in 1893, described the reformed Hinduism practiced by the Samaj as a “commonwealth of affection”; in his speech at the Parliament and elsewhere, Eastern spiritualism serves as the affective glue of world unity. Similar syncretic ideals circulated between Britain and India in the works of theosophists like Annie Besant; literary figures such as W. B. Yeats, Sarojini Naidu, and E. M. Forster; spiritual leaders such as Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda, and Sister Nivedita; and, of course, the writings and lectures of Tagore himself. For these thinkers, as for Abercrombie, East-West syncretism in the cultural sphere was imagined as a potential remedy for conflict in the political sphere.
The purchase of this idea extended to organizations such as theater groups and presses. A group called the Indian Art and Dramatic Society of London renamed itself the Union of the East and the West in 1914 and put on Indian plays (many by Tagore) for the British public as a way to promote cross-cultural understanding; John Murray’s publishing house, meanwhile, launched a series called “The Wisdom of the East” which ran from 1905 until the 1960s and published 122 translations of classical and modern Middle Eastern and Asian literary and religious texts. An editorial note on the series used idealistic language that recurs repeatedly in descriptions of East-West syncretism in the early twentieth century:
The object of the Editors of this Series is a very definite one. They desire above all things that, in their humble way, these books shall be the ambassadors of good-will and understanding between East and West, the old world of Thought and the new of Action. In this endeavour, and in their own sphere, they are but followers of the highest example in the land. They are confident that a deeper knowledge of the great ideals and lofty philosophy of Oriental thought may help to a revival of that true spirit of Charity which neither despises nor fears the nations of another creed and colour.
But despite its utopian articulations, East-West syncretism was an ideologically fraught project. Michael Adas notes that because Indian versions of modernist syncretism often involved the adoption of Western-inflected views of India and Asia, “pre–World War I challenges to assumptions of Western superiority . . . were highly essentialist, mainly reactive rather than proactive, and framed by Western gauges of human achievement and worth.” In the works of modern Indian writers like Tagore, syncretism functioned as a cosmopolitan ideal that united spiritual and scientific worldviews, but it was also used by spiritual leaders as a way to harness cosmopolitanism’s normative power to the ends of Indian nationalism by asserting the world-historical import of Indian religions and literatures—most often Hinduism.
As many have argued, the ways in which an ahistorical view of Hinduism as the locus of authentic Indian identity became central to the nationalist movement in the early twentieth century would have disastrous consequences for the postcolony that can be traced up to the rise of the extreme right and attendant communal violence in contemporary India. Ironically, syncretism—despite its constitutive openness to multiple faiths—would contribute to this development more than mitigate it. In “Beyond Orientalism,” Gauri Viswanathan explores broader meanings of “syncretism,” tracing its uses to the rise of Protestantism in the seventeenth century when Christian theology sought a more democratic basis for faith located in “the people” as opposed to the clerisy. Rooted in this history, syncretism is best described as “an embodiment of disinterestedness [that] creates conditions for a form of governance where class differences, allegiances and interests vanish.” But, Viswanathan argues, it must also be seen as “a specific position from which certain interests are advanced, presumably in the name of a larger comity of universal brotherhood.” Used both to assimilate Indians to British rule via Christianity and to ground Indian nationalism in broad religious movements such as the Brahmo Samaj, syncretism was at once a form of “nostalgia for an undivided community that preceded the state” and “constitutive of the will to nationhood.”
By examining the way syncretic ideals circulated between Britain and India in speeches, journalism, and the form of periodicals themselves, I show how what Viswanathan calls “syncretism-as-strategy” operated on either side of the colonial divide and helped shape political and literary debates in the first two decades of the twentieth century. I am using syncretism in a narrower sense than Viswa-nathan, however, to name a type of modernist cosmopolitanism that was visible in the imperial public sphere in both Indian and British publications.
In the face of large-scale war (the Russo-Japanese War and then World War I), modernist syncretism imagined East-West exchange, or a synthesis of East-West ideas, or both, as the basis of world progress and peace. But in practice, as Abercrombie’s word “magical” suggests, syncretism in European writing tended to build on essentialist ideas of East and West, as well as the racist and “sometimes eugenicist” ideas about civilizational clash that circulated in this period in the work of many influential European writers, such as Oswald Spengler and Henri Massis. Even as the modern version of the East-West binary was informed by fears of the West’s decline and Asia’s ascendancy, the meanings of East and West continued to be figured, in the words of Antonio Gramsci, “from the point of view of the European cultured classes who, as a result of their world-wide hegemony, have caused them to be accepted everywhere.” East and West are nominally symmetrical in the opposition but “the East is marked—stereotyped, labeled, named—while the West is not.”
Building on the work of Edward Said, with whom this view of the West’s unmarkedness in the development of Orientalism is most often associated, Saree Makdisi argues for a more nuanced view of the East-West binary. In his account, Occidentalism emerged alongside Orientalism in the eighteenth century as a way to mark the Other within—the British and Irish working classes, as well as the decadent aristocracy. Orientalism was not just outward-but inward-facing, designed to differentiate the civilized bourgeoisie, uniquely associated with the West, from those both within and outside the nation. But if civilizational ideas of the West took shape in this earlier moment, the term “the West” itself—and the ways we use it today—developed later, in the turn-of-the-century period covered in this book. As Christopher GoGwilt notes in his analysis of Conrad and the “invention of the West,” “It is only relatively recently—between the 1880s and the 1920s—that formulations of “the West” came to mean a relation between a structure of international political power, and imagined cultural identity and a discrete historical development within world history.” Both East and West, then, were being freshly rearticulated in relation to each other in the imperial public sphere during this period, in both cultural and geopolitical terms.
The first two decades of the twentieth century produced various forms of transnational antiracism and anticolonialism still inadequately attended to. Manu Goswami points out that “we know a good deal more about the afterlife of colonial internationalism . . . than its crisis-borne appearance between WWI and WWII” despite the fact that “from the standpoint of anti-imperial intellectuals and activists, the interwar moment marked a crisis not just within but of an extant geopolitical order.” If, as GoGwilt argues, now-dominant ideas about “the West” (and thus implicitly of the East) were “constructed after and in reaction to the process of decolonization,” what was happening to those ideas in the colony as the process of decolonization began to take shape? How did they, for better and for worse, shape the process of decolonization itself, and the discourse of anticolonialism across the imperial Anglosphere?
In our contemporary moment, when the geographic terms that prevail in colonial and postcolonial studies have shifted axis from East and West to North and South—at least in part to escape the stereotypes and ideologies that over-determine the older binary—it is worth revisiting the specific uses of “East and West” at the historical juncture that foreshadowed the concept’s loss of power. In what follows, I look in detail at two specific and significant uses of the East-West binary in the imperial public sphere, the first focused on its geopolitical usages (at the Universal Races Congress of 1911), the second on its cultural ones (in the modernist Indian journal East and West). Whereas the preceding chapters have paired British and Indian events and texts to demonstrate their overlapping and mutually influential print cultures, this chapter’s doubled structure focuses on the way the metropole/colony dialogue was made explicit and staged as such in two venues—an international conference that took place in London, and a journal published in Bombay that contained texts written by both Indian and British authors.
In both cases, notions of affection and disaffection had a key role to play for, like the colonizer-colonized relationship, the East-West one was frequently figured as a friendship or romance. As we have seen in the other case studies examined in this book, Indians who sought to intervene in the imperial public sphere had to do so strategically because of the law against disaffection. The wide range of texts that use tropes of cross-cultural friendship and romance in the colonial context thus had much to do with the coercive conditions that underlay the affection allegory, for they offered a way for writers and politicians to engage elliptically yet pointedly with the political dimensions of the colonial encounter.
My aim in this chapter, however, is not only to show how syncretism functioned as a form of cosmopolitanism and a tactic for navigating press censorship, but also how modernism—both Indian modernism and “high” European modernism—was shaped in part by ideas about East and West that were being debated in cultural and political forums by key players on each side of the colonial divide: indeed, nothing demonstrates the interdependence of British and Indian literary publics upon which this book is focused more fully than the transnational circuit and global imaginary of modernist syncretism. Though scholarship on Indian modernism focuses on art, literature, and artsy literature (such as “little magazines”) produced later, from the 1930s through the 1960s and beyond, the discourse I trace here, and the existence of a periodical such as East and West that was thoroughly modern in both form and content, demonstrates that the syncretic ideals and geopolitical realignments crucial to our understanding of transnational modernism were very much in play at the beginning of the century. The colonies may have served as a colorful backdrop for individual self-making and unmaking in the works of European writers such as Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, and George Orwell, but the forms of criticism and comparison practiced by colonial subjects in the same period were part of the impetus for existential crisis in the West. In short, this chapter encourages us to see modernism as a dialogue structured by colonial relations and, as such, one ineluctably shaped by colonial censorship.
Not Yet, Not Here: The Failures of Friendship
The uses of friendship in literary and political discourse analyzed here offer a contrasting view to scholarship of the last two decades that has taken up the trope of friendship as a way of understanding and celebrating various forms of anticolonial resistance otherwise invisible to view. In Affective Communities, for instance, Leela Gandhi looks at “minor narratives of crosscultural collaboration between oppressors and oppressed” and charts a history of anticolonialism located in the metropolitan center, where imperatives of empire were refused via alliances forged across the East-West binary. Seth Koven’s The Match Girl and the Heiress reconstructs the unlikely friendship between two women of starkly different class backgrounds and the way they deployed it to enable and energize their anticolonialism, grassroots activism, and utopian community building. Elleke Boehmer’s essay on Robert Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys, meanwhile, suggests that the scouts’ emphasis on friendship as a mode that might cut across “cultural, racial, or social divides” was taken up by nationalists like Rabindranath Tagore to promote a different vision of “transnational and intercultural attachment.”
