Critical Studies in Politics—An Introductory Note

AuthorAditya Nigam
Published date01 December 2014
Date01 December 2014
Subject MatterTeaching—Learning Politics in India
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Teac y-Madr
Global Thrasa-Mullah Complex
hing–Learning P

olitics in India*
Critical Studies in Politics—An
Studies in Indian Politics
2(2) 231–235
Introductory Note
© 2014 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
SAGE Publications
Los Angeles, London,
New Delhi, Singapore,
Washington DC
Aditya Nigam
DOI: 10.1177/2321023014551887
This note introduces to the readers of this forum a group endeavour called ‘Critical Studies in Politics’
initiated by the teachers–researchers in Political Science located in different Indian universities. The
initiative aims to redefine the object of the study of the discipline of political science in its efforts to radi-
cally destabilize the disciplinary formations. The note raises critical issues towards restructuring of the
discipline of political science in India both in terms of its objects and its methodological approaches.
One initial output from this collective activity is Critical Studies in Politics: Exploring Sites, Selves,
Power, a collection of essays by a group of political science teachers and researchers (Menon et al.,
2014).1 But it is also an endeavour that we hope will have a life beyond this volume in terms of consoli-
dating a change that has already been underway in the discipline. This change has to do with two sets of
issues, namely, the way the discipline frames its object and the methodological approaches it sanctions
or allows. There was a time when our discipline was not only identified with a more or less derivative
‘application’ of methodological debates in the West, especially US academy, but even its concerns were
framed within limits defined by them. Not only was ‘politics’ defined in very rigid terms as what went
on in its formal domain—that of parties, electoral behaviour, state policy, decision-making, pressure
groups and so on, but there was also an equally inflexible insistence on only certain kinds of quantitative
empirical methods. Things began to change from the 1980s onwards and political science too was not
immune to these changes though the pace of changes in our discipline has been excruciatingly slow.
The Backdrop
In the larger scenario of social sciences/humanities in India, in the overall move away from the rigidly
defined relationship between discipline, object and method, the intervention of Subaltern Studies in
history was of major importance. It raised, simultaneously, questions that were of substantive and meth-
odological import—ranging from a critique of nationalist historiography and reopening the question of
‘the archive’. How is one to write a history of the subaltern groups in an archive that is primarily consti-
tuted by the state and its officials—colonial and post-colonial? What sources other than the archives can
one access in order to write such histories? Such questions came to the fore quite dramatically. And just
Aditya Nigam, Professor, CSDS, Delhi. E-mail:
*This section is coordinated by Rajeshwari Deshpande (
India Quarterly, 66, 2 (2010): 133–149


Aditya Nigam
as Subaltern Studies was a deferred effect of the Naxalite movement in the domain of history writing as
many of its practitioners have recorded, another impetus...

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