Arnab Dutta: "The Allure of Deflating Teleology"

  • Date: –15:00
  • Location: Engelska parken - The Rausing Room
  • Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
  • Contact person: Sven Widmalm
  • Seminarium

The Higher Seminar

Visiting PhD student Arnab Dutta, University of Groningen: "The Allure of Deflating Teleology: Weimar Germany, British Bengal, and the British-German Post-Imperial Questions, 1919 – 33"

Placed within the broader framework of my doctoral dissertation on the intellectual entanglements between Interwar Germany (both Weimar Republic and the Third Reich) and British India, this paper focuses on the reception of Weimar Germany’s understanding of post-imperial ‘time’ in British India, especially in the province of Bengal. Starting off from an in-depth analysis of a series of lectures (entitled “The New Germany and Young Asia”) given by a Bengali sociologist, Benoy Kumar Sarkar (1887 – 1949) at the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft Berlin in 1920, where both ‘new’ and ‘young’ emphasised an essentially temporal component in the supposedly equal relationship between post-imperial Germany and the anti-imperial nationalist forces in British India, I shall focus as to how the British Indian intellectuals interested in Continental Europe received the notion of Kultur from Weimar Germany as an ideal manifestation of the utopic flattening of the historicist teleology.

Drawing upon the critique coming from the ‘Provincializing Europe’ project, namely translating the spatial difference between Europé and the colonial world into an essential temporal bias within the paradigm of “beyond Europe is before Europe” in a hierarchical ladder of modernity, this paper locates the traces of critiquing the transnational/trans-imperial time-difference in the historical reasoning of Interwar Germany. In that regard, it interrogates as to how instead of creating an essentially temporal hierarchy between the core of historicist teleology (i.e. Europe) and the temporal heir of it (i.e. the rest) the transnational circulation of Kultur (as opposed to other English terms/concepts/Begriffe such as labour, capital, culture, and civilisation etc.) facilitated the sense of an apparent flattening of that very temporal hierarchy. In order to situate these questions my specific focus shall be at the transnational circulation of two dominant ideas from Weimar Germany to British Bengal – ‘Kultur’ (mostly in the sense it was received from Thomas Mann’s Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man, 1918) and ‘Raumzeitlichkeit’ (the association of spatial constellations with time).