The intricate histories uncovered by these approaches contribute in salutary ways to our understanding of empire. But it is hard to see friendship as a category that might operate outside the space of normative politics if we consider the legal and rhetorical history of affection as an imperial trope: can friendship be a space of freedom if it is also a coercive requirement of intercultural contact? Part of the reason relationships understood in affective terms have been appealing to critics of empire and theorists of affect alike is that they can be seen as forms of voluntary filiation unmediated by the ineluctable identities of nation, class, or culture. But because affection was a mandate of loyal imperial subjecthood, it was always being performatively produced or refused in print circulation and was thus as highly mediated as any other category of sociability.
Two of the most well-known examples of friendship being used to surmount the fraught politics of British-Indian relations in Anglophone modernist literature are Rudyard Kipling’s Kim (1901) and E. M. Forster’s Passage to India (1924). Famously, the friendship between the eponymous character and the lama in Kim serves both as a spiritual and moral counter to, and cover for, the cynical machinations of the Great Game. A lesser-known and later work of Kipling’s, The Eyes of Asia, puts the rhetoric of imperial friendship to work in similar ways, but rather than merely representing war games, like Kim, it was actively engaged in them and is thus an even better example of the dubious ways in which friendship and affection were deployed in the period surrounding World War I.
After the start of the war, the British government, concerned about the radicalization of Indian immigrants in the United States by the revolutionary Ghadar movement and about potential discontent among Indian soldiers fighting in France, recruited a number of famous authors to write propagandistic articles that would sell the war to the American and British publics while convincing them of the ongoing value of empire. Thus, in 1917, at the instigation of a British intelligence officer, Kipling published four stories in British and American newspapers that read as letters from Indian soldiers deployed in France to their families on the subcontinent.
Though he did not like to think of his writing as propaganda, much of Kipling’s literary output during the war functioned this way in practice: for instance, he was allegedly responsible for the widely used term “Huns” to describe Germans. But he also participated actively in official propaganda campaigns, and in 1916 stated in a letter to a friend that, while retaining copyright, he had allowed his writing to be used “as articles in newspapers or as pamphlets in propaganda work in all countries.” His propagandistic output, Anurag Jain notes, included poems, speeches, and articles aimed at British and imperial audiences, alongside letters and verse addressed specifically to Americans that cajoled them to “face up to their duty to help the Allies in the war.”
Kipling’s four fictional letters by Indian soldiers were serialized in the American Saturday Evening Post and the British Morning Post in 1917 and later published together in book form under the title The Eyes of Asia. The letters borrowed liberally from actual soldiers’ letters secretly forwarded to him by a British intelligence officer; they are thus reminiscent of some Indian accounts of the war, but minus the reports of war fatigue, criticisms of leadership and of European moral barbarism, and warnings to others to avoid enlistment at all cost that could be found in actual sepoy letters, as well as other Indian war narratives such as Mulk Raj Anand’s novel Across the Black Waters. The title of Anand’s book alludes to one of the worst punishments for disaffection under Section 124a—transportation for life. Those punished in this form were sent to the Andaman Islands, a locale chosen specifically—and sadistically—because it was across the “Black Waters” of the Indian Ocean and therefore proscribed by the Dharma Sutra, which identified travel to foreign countries with the loss of varna (caste status). Of his chapter on punishments in the Indian Penal Code, Thomas Babington Macaulay stated that “the consideration which has chiefly determined us to retain that mode of punishment is our persuasion that it is regarded by the natives of India, particularly those who live at a distance from the sea, with particular fear. The pain which is caused by punishment is unmixed evil.” By associating serving in the war with the proscription against crossing the ocean, the title of Anand’s novel equates loyalty to the empire with literal bad faith.
Thus, while Kipling strove to represent a range of Indian experiences in his fictional letters, including the voices of Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus, his version of the sepoy was many degrees removed from the actual experience of Indian soldiers. But these were highly mediated in multiple ways. To begin with, there was the retrospection of the writing process, the polite conventions of the letter form, and the role of scribes (used by many soldiers who dictated their communiqués with friends and family). Once finished, the letters were subject to translation and two rounds of inspection. Finally, they were submitted for possible censorship at different levels of army administration before being released for travel to their intended audiences. Gujendra Singh describes the censorship operations at the government level as follows: “A special Chief Censor of Indian Mails was appointed whose purpose, with the help of his staff, was to read, analyse, translate and record every letter sent by and to a sipahi in the field. At first this was just for sipahis serving in the operational theatre of France, but, by WWI, this more stringent censorship covered sipahis wherever they served—from N Africa, Italy and the Mediterranean to Burma, Malaya and the Far East.” The goal of these censors was to suppress any content that betrayed covert information, discouraged enlistment, sapped morale, or was explicitly critical of the empire and its allies.
By 1915 sepoys had become aware of the censorship to which their letters were being subjected and—like many journalists and authors in India—changed their writing accordingly, using conventional British phrases and stock characterizations of warfare to appear adequately loyal, as well as cryptic references, allegories, and poems to convey negative sentiments that might otherwise provoke redaction. These tactics confounded British censors even when they were alert to them. One censor complained, for example, that it is “almost impossible . . . for any censorship of Oriental correspondence to be effective as a barrier. Orientals excel in the art of conveying information without saying anything definite.”
In keeping with the doppelgänger effect produced by colonial censorship in other texts examined in this book, Kipling’s sepoy letters mimicked Indian soldiers performing the role of mimic man, professing and enacting loyal subjecthood by avoiding critique and voicing affection for their rulers (or in this case, the Allied troops and their commanders). Of the many British writers enlisted to produce war propaganda, Kipling would have been especially comfortable with this role because he had helped invent the mimic man a decade and a half earlier through his character Hurree Chunder Mookerjee in Kim (see chapter 1). Predictably, the sepoy letters are written in a Hurree-esque voice, complete with linguistic error, comical malapropisms, and wide-eyed naivete. In the punningly titled fiction “A Private Account,” for example, a mother whose son is reading to her from a letter is impressed by the fact that the French could apparently leave expensive clothing hanging in unsecured spaces because of their honesty: “That is the country for me! Dresses worth 200 rupees hanging on nails! Princesses all they must be.”
But Kipling’s soldier-mimic had to be more serious than comic, so as to encourage his readers to believe in the authenticity of the war experiences recounted, and the pro-Allies and anti-German sentiment professed. Thus, one of the “letters” that appeared under the heading “A Retired Gentleman,” written in the voice of an elderly sepoy convalescing at an English hospital, represents the Germans as follows: “The nature of the enemy is to commit shame upon women and children and to defile the shrines of his own faith with his own dung. It is done by him as a drill. . . . We did not know they were outcaste. Now it is established by the evidence of our senses. They attack on all fours running like apes.” The reference to the caste system and empirical evidence augment the authentic ring of the letter, which is focused on dehumanizing the Germans while emphasizing the modesty of the British: “Their greatness is to make themselves very small,” the retired gentleman writes, concluding that “we are not even children beside them.” Another of the letters based its extensive arguments for why more Indians should enlist on the superiority of French culture. “No man molests any woman here,” the soldier writes; touting the war as a form of cultural tourism, he insists his compatriots should come to the front as fast as possible to learn the French ways of life because “such opportunities will not occur again.”
Because they were based on actual letters, Kipling’s letters are charged with affection for their addressees, the beloved family back home. But he also saturates his letters with a rival affection for the colonizer so that they might counter affect pointed toward India, and the possibility of seditious disaffection, with a sense of imperial belonging. Thus, the Retired Gentleman writes that he has no desire to return home to India after his convalescence because of the loving care of the nurses in Britain and his many “friends among the English.” Another letter, “The Fumes of the Heart,” devotes several lines to the kindness of a French woman who treated its writer like a son and wept for him accordingly: “I had never believed such women existed in this Black Age,” the imaginary soldier writes in awe.
At a point where censorship in India could no longer contain anticolonial writings as they spread around the world, from Ghadar newspapers in America to letters written in the trenches of France, Kipling was forced to invent the loyal Indian wholesale and to become his own mimic subject. For if the soldiers Kipling created in his letters resemble his babu character Hurree, Kipling himself, performing in brownface by producing “authentic” accounts from the front, resembles the shape-shifting Kim, who passes as an Indian while performing espionage for the British.
The title of the collection given to the four fictional letters, The Eyes of Asia, is reminiscent of travelogues of the period, such as Behramji Malabari’s 1893 autobiographical work An Indian Eye on English Life, that sought to reverse the anthropological colonial gaze and decenter Western culture by subjecting it to the detached scrutiny of the colonial outsider. The focus on the eye in these titles suggests the disembodied perspective of an eye in the sky, a phrase once evocative of a watchful god or an objective overview but now associated primarily with security cameras, satellites, and drones. Given these current-day militaristic connotations, it is fitting that Kipling’s appropriative voice turns the disinterested gaze of the traveler into one of surveillance, trained on the very subjects it claims to represent in an effort to curb their dissent. The “eyes of Asia,” Kipling’s letters, are tools of the state and as such recall not so much participant observation as dismemberment: the body parts of soldiers drawn into a war that mobilized their labor and lives against their own interests.
Forster’s representation of East-West exchange a few years later engaged explicitly with the discourse of friendship and affection as well, but in a mode that simultaneously illuminated its radical potential and its fallacies. Like Kipling’s, Forster’s writing about India was influenced in part by the stereotypes that circulated in the Anglo-Indian press (some of these written by Kipling himself or published by him during his editorial stint at the Pioneer). Forster borrowed lightly from the babu figure in his representation of Aziz, for instance, and personified the kind of spiritual cosmopolitanism popularized by Tagore and Vivekananda in the comic-enigmatic figure of Godbole. But he tried hard to refuse the terms of both Anglo-Indian racism and liberal imperialism in his engagement with India, and used friendship as a central metaphor for this refusal.
For example, his essay “Three Countries” stressed that his motivation to go to India was to see a friend rather than to “govern or make money or improve people,” and in Two Cheers for Democracy he famously stated: “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” In Passage to India, these ideas are acted out in the friendships between Fielding and Aziz, and Aziz and Mrs. Moore, characters whose appeal is rooted in their determination to dodge the ideological imperatives of the colonial encounter through a focus on personal experience and interpersonal loyalty. After Aziz shows Fielding a picture of his wife, they become “friends, brothers. That part was settled. . . . They trusted each other, affection had triumphed for once in a way.”
