This essay reads Lala Har Dayal’s Hints for Self-Culture (1934) in order to highlight how anticolonial agitator Lala Har Dayal imagines a history appropriate for a future anticolonial utopia. By simultaneously tracking Har Dayal’s “promiscuous afterlives” in Punjab in the 1930s and offering a close reading of Hints for Self-Culture, Elam argues that the writer offers an insurgent political theory of utopia heralded under the sign of anticolonial critique. In the case of Hints for Self-Culture, this takes the form of a radical self-making process toward the creation of a future utopian project. In Har Dayal’s hands, however, such a project requires a doubling back of history; a political project that torques the present back onto its impossible pasts. Hints for Self-Culture does this in two significant moves, in ways that the bulk of this essay explores. First, Har Dayal returns to nineteenth-century philosopher Herbert Spencer in order to produce a radical self-making project for the present. Second, Har Dayal offers a utopian vision of a future World-State, which, as the product of radical self-making, is a radical world-making project that repeatedly glances backward. At each of these stages, a palimpsestic utopia emerges, with the figures of the past not fully erased but having morphed into something of use.
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Research Article| May 01 2014
J. Daniel Elam; Echoes of Ghadr: Lala Har Dayal and the Time of Anticolonialism. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 May 2014; 34 (1): 9–23. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-2648551
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