But if friendship is the guiding ethos of the novel, with Aziz’s meeting with Mrs. Moore serving as the first embodied encounter of East and West and Fielding’s loyalty to him dominating the “Cave” section, the last section, “Temple,” the novel’s ending famously draws this ethos into question. When the homoerotic friendship of Fielding and Aziz ends with a missed kiss as Aziz rides off into the sunset in a burst of nationalist fervor, we learn that the characters may be able to transcend ideology in individual moments but cannot transcend the dialectics of history.
One of the canniest aspects of Forster’s novel is the way it embeds this history in the novel’s settings. The bridge party where the ill-fated trip to the caves is dreamed up is a satire of actual bridge parties held by the British in the early 1900s in an attempt to stave off disaffection through displays of friendly East-West contact. The cave outing initiated at the party demonstrates the superficiality of this kind of endeavor by returning to the scene of colonial trauma and allegorizing the way an imagined drama of sexual violence (a phantasmatic reversal of conquest) generates disaffection by legitimizing racial hatred and accelerating the sedimentation of power, as it did in the case of the 1857 Rebellion. This event leads to the trial scene, in which British legal reasoning proves unequal to the task of managing the effects of affect—as it would in the case of disaffection trials like Gandhi’s which helped bolster rather than dispel an ethos of disaffection. Mid-trial, Adela breaks down and the Indian characters emerge from the scene of dissolution with a new sense of anticolonial resolve. At the end of the novel, this resolve is manifested not only in Aziz’s hardheaded nationalism but in the ecosphere and built environment as well. The horses, earth, birds, and sky, as well as the temple, tank, jails, and palace all help generate the unbridgeable rift between Aziz and Fielding with their chorus of refusal: “no not yet . . . no not there.” Though affection and friendship are the ostensible ideals of the novel, the novel ultimately relies on moments of disaffection and repudiation to highlight the grandiose delusions of liberal humanism and its modernist analogue, East-West syncretism.
Significantly, A Passage to India was published at the end of the period of syncretism covered in this chapter, for it outlines both the naive but appealing idealism of friendship as a space outside politics and the inevitability of disaffection with colonial governance. The Universal Races Congress (URC) and the journal East and West are less well-known examples of modernist syncretism than the writings of Kipling and Forster but they illuminate these better-known texts by demonstrating the degree to which they were engaging with constructs—East-West exchange, friendship, and affection—that were part of a much larger conversation within the imperial public sphere.
While the URC helped reify rather than successfully deconstruct race as a category of political analysis, it also marked a moment when proto-nations and minority subjects became openly critical of the West and increasingly turned to each other, rather than imperial interlocutors, in their imagination of the future. Race at the URC may have been biological for many commentators, but for many of the non-Western attendees it came to signify a shared embodied experience of oppression and manipulation that could serve as the basis of new alliances and solidarities. East and West demonstrates how this dynamic played out in the periods before and after World War I and how the journal’s syncretic cosmopolitanism, as it began to reject the West as the model for modernity, opened both onto Hindu nationalism and emancipatory visions of grassroots transnational solidarity. The period of modernist syncretism, then, was one of divergent imaginative possibilities, the best promises of which remain unrealized.
“So-Called White and So-Called Coloured Peoples”: The Universal Races Congress and the Racialization of East and West
The Universal Races Congress of 1911 has yet to receive robust critical attention but was a pivotal event in the history and circulation of transnational racist and antiracist discourses. At the turn of the century, global networks of white settler colonists, projects of Anglo-Saxon unity, and imperial agendas such as that of “Greater Britain”—each intertwined to different degrees with ideologies of white supremacy—were all gathering momentum and taking advantage of the faster circulation and wider reach of print culture (as we saw in the case of W. T. Stead’s Review of Reviews in chapter 3). Yet these ideas and movements were both driven by, and provoked responses from, anticolonial movements and antiracist thinkers in the global South, as well as some in the West.
The Hungarian sociologist Gustav Spiller, chief organizer of the URC, envisioned the conference as an intellectual, interrogative response to the rise of racial thinking. Making the subject of race the basis for an international conference in this incendiary moment turned out to be a winning idea: Spiller generated considerable interest in his potentially quixotic venture and more than two thousand representatives from all over the world assembled at the University of London from July 26 to July 29, 1911. These included such notable and disparate figures as W. E. B. Du Bois, Annie Besant, Franz Boas, Sister Nivedita, Ferdinand Tönnies, and J. A. Hobson.
As the first international conference organized specifically to investigate the category of race, the URC offers a window onto the way race was understood and instrumentalized across a range of disciplines and geographies in this moment, as well as the way these ideas were challenged by prominent intellectuals and politicians. In this regard, it should be seen as a crucial forerunner to more well-known anticolonial formations such as the Bandung conference of 1955 and the Non-Aligned Movement, as well as “the series of Pan-African Congresses that took place beginning in 1900 . . . the League against Imperialism meeting held in Brussels in 1927, and the two Pan-Asian People’s Conferences held in Nagasaki (1926) and Shanghai (1927).”
In this transitional period, when race was increasingly being used as a scientific paradigm to explain a wide variety of sociological and anthropological phenomena, it was also a way of reconceiving global space. The varieties of informal and scientific racisms that justified slavery and imperialism have a history that significantly predates the URC, of course. But in creating an international venue in which various forms of racial thought, validated by the academic credentials of those who professed it, came into contact with the antiracist critique being developed by formidable thinkers such as Du Bois, the URC created a vision of the globe in which people were divided not only by nation, region, or religion, but—more fundamentally and incontrovertibly—by race. For the URC systematically brought the civilizational opposition of East and West imported from Orientalist discourses together with the opposition of “white” to “colored” even as it called such racial categorizations into question. The purpose of the conference was described in its official records as follows: “To discuss, in the light of science and the modern conscience, the general relations subsisting between the peoples of the West and those of the East, between so-called white and so-called coloured peoples with a view to encouraging between them a fuller understanding, the most friendly feelings, and a heartier co-operation.” Here, the division between East and West is reimagined as a color line even as race is de-essentialized with the word “so-called”—a tension in the conception of the conference that was evident across the event as a whole. For some attendees, race was a fiction, while for others it was a fundamental truth underlying global schisms.
The introduction to the URC’s papers also highlights the slipperiness of race at the conference: “No impartial student of history can deny that in the case of nearly all recorded wars, whatever the ostensible reasons assigned, the underlying cause of conflict has been the existence of race antipathies—using the word race in its broad and popular acceptation.” The reference to “race in its broad and popular acceptation” acknowledges the complexity of the term in this period. Race could refer to a family or clan; a tribe, nation, or ethnic group; or it could refer to what the OED calls “any of the (putative) major groupings of mankind, usually defined in terms of distinct physical features or shared ethnicity, and sometimes (more controversially) considered to encompass common biological or genetic characteristics.” Though still used varyingly today, it is most often deployed in this latter way, with particular reference to skin color. While the “broad and popular acceptation” to which the URC materials refers presumably encompasses all these meanings, it draws attention to the fact that the conference, with its repeated references to East and West and its many papers on biological difference, was funneling the term toward its narrower contemporary resonances.
In their effort to demonstrate their investment in the cosmopolitan spirit of the conference, Spiller and the other organizers endeavored to establish a genuine dialogue between East and West by inviting a number of non-Western speakers; by permitting some “Oriental” languages alongside the European ones that dominated the conference; and by acknowledging that “in a Congress of this comprehensive character each people should speak for itself; and it is for this reason that every paper referring to an Oriental people will be found written by an eminent person belonging to it.” Yet, in practice, the conference tended to rehearse racist presumptions of Eastern backwardness in the face of anxieties about the rise of anticolonial nationalisms and industrialized economies in Asia. The introduction to the conference papers thus describes the emergence of Japan as a world power as an instance of “the most remarkable awakening of nations long regarded as sunk in . . . depths of somnolence.” The day soon approaches, the writer ventures, “when the vast populations of the East will assert their claim to meet on terms of equality the nations of the West, when the free institutions and the organized forces of the one hemisphere will have their counterbalance in the other . . . when, in short, the colour prejudice will have vanished.” As this statement suggests, the URC was at once a moment of utopian internationalism and an endeavor to neutralize anticolonial, anti-Western sentiment through the discourse of friendship and understanding. The confused causality in this quotation indicates the ambivalence about East-West equality that persisted throughout the conference: Is Western “colour prejudice,” as a justification for imperialism, responsible for the fact that the East is not yet on terms of equality with the West? Or is it the color prejudice of those in the East that holds them back? Both? The anaphoric sentences of the introduction imply an ordered logic but leave the underlying premise unclear. The organizers’ purportedly antiracist benevolence and idealism (the idea that the principle of equality will produce “free institutions” across the globe via the spread of Western liberalism) is interwoven with political cynicism, for the shifting balance of power (the “organized forces” on either side of the world) is just as explicitly at stake.
The logo of the conference in which two female figures representing East and West shake hands, gives visual form to the ambivalence legible in the introduction. An allegory of East-West parity and friendship, the image seemingly makes race irrelevant by rendering the figures as classical statues and hence without obvious racial markers, similar to the handshake logo that appeared after the list of conference attendees.
Yet Lady East is partially nude and her hand covers part of her face because of her awkward stance: a consequence of her holding up the banner “Concordia” to her right with her left hand so that she can use her right hand to shake that of Lady West, who stands firm and poised because the banner is conveniently to her left and thus requires no contortions. Given its emergence alongside so many other representations in this period that equated Western supremacy with liberal attitudes toward gender and Eastern backwardness with unevolved ones, this image asks us to read the physically weaker position of Lady East allegorically.
Ironically yet symptomatically, then, one of the most striking aspects of the URC from today’s perspective is the way it epitomized the tenacity of ideas of
FIGURE 4.1 / URC logo from cover of Papers on Inter-Racial Problems, ed. Gustav Spiller, (London: P. S. King and Son, 1911), Hathi Trust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001742063.
FIGURE 4.2 / Illustration of handshake from Papers on Inter-Racial Problems, ed. Gustav Spiller, (London: P. S. King and Son, 1911), Hathi Trust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001742063.
racist essentialism even as many participants in the event claimed to be debunking them. Papers ranged from sociological and anthropological theories of race—such as Franz Boas’s “Instability of Human Types”; “On the Permanence of Racial Mental Differences” by Charles Myer; and John Gray’s “The Intellectual Standing of Different Races and Their Respective Opportunities for Culture”—to broad-strokes theoretical papers on gender, language, religion, and economics. In the spirit of critical inquiry, a number of these papers isolated one contemporary notion of racial difference to deconstruct only to erect another in its place. The Austrian anthropologist Felix von Luschan, for instance, wrote in favor of monogenesis and against the idea of “civilized” as opposed to “savage” races but also argued that “racial barriers will never cease to exist, and . . . it will certainly be better to preserve than to obliterate them” because of what he saw as the overriding drive of the struggle for survival and its tendency to coalesce around nation and race. Boas, one of the more progressive racial anthropologists by today’s standards, spoke of the plasticity of race and the tendency of both cultural and physical racial characteristics to change quickly over time under the influence of different environments. But in using this position to argue in favor of immigration and more porous borders by claiming that admitting “degenerate” Italians into the United States would accelerate their racial advancement, he also demonstrated the tenacity of specious ideas about race. The British colonial administrator Harry Johnston, meanwhile, railed against aesthetic hierarchies based on racial difference while declaring himself in favor of polygenesis and the impossibility of a common ancestor. The majority of the papers at the conference, then, ended up freshly legitimizing the idea of racial difference at the very moment it was supposedly being questioned, while also putting it front and center as the defining characteristic of social and political life and of the twentieth-century geopolitical imaginary.
Papers by non-Western delegates were fewer in number and for the most part segregated into a session entitled “Conditions of Progress (Special Problems)” that made manifest the presumption of Eastern belatedness that framed the conference. Rather than naming a theoretical argument, titles in this section named regions and religions, such as “China,” “Japan,” “Shintoism,” “Egypt,” “The Bahai Movement,” and “East and West in India.” But some of these delegates were nonetheless able to introduce a significant strain of anti-essentialism into the congress, using their speeches and comments to historicize race and subject it to materialist and rhetorical analysis. Du Bois, for example, gave a speech that focused on the way racism in the United States was being reformulated in response to increasing African American social mobility: “The Negro is rapidly developing a larger and larger class of intelligent property-holding men of Negro descent; notwithstanding this more and more race lines are being drawn which involve the treatment of civilised men in an uncivilised manner.” Challenging the notion that racist ideas were justified by black backwardness, he connected them instead to white social and class anxieties, while simultaneously decoupling the term “civilization” from its traditional usages in the East-West binary and affixing it to humane behavior (and also, less constructively, to “intelligent property-holding” men in particular). Rev. M. D. Israel, a Tamil Christian and the only attending member who identified himself with the lower castes of India, took particular issue with the rhetoric of anthropological rather than social racism, citing “the bad feeling [created] when Europeans use the [word] ‘native’ to represent any nation or race who are not ‘white.’” Antiracism and anti-imperialism, as the ongoing conflation of “race” and “nation” at the conference suggested, were often closely connected, if not conflated, in these speeches.
The URC was an ideal rhetorical moment to garner global support for decolonization by joining the growing transnational critique of imperialism to that of racism. A sizable number of international speakers assembled there and the speeches, which were precirculated and printed together in a volume that was distributed both in Britain and America, had the potential to reach an audience that extended beyond the metropole: G. K. Gokhale’s speech (discussed later in this section) was reprinted in several Indian newspapers as well as in Gandhi’s South African periodical Indian Opinion, for example. Indian politicians in particular were clearly aware that the URC presented a unique opportunity to pressure the British for political reform on an international platform by calling them to moral account: the list of the conference’s “General Committee” names ninety delegates from India, the largest number from a non-Western nation (Brazil only sent three, for example, and Japan sent nine).
The rhetoric of East-West affection and friendship that undergirded the conference, moreover, provided a way for Indian speakers to intervene in the coercive discourse of affection generated by Section 124a by changing its connotations, for in the global arena affect was more often associated with the language of diplomacy and accord than with colonialism and conquest. The use of the word “friendship” in treaty negotiations, alliances, and informal exchanges between leaders has ancient roots: “A philia, or treaty of friendship, was one of the most important of the treaties used by the Greeks. . . . In the case of Roman foreign relations, friendship was also considered to be a suitable concept to refer to relationships between states.” Scholars of its historical usages, such as Heather Devere, Simon Mark, and Jane Verbitsky, trace the concept of friendship from ancient Greece and Rome through the Middle Ages to the modern period, when the invocation of friendship became largely strategic rather than idealistic. Rarely based on equal partnership, so-called “friendship treaties” are frequently used as “a tool of public relations and spin, rather than diplomacy and peace-building.” However, they also qualify this statement to exclude full-scale imperialism: “The terminology of friendship was not used when treaties involved the surrendering of land or resources.” James Fitzjames Stephen (the architect of Section 124a), aligning himself with this understanding of the British presence in India and blithely throwing liberal rationales under the bus, stated in a letter to the Times that the British government in India was “an absolute government, founded not on consent but on conquest.”
Notwithstanding Stephen’s brutal candor, many involved in British governance in the early twentieth century found the language of East-West amity strategically useful as a counter to the rise of nationalism. Carl Schmitt’s notion of the friend-enemy distinction as fundamental to the formation of political community is relevant here. In his analysis, political community is called into being by the delineation of an enemy with which one might go to war. One is willing to die for their “friend”—a member of one’s political community—and to kill one’s political enemy. The fear that Indians were organizing a proto-nationalist political community and increasingly imagining Britain as the enemy was a good reason for those invested in empire to insist on friendship as the connective tissue between colonized and colonizer, so that they could be imagined as part of the same polity rather than as political antagonists. Meanwhile, Indians engaging in the discourse of friendship in this period employed it to introduce a presumption of equality into the colonial dialogue and to create a vision of India as a modern liberal nation frustrated with its “ally,” rather than a colony pleading for release from bondage or poised for a violent liberation struggle. The language of friendship as it was deployed in colonial contexts in the early twentieth century, then, helped fudge the line between alliance and conquest for the colonized as well as the colonizer who, for opposing reasons, could pretend their relationship was strategically advantageous and consensual rather than coercive.
Gokhale’s speech at the URC is a case in point. Gopal Krishna Gokhale was a key figure in Indian nationalism, influential on Gandhi among other major figures of the movement. A Brahmin with an English education, he was part of the cosmopolitan elite class that made up the most internationally visible part of the Indian nationalist movement and eventually became one of the leaders of the Indian National Congress. As a political moderate, he advocated gradual reformist progress toward self-rule and was considered by more revolutionary leaders, such as his political rival Tilak, to be pro-British. Before the URC, he had been to London a number of times; in 1898, for example, he visited in order to protest the exploitation of Indian revenues and resources by Britain before the Welby Commission, convened by Parliament. He thus had ample experience in trying to leverage the terms of the system to the ends of the reformist Congress Party.
At the URC, Gokhale’s strategy was to inhabit the imperial language of friendship in order to expose its hypocrisies to the British on their own turf. He thus evoked the conference’s desire to encourage “the most friendly feelings and the heartiest cooperation” as a way to critique British rule in India; point to the naïveté of the conference’s ideals in the light of imperial exploitation and the racist ideas that enabled it; and directly address and challenge presumptions about the binary that structured the conference. His paper was bluntly titled “East and West in India” and notes early on that “with the commencement of the twentieth century the relations between the East and West may be regarded as having entered a new phase.” Arguing that “the traditional view . . . of the changeless and unresisting East” had been historically used to justify Western expansion “in utter disregard of the rights or feelings of Eastern peoples,” he used intimations of the rising power of the East, including “the victories of Japan over Russia,” “the awakening of China,” and “the spread of the national movement in India” as a backdrop for a thinly veiled call to national self-determination across the empire and to the idea of Asia as a newly formidable entity on the world stage. He stressed, therefore, “a new pride in the special culture and civilization of the East” and “a new impatience of Western aggression and Western domination and a new faith in the destiny of Eastern peoples. India could not but be affected by these thought-currents with the rest of Asia.”
While the speech emphasized the rise of the East and the West’s loss of stature, morally if not politically, a key part of Gokhale’s argument relied on his inhabiting the ideology of Eastern backwardness for, strategically at least, it allowed him to chastise the British for not leading India toward democracy. He states, for example, that British conquest was facilitated by the fact that “India did not develop the national idea or the idea of political freedom as developed in the West” and that therefore the point of English rule was to help “the people of India . . . to advance steadily to a position of equality . . . so that they might in due course acquire the capacity to govern themselves in accordance with the higher standards of the West.”
But he uses this assumption to drive home the argument that the British have betrayed their initial promise to India—“English administrators were not in practice as ready to advance along lines of constitutional development as had been hoped, and . . . the bulk of Englishmen in the country were far from friendly, even to the most reasonable aspirations of Indians in political matter” (my emphasis). Here, the language of friendship underscores British political betrayal, but also highlights the racial condescension whereby Indians have been encouraged to learn about the West while the English have not correspondingly learned about “Indian culture and civilization.” Whereas Indian universities encouraged insight into Western culture that was “sympathetic and marked by deep and genuine appreciation,” this openhearted affect had gone unreciprocated, Gokhale argued. There were no grounds for good feeling between colonizer and colonized, in other words, because the former had betrayed all their promises, proving themselves unworthy of love and admiration.
One passage is particularly effective in delineating the relationship between colonial power, coercion, and affection:
The soul of social friendship is mutual appreciation and respect, which ordinarily is not found to co-exist with a consciousness of inequality. This does not mean that where equality does not exist the relations are necessarily unfriendly. It is not an uncommon thing for a party which is in what may be called a state of subordinate dependence on another to be warmly attached to that other party. But such relations are possible only if the subordinate party—assuming, of course, that its sense of self-respect is properly developed—is enabled to feel that its dependent state is necessary to its own interest, and that the other party is taking no undue advantage of it for other ends.
The triple negative in the second sentence (“This does not mean that where equality does not exist the relations are necessarily unfriendly”), followed immediately by the double negative in the next sentence (“It is not an uncommon thing”), brings into view the frictive and unsustainable nature of the imperial relationship and the reluctance and ambivalence with which Gokhale buys into the romance allegory that accompanied it. The relationship between Britain and India is described in terms vaguely reminiscent of an S and M contract for good reason: Gokhale is working hard to disentangle coercion from consent and thus to make an intervention that cuts to the heart of the imperial imaginary. If the subordinate is not self-hating and can act in their own best interest; if the dominant party cares about the subordinate’s well-being and is not being exploitative; if, in other words, the relationship is voluntary on both sides, it can sustain affection. While canny about the way the fiction of romance serves as a thin veneer for a sexualized threat of violence, this strange attempt to distribute agency across a relationship that even British administrators like Stephens admitted was founded “not on consent but on conquest” demonstrates how much currency the language of affection had in this moment, and how hard people worked rhetorically to bend it to their advantage.
Gokhale’s paper was reprinted in the Indian English-language journal the Hindustan Review and generated much commentary from Indians and English writers there, as well as in other publications. The missionary Rev. Edwin Greaves’s response to Gokhale’s piece reveals how unsettling Indian versions of the East-West binary were to Anglo-Indians. Citing a range of cosmopolitan lessons from the conference (“There are not many races but one; differences from, say, a Western standard do not necessarily involve inferiority,” and “the onward march of humanity [is] towards the desired goal of unity in diversity”), Greaves nonetheless takes to task Gokhale’s sidestepping of questions of religion. “Difficult though the problem may be,” he states woefully, “we have to face the fact that the great dream of the brotherhood of humanity can never be realized until the reality be fully accepted that there is one God who is the common Father of us all.” This remark makes apparent the degree to which the norms of the imperial public sphere had shifted by the early twentieth century. As I noted in the introduction, the fiction of free and rational debate in colonial periodicals was initially governed by a Christian conversion imperative; by this point in the new century, however, the Christian framework needed to be articulated as such because it was no longer hegemonic.
What we see in Gokhale’s speech, then, are two versions of the East-West affect allegory, both influential in this moment. One version describes a soured romance between East and West that can only be rectified by the West being properly supportive of its dependent (by living up to its liberal ideas and promoting progress toward self-rule). The other version is of a kind of East-West death match—an agonistic struggle in which the East is swiftly gaining advantage in strength by rejecting Western materialism in favor of solidarities based on difference from, and moral superiority to, the West.
In the next section, the scene shifts from London to Bombay, home of the Indian modernist periodical East and West. The journal shared with the URC the utopian idea that the right platform for East-West exchange would lead to greater understanding and mutual respect, thereby undermining racial biases and political conflict. But if the URC serves as a still shot of the way amity and animus were intertwined in early twentieth-century conceptions of East vs. West, the editorial trajectory of the journal reflects a movement from one stance to the other, as the idea of East-West cultural exchange gave way to more openly anti-Western writing and the imagining of new solidarities inspired by pan-Asian and international labor movements. While the URC registered the ambivalence surrounding ideals of racial equality and international amity at the threshold of World War I, East and West reflects the way the war impacted views of the West and of empire, and fomented new political imaginaries. Writing of the effect of the war on Afro-Asian views of the civilizing mission, Adas states that “the crisis of the Great War gave credence to Gandhi’s contention that the path for humanity cleared by the industrial West was neither morally or socially enabling nor ultimately sustainable.” Gandhi was perhaps the most famous proselytizer of this position but after the war it was visible everywhere, including in the genteel and relatively moderate editorial columns of East and West.
Never the Twain: Dialogue and Dialectic in East and West
In 1905 the Malabar Quarterly Review published an article on “The Prospects of an English Literature of Indian Growth.” It spoke of Sarojini Naidu, the Indian nationalist poet who wrote in English and was lauded by British writers such as Arthur Symons and Edmund Gosse, as the harbinger of a harmonious union of East and West, despite the ill omens which the author of the article associates with “Kipling and his ilk.” “The growing exhaustion of the imaginative spirit,” he writes, “has been a complaint whose doleful accents have been resounding through the dim corridors of the last century. That the aggressions of science are broadening the conquests of knowledge is a matter of everyday experience to us; that the fount of imaginative glow is ebbing out is equally evident. . . . May not the Oriental warmth of colour be inoculated into the Western hardness of outline?” In this version of the East-West encounter, we see an Indian version of the Western modernist call to “make it new” through literary hybridization. Before the project of writers such as W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, and Gertrude Stein to renovate Western culture through the incorporation of Asian and African elements became legible as such, Indian writers were calling for a similarly synthetic undertaking, in part because of the coercive conditions under which they contributed to the imperial public sphere. This version of the modernist idea, however, had Eastern literary output—the “Oriental warmth of colour”—forming the substance of artistic work, with the West providing only the vehicle of language (the “hardness of outline”). Here, Indian writing in English is figured not as mimicry but as the grounds for a new aesthetics.
An influential journal with a two-decade print run, East and West was invested in this form of syncretism both formally and ideologically; the hemispheric categories functioned as synecdoches for India and Britain respectively and the journal sought to create “a larger understanding” between the two cultures. The exchange of ideas that would lead to this understanding was showcased through its attempt to balance and alternate Eastern and Western perspectives in its pages. East and West published articles by British writers about India and Indian writers about Britain, ones in favor of imperial policy and others critical of it (by both British and Indian writers), while literary debates between British and Indian writers, often with a pointed political subtext, raged in the correspondence column. In this way it sought to enact in the reader’s experience of the periodical a sense of parity and exchange between perspectives that champions of this brand of syncretism believed would benefit both sides.
Yet the ways in which the vision of the journal changed between 1901, when it first came into print, and 1921, when it folded, reveal the malleable function of syncretic ideals in the colonial context and the pivotal role of World War I in changing the nature of these ideals. In East and West, syncretism functioned as a form of modernism that mediated between an Enlightenment-inflected public sphere cosmopolitanism and an anti-Western spiritual cosmopolitanism more amenable to pan-Asian and Afro-Asian solidarities. From a chronological perspective, the journal’s investment in these different cosmopolitanisms gradually shifted over its print run from one affiliated with the West to one affiliated with the East. In performing this shift, the journal made explicit a crucial change in the public sphere more broadly. Even as the early years of East and West subscribe to a cosmopolitanism that upholds the public sphere ideals mandated by the British government, during and after the First World War the journal begins to flip the dynamic of the East-West binary in an attempt to defamiliarize and deconstruct Western supremacy. In doing so, it demonstrates a broader discursive shift within the Indian Anglosphere from Enlightenment public sphere norms, developed through imperial ideology and law to promote white supremacy and maintain imperial order, to an anti-Western vision both aesthetic and political. Although the utopian internationalism of this vision was to be upstaged by the various forms of nationalism that eventually dominated the Indian press, the journal, like the URC, represents a vital moment in the history of alternative forms of anticolonialist modernism.
Published in Bombay from 1901 to 1921, East and West was an English-language monthly founded by Behramji Malabari, a poet, reformer, and journalist who enacted his interest in East-West syncretism through a variety of literary pursuits. He wrote two books addressed to both Indian and British audiences: The Indian Muse in English Garb (1876), a collection of poetry written in English that attracted the notice of Alfred, Lord Tennyson and The Indian Eye on English Life, mentioned earlier—a flaneurian account of London that challenged and reversed stereotypes of Western travel literature. He also helped disseminate the work of the Orientalist scholar Max Müller in India, who in turn garnered British publicity for Malabari’s reform campaigns against child marriage and in favor of widow remarriage. An article commemorating Malabari’s work as a reformer published in East and West in 1913 shortly after his death stressed not only his contribution to women’s rights but also his importance as an “interpreter” between Britain and India and his willingness to bring about “peace and goodwill between the rulers and the ruled . . . by telling each how to meet the other halfway.”
Malabari was no radical, then, but by creating a structural tension between East and West, his journal brought into view the cultural biases that guided these public sphere norms and provided both a context and forum for their redefinition. If the relationship between East and West was often imagined as a romance in British and Indian writing of the early twentieth century—the aesthetically satisfying “fusion” of complementary elements that Abercrombie’s review of Gitanjali describes—it was also depicted as a dialectical struggle for civilizational supremacy. These two versions of the relationship were often visible in East and West at the same time, but as anti-Westernism and nationalism gained traction after World War I, the more optimistic view of East-West interaction that defined the journal at its outset grew darker. Correspondingly, the journal’s cosmopolitanism, initially invested in public sphere norms of transparency, objectivity, and liberal critique, became allied with pan-Asianism, spiritualism, and anticapitalist critique instead—a formation Peter van der Veer usefully terms “spiritual cosmopolitanism.”
Since the turn of our century, a number of critics have addressed the diverse ways in which various versions of spiritual cosmopolitanism emerged at the turn of the last one. Alongside van der Veer, Gauri Viswanathan, Srinivas Aravamudan, Leela Gandhi, Elleke Boehmer, Nico Slate, and others have illuminated the fascinating networks and exchanges whereby many revered religious leaders of the early nationalist movement, from Swami Vivekananda to Gandhi, developed their forms of Hindu universalism in direct and indirect conversation with westerners interested in Indian spiritualism, from W. B. Yeats and Madame Blavatsky to Max Müller and W. E. B. Du Bois. Together, these different accounts provide a thick description of spiritual cosmopolitanism as a discourse derived from the colonial experience that had significant cultural and political effects, some salutary and some less so, from its originary moment to our own (in Aravamudan’s account, its legacies range from the commercialized spirituality of yoga to the violent excesses of contemporary Hindu nationalism). Adding East and West to this picture, however, allows us to see the degree to which spiritual cosmopolitanism was shaped by modernism, the periodical genre, and the strictures of imperial censorship, which encouraged the rejection of Western public sphere norms. Spiritual cosmopolitanism took shape in both the content and form of East and West as a disaffected stance on the exclusions of Enlightenment cosmopolitanism and a strategy whereby to wrest from the British the vocabulary of moral superiority and aesthetic-philosophical vanguardism.
Published during a period when radical periodicals in Britain and experimental Indian publications such as the South Africa–based Indian Opinion sought to intervene in public discourse by changing the nature of print culture, East and West was both intriguingly innovative and profoundly mainstream. Elizabeth Miller and Isabel Hofmeyr explore the ways in which late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century figures who sought radical political change, such as William Morris and Gandhi, intervened in their respective commercial print worlds by eschewing advertising, running collaborative presses, and producing periodicals that contested mass industrialized culture both through their anticapitalist content and through their approach to periodical form. Gandhi’s Indian Opinion, for example, strove for a “slow reading” experience whereby readers would learn swaraj (self-rule) through “the process of learning to read in a patient, concrete, nonteleological way.” East and West, on the other hand, flagrantly played to bourgeois aspirations. It carried advertisements for gold watches, insurance, and new inventions from London and Paris exhibitions and avoided articles with politically radical content, focusing instead on the type of thoughtful but politically benign essays on literature, history, and politics that characterized highbrow British periodicals such as the Westminster Review, the Edinburgh Review, and comparable Indian reviews, like those regularly redacted in the Indian World (the Malabar Quarterly Review, Indian Review, Calcutta Review, Modern Review, and Madras Review).
While all these English-language Indian reviews published British as well as Indian writers, East and West was innovative because of the way it built divisions between East and West into its structure. If Indian Opinion, as Hofmeyr argues, sought to intervene in contemporary debates by creating a new form of imagined community—namely, an Indian diaspora united around ideals of swaraj—East and West produced an impression of divided community by giving imaginative form to the colonial public sphere and (usually) invisible racial boundaries.
Yet the journal also had utopian aspirations throughout its run. Within its pages, East and West were not always associated respectively with materialism and progress, and spiritualism and tradition, per the essentialist categories that tended to characterize modernist syncretism. Though this binary was important to the journal’s anticolonialism and its critical response to World War I, an Eastern mentality of antimaterialism was one designed to be embraced by those from the West as well, for East and West came to be figured as philosophies rather than racialized geographies. The 1917 masthead enacts this figuration by displaying Europe and India together on a globe over which the word “East” is superimposed, while the “West” is represented by North and South America. The illustration thus highlights the arbitrary nature of geographical perspective and the journal’s willingness to debunk Orientalist versions of the East-West binary.
In an early issue, the journal’s utopianism used the language of Enlightenment cosmopolitanism. A notice to advertisers read: “East and West has a mission, to bring about a larger understanding between men of all races and creeds. It treats life as a whole and aims at a symbiosis of all nations.” The journal’s publication strategy and the range of subjects it addressed accentuated its cosmopolitan ambitions. It was printed in London and Paris as well as Bombay and covered an eclectic range of international subjects including, Julie Codell notes, “Hungarian writers, feminism in New Zealand, Irish Home Rule, ancient Egypt and Greece, Japanese education . . . Booker T. Washington, and American universities.” It attracted notable British, Anglo-Indian, Indian, and even American contributors
FIGURE 4.3 / Table of Contents from East and West, April 1917. Asia Pacific and Africa Holdings, British Library. Shelfmark SW 238, © British Library Board.
(among them Frances Power Cobbe, W. T. Stead, Sarojini Naidu, C. F. Andrews, and Gandhi) and its twenty-year run was unusual for an experimental periodical. A different notice to advertisers in later issues of East and West suggested that the journal had achieved its goal of speaking across the British-Indian divide by proclaiming it “the only review in Asia that can claim equal popularity among Europeans and Asiatics.” We can deduce the relative success of the journal from the stature of many of its contributors and the fact that it was cited by other successful periodicals. In India it was repeatedly profiled in the Indian World, while in Britain it was cited in the Asiatic Review and its table of contents regularly summarized in W. T. Stead’s Review of Reviews, along with those of other notable non-British periodicals.
East and West’s utopian mission at a time of global conflict and nationalist unrest no doubt contributed to its broad appeal. In the earlier part of its run, the journal deployed the ideals of balance and critical distance that had been used as a rebuke to Indian emotionalism in the English-language public sphere (see introduction) to reenvision that sphere as a neutral space in which British and Indian writers conversed as equals. Thus, its issues always included both Indian and British writers as well as cultural perspectives clearly identified with each side—an article entitled “Oriental and Occidental Ideals,” for example, stated that “the aim of the review is to get Britain and India to know each other and to see life through each other’s eyes.” There were pieces by Indian writers reflecting on Western subjects (such as “An Eastern View of Western Science”) as well as the more common spectacle of British writers commenting on Eastern subjects (“How Did Art Originate in the East?”). Other articles were comparative and analyzed both Indian and British culture or Asian and European cultures more broadly, dwelling upon cultural similarities (“The Traditional Mythic Histories of the Eastern and Western World”) or differences: an article on “The Gulf between East and West” reflected on religious barriers to mutual understanding, for instance, whereas “The Great Separation” saw attitudes toward women and different culinary traditions as the chief impediments to friendship between British and Indian peoples. While British and Indian writers addressed both audiences across the journal, they spoke for their own cultures in doing so, making frequent use of the plural pronoun for themselves and the second person to address the other.
Yet, even at this early stage, when the journal tended to emphasize affection and rapprochement between Britain and India, the idea of disaffection and dissent was always present as well. If the Tennyson epigraph on its front page implied that East and West’s content represented a perfect synthesis of the two sides, Kipling’s “The Ballad of East and West,” which the journal’s title would more readily have evoked for its readers, figured the space of the periodical as a battleground instead:
Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!
Kipling’s infamous vision of well-matched masculine rivalry is a significant intertext for the journal given the frequent association of the English-speaking Indian literary elite and its periodical culture with effeminacy and callowness. East and West’s global purview and the parallelism of its title imagined Britain and India as equal players, or combatants, on a world stage. Its dialogic structure, too, insisted on cultural parity and emphasized the antagonism implicit in the meeting of East and West.
Over time, the journal began to use a comparative perspective that went beyond the East-West binary, connecting India to other colonies in the context of pressing social and political issues in order to “negotiate change and modifications for India’s regional and parochial problems ([such as the] status of women, peasants, and education).” By the 1910s, as the nationalist movement gathered momentum, East and West began to publish more inflammatory pieces that reflected both British and Indian perspectives on the viability of colonial rule. Each side used cosmopolitan rhetoric as the grounds for claims to civilizational superiority and to stage arguments for and against Indian nationalism.
A 1913 play The Anarchist by the British writer Edward E. Long, for example, constructed its critique of Indian nationalism around a story of failed cosmopolitanism. Long’s play was one of many literary texts in this period to juxtapose violent nationalism with pacifist cosmopolitanism (the most famous being Tagore’s 1916 The Home and the World), as a response to the more militant forms of anticolonialism that arose after the 1905 Partition of Bengal and the rise of the Swadeshi movement. Durba Ghosh’s Gentlemanly Terrorists of Bengal describes how in this period an increasing number of “educated and predominantly Hindu men and women” took up internationalist revolutionary ideals and added violent tactics to the other forms of activism targeting colonial rule and economic exploitation: “As revolutionary terrorists organized violent attacks to draw attention to the swadeshi campaigns, the ‘cult of the bomb’ threatened to overtake the nonviolent project of boycotting foreign goods.”
Long’s play responds directly to this threat. Its titular anarchist, Guru Das, is an Indian student who is pressured by his peers into throwing a bomb at a British administrator to whom he has privileged access, thanks to a letter of introduction from a man he once visited while studying in England. Before he gets a chance to do the deed, however, the administrator, presented as sympathetic and compassionate, enraptures Guru Das via reasoned debate, making him admit that he was treated kindly by his English hosts and must therefore not violate their trust.
In this exchange, cosmopolitanism—associated with an enlarged understanding of the other’s point of view and the sanctity of guest-host relations—is depicted as a quality the British have mastered and that Indians have yet to learn. Convinced by the administrator’s arguments, Das ends up extolling the cosmopolitan virtues of his English host: “I went to England a stranger: and he took me in. I was a raw youth, of narrow ideas and curious prejudices; he helped me to become enlightened—to know something of the larger world. He taught me to admire the free institutions of your country, to look upon it as the home of liberty—its people as just and kind, friends of the oppressed of every race, creed and caste. In mind and morals, he helped me to expand.” Overwhelmed by the moral superiority of both his erstwhile English host and his current interlocutor, Guru Das eventually kills himself with the bomb to spare the latter’s life. The play’s clumsy allegory thus reinforces the idea of cosmopolitanism as a proprietary British value. The revolutionary potential represented by Guru Das, identified by his name with the radical Hindu nationalism of the period, is violently erased by the story’s end and the idea of India’s political immaturity reestablished. Before the peculiar guest-host relation that is the imperial contest can come to a nonviolent end, the play implies, Indians must learn to be good hosts to their colonizers and capable, like the play’s English characters, of transmitting enlightened values. Correlatively, The Anarchist links political treason, or disaffection, to a failure of friendship and cosmopolitan ethics on the part of Guru Das. Because he comes to appreciate the friendship offered by his English host only after he has already committed to violence, he must turn that violence on himself in order to reciprocate affection, silencing himself forever in the process.
If the play most obviously functions as a thinly veiled critique of radical nationalism—indeed of any form of Indian nationalism, as it suggests that Indians are not enlightened enough to govern themselves peacefully—it might also be read as an allegory of the colonial public sphere, with British hospitality standing in for freedom of the press; Guru Das’s bomb standing in for Indian critiques of colonial government; and his death serving as a grim warning that Indians will have only themselves to blame if they end up self-immolating, thereby eradicating themselves from rational debate (i.e., being censored). Through the very act of publishing The Anarchist, East and West was demonstrating its own cosmopolitan tolerance of varied viewpoints, for the piece was sure to rankle the journal’s Indian readership. At the same time, however, in setting the play up as a dialectical contrast to the nationalist articles it was increasingly publishing, the journal was establishing disaffection, rivalry, and conflict rather than friendship and mutual understanding as the grounds for the East-West encounter.
An article published in the same year, “Tennyson in Light of Indian Thought,” which touched off a debate between K. S. Ramaswamy Sastri, a scholar of Indian aesthetics, culture, and religion, and a British psychiatrist, Owen Berkeley Hill, similarly demonstrates the way the East-West relationship gradually became framed as a contest between different universalisms. Though he praises “In Memoriam” for its “glorious sincerity and melody” and insight into immortality, Ramaswamy Sastri argues that Tennyson lacks a fully transcendent vision because he is stymied by “the tangled labyrinth of modern views on life.” Tennyson, and the West as a whole, are connected with “democracy and science” in the article, but these characteristics of modernity are figured as liabilities as well as virtues, for they cast doubt on the eternal truths of religion revealed, the author argues, by the “deathless verse” of Hindu scriptures. In citing scriptures from the Bhagavad Gita in support of his critique of Tennyson, Ramaswamy Sastri notably leaves them untranslated from Sanskrit, underscoring their inaccessibility to the Western reader.
Responding to the article in a letter to the editor, Berkeley Hill objects to its critique of Tennyson and performs what he pointedly calls a “scientific and therefore utterly uncompromising examination” of its argument, in which he takes Ramaswamy Sastri to task for demonizing science and for not approaching “the so-called sacred writings of India in a critical spirit”—a claim that the Indian writer counters in another letter to the editor by arguing that “emotion, intuition, and spiritual vision are as good gateways to the shrine of Truth as pure logic and observation and experiment.” Though he appeals to public sphere norms of scientific detachment to discredit Ramaswamy Sastri, at this point in the journal’s history the argument from inside another site of knowledge—Hindu scriptures—is situated as equally authoritative. Both letters and the original piece were published prominently (the letters were printed on the first page of the correspondence section within one issue of each other), suggesting that the editor wished to emphasize the dialectical and intractable nature of the conflict they embodied.
By rearticulating cosmopolitanism as an Eastern value, Indian writers in East and West drew on the discourse of Indian spirituality that had become central to the nationalist movement but focused on recruiting India’s ancient religions to a new world-spirit that was at once anti-materialist, anticolonial, and antirational. In an article on “Irish and Bengali Poetry,” for example, the pseudonymous author compares Yeats’s Irish Renaissance to Tagore’s Bengali revival and argues that both have had the effect of waking ancient peoples to a new self-consciousness but have also “(burst) asunder all shackles of race or language” to speak across cultures. Another, entitled “Indian Nation—A Dream or a Reality?,” stressed the affect rather than rationality of cosmopolitan sentiment, thus differentiating it from the Kantian cosmopolitanism of British print culture: “People have begun to feel, if they cannot argue, that there is an essential unity beyond and above the petty groups which we call Communities or nations—a brotherhood between the vast multitudes that inhabit the earth, and that the great purpose of religion is missed if it does not lead to harmony.”
In a recurrent editorial called “From Cloudland” that first appeared in 1920, the editor argued for a new dispensation that must come about in the aftermath of the war—one to which the journal was well-positioned to contribute: “All Governments stand discredited. . . . It is here that East and West comes with its message of symbiosis of mankind. . . . Our movement must succeed because it offers a permanent and abiding nucleus of universal brotherhood and universal peace. . . . The world is feeling for a unity which will shape itself and whose development will be very different from any conception of the present malignant contrivers.” Indian unrest and labor unrest on a worldwide scale, the editor goes on to argue, are part of the progress toward this world unity. References to the future economic unification of the world elsewhere in the piece point to the radical outcomes of globally dispersed labor movements which the journal champions and draws connections between. Rather than using older universalizing frameworks such as world literature or liberalism as the basis for claims to nationalism, the editor makes it a point to gesture toward new nonnational frameworks such as the global solidarity of labor—ones that might avoid the failures of Western modernity, or as he puts it, “the conception of the present malignant contrivers.”
The “Cloudland” editorial, written by the journal’s then-editor, Sardar Jogendra Singh, thus suggested a transcendence of the East-West divide through a form of solidarity that is felt rather than conceptualized. The title of the recurrent piece, with its reference to an impossible utopia, at once points to the fiction of the view from nowhere associated with public sphere cosmopolitanism and suggests a space beyond the East-West geopolitical frame in which a new politics might take shape. The perspective from “Cloudland” is, paradoxically, disembodied but visceral, universal but different. Shortly after the “Cloudland” editorial first appeared, however, East and West ceased publication (in 1921), most likely because of financial problems alluded to by Singh in its last issue. But its disappearance, like that of Hindi Punch, was appropriate given its growing insistence on the irrelevance of the East-West binary to its vision of the future. Staging and manipulating the ambivalent affective structures of the colonial relationship, the journal participated in a discursive shift from the notion of East-West dialogue and reconciliation to that of pan-Asian and nonaligned solidarities. In this way, it demonstrated over the course of its publication the kind of ambivalence about the possibility of rapprochement with the West also visible at the URC.
As we saw at the beginning of the chapter, Tagore and his poems were embraced by the West partly because his spiritualism, within the context of modernist syncretism, seemed complementary to Western aesthetics. After the war, however, Tagore became more openly anti-Western in his public lectures and statements—reflecting the transformation in the colonial public sphere to which East and West had also contributed—and famously returned his British knighthood after the Amritsar Massacre of 1919. If World War I contributed immensely to the spread and urgency of both anticolonial nationalisms and internationalisms, it was not just because of the way it gave the lie to the West’s “civilizing mission ideology” or because of the immense numbers of colonial subjects who had lost their lives defending it. It was also because it helped bring Western global hegemony into view as such, accentuating the necessity of alternative visions of world order already in circulation: Pan-Asian, Afro-Asian, Pan-Islamic, socialist, and communist.
As I have argued in this book, the form of the periodical, among other forms of discourse in the colonial public sphere, also participated in this visualization exercise. If the editorial vision of East and West was one of intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding, the journal also created a vivid portrait of the racialized and fragmentary nature of the colonial public sphere, making manifest the tension between public and counterpublic that operated in periodical culture at large by setting up the East-West binary as both a dialogue and a dialectic. By using the ambivalence written into the ideal of East-West union to mandate its critical perspective on culture and politics while circumventing censorship, it demonstrated the ways in which East-West exchange in the Indian context was structured by discord, rivalry, and disaffection as well as by professions of camaraderie and affection. Anticipating Forster’s similar approach to syncretism in Passage to India, the journal demonstrated how the intimacy and mutual influence of East and West, framed as a romance by the law against disaffection but underwritten by colonial violence, was modernism’s condition of possibility.
1. Lascelles Abercrombie, “Poetry,” Blue Review 1, no. 2 (June 1913): 117.
2. J. Barton Scott, “A Commonwealth of Affection: Modern Hinduism and the Cultural History of Religion,” in Constructing Nineteenth-Century Religion, ed. Joshua King and Winter Jade Werner (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2019), 57–61.
3. Description of the aims of the Wisdom of the East series found in The Classics of Confucius: Book of Odes (Shih-King), by L. Cranmer-Byng (London: John Murray, 1906), Editorial Note, 5. I am grateful to Alexander Bubb for drawing my attention to this series.
4. Michael Adas, “Contested Hegemony: The Great War and the Afro-Asian Assault on the Civilizing Mission Ideology,” Journal of World History 15, no. 1 (March 2004): 31–63, 86.
5. See, for instance, Gauri Viswanathan, “Beyond Orientalism: Syncretism and the Politics of Knowledge,” Stanford Humanities Review 5, no. 1 (1995), https://web.stanford.edu/group/SHR/5-1/text/viswanathan.html; Srinivas Aravamudan, Guru English: South Asian Religion in a Cosmopolitan Language (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006); and Lise McKean, Divine Enterprise: Gurus and the Hindu Nationalist Movement (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).
6. Viswanathan, “Beyond Orientalism,” 4, 7.
7. Viswanathan, “Beyond Orientalism,” 5, 8.
8. On the varied uses of cosmopolitanism in this period, see my earlier work, Urban Realism and the Cosmopolitan Imagination in the Nineteenth Century: Visible City, Invisible World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011). On earlier forms of Indian cosmopolitanism and syncretism in the periodical press and popular culture, see Daniel E. White, From Little London to Little Bengal: Religion, Print, and Modernity in Early British India, 1793–1835 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).
9. Andrzej Gasiorek, “War, ‘Primitivism,’ and the Future of ‘the West’: Reflections on D. H. Lawrence and Wyndham Lewis,” in Modernism and Colonialism: British and Irish Literature, 1899–1939, ed. Richard Begam and Michael Valdez Moses (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007), 94. Gasiorek describes how anxieties about the “fate of Europe” affected the emergence of East and West as Manichaean categories. Also see Christopher GoGwilt, The Invention of the West (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995). GoGwilt discusses both the implications of the idea of the “West” in this period and the “double-mapping” of Europe and empire wherein Europe becomes divided between East and West at the same time that the paradigm is applied to a broader globalized landscape.
10. Antonio Gramsci, “Some Problems in the Study of the Philosophy of Praxis,” in Selections from the Prison Notebooks, ed. and trans. Quinton Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (New York: International, 1985), 447. Cited in GoGwilt, Invention of the West, 15.
11. GoGwilt, Invention of the West, 22.
12. Saree Makdisi, Making England Western (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013).
13. GoGwilt, Invention of the West, 15.
14. Manu Goswami, “Imaginary Futures and Colonial Internationalisms,” American Historical Review 117, no. 5 (2012): 1461–85, 1485, 1463.
15. GoGwilt, Invention of the West, 9.
16. Examples of works on Indian modernism focusing specifically on periodical writing include Anjali Nerlekar, Bombay Modern: Arun Kolatkar and Bilingual Literary Culture (Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 2016); Supriya Chauduri, “Modernist Literary Communities in 1930s Calcutta: The Politics of Parichay,” in Modernist Communities across Culture and Media, ed. Caroline Pollentier and Sarah Wilson (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2019), 177–96; and Laetitia Zecchini, Arun Kolatkar and Literary Modernism in India: Moving Lines (London: Bloomsbury), 2016.
17. On questions of empire and the novelistic form of development/underdevelopment, see Joseph Slaughter, Human Rights, Inc.: The World Novel, Narrative Form, and International Law (New York: Fordham University Press, 2007); and Jed Esty, Unseasonable Youth: Modernism, Colonialism, and the Fiction of Development (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).
18. L. Gandhi, Affective Communities, 6.
19. Seth Koven, The Matchgirl and the Heiress (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015).
20. Elleke Boehmer, “The Text in the World, the World through the Text: Robert Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys,” in Burton and Hofmeyr, Ten Books, 131–53, 133, 149.
21. David Gilmour, The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002), 206.
22. Kipling to Sir Douglas Brownrigg, April 24, 1916, The Letters of Rudyard Kipling, vol. 4, 1911–19, ed. Thomas Pinney (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1999), 363.
23. Anurag Jain, “The Relationship between Ford, Kipling, Conan Doyle, Wells and British Propaganda of the First World War” (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of London, 2009), 105.
24. Cited in Gajendra Singh, The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and the Two World Wars: Between Self and Sepoy (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014), 57.
25. Singh, Testimonies of Indian Soldiers, 63.
26. Santanu Das, India, Empire and First World War Culture: Writing, Images, and Songs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 207.
27. Singh, Testimonies of Indian Soldiers, 66.
28. Rudyard Kipling, The Eyes of Asia (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1918), 16. In The Long Recessional, Gilmour notes that Kipling instructed newspaper editors not to capitalize “Hun” and refer to him as “it” (117).
29. Gilmour, Long Recessional, 99.
30. Kipling, Eyes of Asia, 36.
31. See Lauren M. E. Goodlad, “Where Liberals Fear to Tread: E. M. Forster’s Queer Internationalism and the Ethics of Care,” Novel: A Forum on Fiction 39, no. 3 (2006): 307–36; and L. Gandhi, Affective Communities.
32. Cited in Wendy Moffat, E. M. Forster: A New Life (London: Bloomsbury, 2010), 109.
33. E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1951), 68.
34. E. M. Forster, Passage to India (London: Harcourt Brace, 1985), 115.
35. On sexual violence in the imagination of empire, see Sharpe, Allegories of Empire.
36. Forster, Passage to India, 316.
37. For a useful analysis of how these issues intersect with Forster’s ideas about secularism and religion, see Dustin Friedman, “E. M. Forster, the Clapham Sect, and the Secular Public Sphere,” Journal of Modern Literature 39, no. 1 (2015): 19–37.
38. Gary Wilder’s analysis of the moment of decolonization in the Francophone context demonstrates the fuller flourishing of this promise at midcentury in the works of Aimé Césaire, Léopold Senghor, and other anticolonial intellectuals. Developing the glimmerings of radical possibility visible at the URC and in East and West, these thinkers attempted to think through “an alternative global order that would promote civilizational reconciliation and human self-realization. At stake, for them, was the very future of the world.” See Gary Wilder, Freedom Time: Negritude, Decolonization, and the Future of the World (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015), 2.
39. This section owes much to the work of Ian Christophe Fletcher, Seth Koven, and Mia Bay, each of whom invited me to participate in projects on the topic; their insight and enthusiasm was invaluable, as was that of all the participants in the 2014–15 working group on the URC initiated by the Rutgers British Studies Center and coconvened by the Rutgers Center for Race and Ethnicity; a number of the ideas here were first developed and presented in that seminar.
40. Nico Slate, Colored Cosmopolitanism: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012), 8–9.
41. Robert John Holton, “Cosmopolitanism or Cosmopolitanisms? The Universal Races Congress of 1911,” Global Networks 2, no. 2 (2002): 153–70.
42. Christopher J. Lee, ed., Making a World after Empire: The Bandung Moment and Its Political Afterlives (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010), 9–10.
43. Preface to Spiller, Papers on Inter-Racial Problems (1911), v.
44. Lord Weardale, introduction to Spiller, Papers on Inter-Racial Problems (1911), vii.
45. OED Online, s.v. “race (n. 6),” accessed July 22, 2019.
46. Weardale, introduction, vii.
47. Weardale, introduction, v.
48. Weardale, introduction, v.
49. Felix von Luschan, “Anthropological View of Race,” in Spiller, Papers on Inter-Racial Problems (1969), 23.
50. Franz Boas, “Instability of Human Types,” in Spiller, Papers on Inter-Racial Problems (1969), 99–104.
51. Harry H. Johnston, “The World-Position of the Negro and the Negroid,” in Spiller, Papers on Inter-Racial Problems (1969), 328–36.
52. W. E. B. DuBois, “The Negro Race in the United States of America,” in Spiller, Papers on Inter-Racial Problems (1969), 362.
53. I owe this insight to Janet Neary’s work in Tanya Agathocleous and Janet Neary, “Before Bandung: Afro-Asian Cross-Referencing and Comparative Racialization,” Journal of Social History 55, no. 2 (Winter 2021): 1–24.
54. Record of the Proceedings of the Universal Races Congress (London: P. S. King and Son, 1911), 41.
55. This was the same strategy Gandhi would later use with such panache in his sedition trial of 1922 (see chapter 1).
56. Heather Devere, Simon Mark, and Jane Verbitsky, “A History of the Language of Friendship in International Treaties,” International Politics 48, no. 5 (2010): 46–70.
57. Devere, Mark, and Verbitsky, “History of the Language of Friendship,” 1.
58. Devere, Mark, and Verbitsky, “History of the Language of Friendship,” 64.
59. Thomas R. Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 210.
60. See Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).
61. G. K. Gokhale, “East and West in India,” in Spiller, Papers on Inter-Racial Problems (1969), 158.
62. Gokhale, “East and West in India,” 158.
63. Gokhale, “East and West in India,” 161.
64. On internalized Orientalism, see Adas, “Contested Hegemony,” 76–77.
65. Gokhale, “East and West in India,” 159.
66. Gokhale, “East and West in India,” 160.
67. Gokhale, “East and West in India,” 164.
68. Gokhale, “East and West in India,” 164.
69. Gokhale, “East and West in India,” 163.
70. Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj, 210.
71. Edwin Greaves, “The Universal Races Congress,” Hindustan Review (September 1911): 327, 329, 330.
72. Adas, “Contested Hegemony,” 63.
73. M. N. Rama Aiyar, “The Prospects of an English Literature of Indian Growth,” Malabar Quarterly Review 5 (1906–7): 286.
74. From a recurring announcement to advertisers in East and West. For the full quote, see 22.
75. Another periodical study that covers some of the same period as this one, of the Bengali journal Kallol, also focuses on the way it created an internationalist imaginary. See Kris Manjapra, “From Imperial to International Horizons: A Hermeneutic Study of Bengali Modernism,” Modern Intellectual History 8, no. 2 (August 2011): 327–59.
76. As Isabel Hofmeyr points out in her work on Gandhi’s Printing Press, many of those involved in what she calls “printing culture” were part of reform movements: “Among proprietors, printing acquired a strong aura of reform and progress, with the figure of the printer-editor-proprietor an almost stock character of reformist movements across the sub-continent” (36). Editors such as Malabari belonged to the world of the “educated amateur. . . . These editors had to be men of many parts: lawyers, journalists, editors, social workers, historians, and politicians” (43).
77. On Malabari’s writing about Britain, see Burton, At the Heart of the Empire.
78. Rai Bahadur Lala Baij Nath, “Three Modern Indian Reformers,” East and West 12, no. 137 (March 1913): 225.
79. Peter van der Veer, “Colonial Cosmopolitanism,” in Conceiving Cosmopolitanism : Theory, Context and Practice, ed. Steven Vertovec and Robin Cohen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 177.
80. I refer respectively to Peter van der Veer, Imperial Encounters: Religion and Modernity in India and Britain (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001); Gauri Viswanathan, Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998); Srinivas Aravamudan, Guru English: South Asian Religion in a Cosmopolitan Language (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006); Leela Gandhi, Affective Communities: Anticolonial Thought, Fin-de-Siècle Radicalism, and the Politics of Friendship (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006); Elleke Boehmer, Empire, the National, and the Postcolonial, 1890–1920: Resistance in Interaction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); and Nico Slate, Colored Cosmopolitanism: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012).
81. Elizabeth Carolyn Miller, Slow Print (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013); Hofmeyr, Gandhi’s Printing Press.
82. Hofmeyr, Gandhi’s Printing Press, 150.
83. Codell, “Getting the Twain to Meet,” 215.
84. “Oriental and Occidental Ideas,” East and West 1, no. 2 (December 1901): 151.
85. On the feminization of the Indian literary elite, see Sinha, Colonial Masculinity.
86. Codell, “Getting the Twain to Meet,” 215.
87. D. Ghosh, Gentlemanly Terrorists of Bengal, 5–6.
88. Edward E. Long, The Anarchist, East and West 12, no. 139 (May 1913): 392.
89. K. S. Ramaswamy Sastri, “Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam’ in the Light of Indian Thought,” East and West 12, no. 135 (January 1913): 63, 57.
90. Sastri, “Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam,’” 60.
91. Owen Berkeley Hill, “To the Editor,” East and West 12, no. 137 (March 1913): 288, 289; K. S. Ramaswamy Sastri, “To the Editor,” East and West 12, no. 139 (May 1913): 481.
92. B. Natesun, “Irish and Bengali Poetry,” East and West 16, no. 186 (April 1917): 369.
93. Taher S. Mahomadi, “Indian Nation—A Dream or a Reality?,” East and West 20 (January 1921), 38–39.
94. “From Cloudland,” East and West 20 (January 1921): 1–5.
95. Michael Adas’s term in “Contested Hegemony.”
96. See Cemil Aydin, The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia: Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007).