DD Kosambi

“Certain opponents of Marxism dismiss it as an outworn economic dogma based upon 19th century prejudices. Marxism never was a dogma. There is no reason why its formulation in the 19th century should make it obsolete and wrong, any more than the discoveries of Gauss, Faraday and Darwin, which have passed into the body of science… The defense generally given is that the Gita and the Upanishads are Indian; that foreign ideas like Marxism are objectionable. This is generally argued in English the foreign language common to educated Indians; and by persons who live under a mode of production (the bourgeois system forcibly introduced by the foreigner into India.) The objection, therefore seems less to the foreign origin than to the ideas themselves which might endanger class privilege. Marxism is said to be based upon violence, upon the class-war in which the very best people do not believe nowadays. They might as well proclaim that meteorology encourages storms by predicting them. No Marxist work contains incitement to war and specious arguments for senseless killing remotely comparable to those in the divine Gita”

 Exasperating Essays: Exercises in Dialectical Method (1957)

Chris Bayly. RIP 1945-2015

I’ve been reading his Bazaar book this last few weeks (its long, and its in a library I where I have reading but not borrowing rights). It is very much on topic for my research in Serampore, even if I am not a huge fan of his history style, its certainly way better than the sort of Brit historian you see on the telly (on a spectrum where Bayly is closer to Hobsbawn while Niall Fergusan is closer to Portillo).


Bayly’s books include; *The Local Roots of Indian Politics. Allahabad 1880-1920 (1975)

*Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars. North Indian Society in the Age of British Expansion, 1780-1870 (1983)
*Indian Society and the Making of the British Empire (1988)
*Imperial Meridian. The British Empire and the World, 1780-1830 (1989)
*Empire and Information. Intelligence gathering and social communication in India 1780-1870 (1996)
*The Origins of Nationality in South Asia (1997)
*The Birth of the Modern World. Global Connections and Comparisons 1780-1914 (2004)
*Forgotten Armies. The Fall of British Asia 1941-45 with Dr Tim Harper (2004)
*Forgotten Wars: revolution and the end of empire in British Asia, 1945-55 with Dr Tim Harper (2008).
*Recovering Liberties. Indian thought in the age of liberalism and empire (2011)


Click on the pic for a short obit and a link to one of his talks

Giraffes Africa-India-China – and other exchanges.

GiraffeValmik Thapar, in Exotic Aliens: The Lion and the Cheetah in India, reports that Jahangir was gifted a giraffe. Anand Yang in Bazaar India: Peasants, Traders, Markets in Bihar, reports that ruler of Bengal [it was Shihabuddin Bayazid Shah (reigned 1413–1414)] gifted a giraffe to the Chinese Emperor. What a gift to give, a giraffe! The gift of a giraffe by Bengal to the court of China in 1414. Got to also get hold of an article by Sally Church ‘The Giraffe of Bengal: A Medieval Encounter in Ming China’. I’m afraid I have little to add on this but awe. Giraffes! Even if I also know the trade in long necked beasts goes back some time before these Mughal exchanges with Africa – here, a photograph from Konark temple near Puri, 11 century C.E.

Meanwhile, I am also reading reading Murari Kumar Jha, 2013, The Political Economy of the Ganga River: Highway of State Formation in Mughal India, c. 1600-1800. Seeking out Danish smuggling/piracy back in the day…

fn 97 The first reference to opium purchase by the VOC at Patna come in the year 1652, see W. Ph. Coolhaas, ed., Generale Missiven van Gouverneurs-Generaal en Raden aan Heren XVII der Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, vol. 2, 1639–1655 (’s-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff, 1964), 622, Reniers, Maetsuyker, enz. VII, 24.12.1652. But even before the VOC started buying opium from Bihar, the Muslim merchants seems to have been purchasing this commodity for Southeast Asia. This becomes clear from the cargoes of one of the two ships which both were captured in 1649 by Leyel, a Danish commander, before they reached Balasore. The ship with opium was destined for Aceh, see Coolhaas, ed., Generale Missiven, 2:348–49, Van der Lijn, Caron, enz. VIII, 18.01.1649. In 1641 the VOC was already buying some opium at Surat for the Malabar Coast, see Coolhaas, ed., Generale Missiven, 2:145, Van Diemen, Van der Lijn, enz. XVII, 12.12.1641

Quid pro Quo – Subversive Festival, Zagreb (2nd vid)

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 14.39.22

My third talk in a series of three on capital was at the Subversive Festival in Zagreb. The second talk is here (Translating Capital in Context) and it makes sense to see the second talk first [the first one in Rijeka was not recorded, but was based on my text on Citizen Kane], not least because it will help explain why the conceit in this third talk has Marx relocated to India, which of course he was always deeply interested in, but he never went, only picking up bits of info, and some myths – eg the horror stories of Jagannath etc – from his wide-ranging and varied reading. I think it is justified to deploy Marx to Calcutta, at least in fantasy, though its true not even Engels took his father’s advice to go to Calcutta to start in business. The old boys were European bound, but this did not mean they did not seek out the revolution elsewhere.

What also should be mentioned (the parts here are – great job – edited and slightly reordered, and the opening by Bernard missed) is that in this talk I set out to look at three different moments. 1) the arrival of Clive in Calcutta after the ‘sham scandal’ of the Black Hole in 1756; 2) the first all-India war of Independence, the so-called ‘mutiny’ 100 years later and; 3) the quid pro quo return of originary capital to the site of the East India Company shipyard in London in present times, under the aegis of the Farrell’s development of Convoys’ Wharf, Deptford, for Hutchinson Whampoa.

I am slowly writing this out as a long, too long, chapter, so this version is pretty schematic, but you will get the drift of new work. Thanks for stopping by. Thanks also to the crew at Subversive, especially Karolina Hrga, and Bernard Koludrović who was chair.


“Marx writing on India is key to understanding Capital. My argument is that we can make sense of Marx today by examining his theoretical and journalistic work together, each informed by an emergent anthropology, by historical hermeneutics, by a critique of political economy and by attention to a global political contest that mattered more than philosophy. Marx reading history, already against the grain and without being able to make actual alliances, is nevertheless seeking allies in a revolutionary cause. Is it possible to observe Marx coming round to realise, after the shaping experience of the 1848-1852 European uprisings, the possibilities for the many different workers of the world to unite? I consider the sources Marx finds available, what he reads, and how his writing practice parses critical support as habitual politics, and how far subcontinental events, themes and allegories are a presence in the key moves of his masterwork Capital almost as if India were a refocused bromide for Europe, just as slavery is for wages. I will take up four cases – the ‘founding’ of Calcutta by Job Charnock (disputed); the story of Clive sacking Chandernagore and going on to defeat Suraj-ud-duala at Palashi/Plassey in 1757 in retaliation for the ‘Black Hole’ (did it exist?); Disraeli verbosely saying nothing about the so-called Indian ‘mutiny’ 1857 (‘the East as a career’); and the question of legalizing Opium in China and the advent of Matheson-Jardine Company after the East India Company comes to an end (‘quid pro quo’). All of this brings us back to the realities of global investment and regeneration in Europe today, as international capital returns to the port of London to redevelop the old East India Company shipyards in Deptford.”

15/5/2014, 21h, Cinema Europa, Zagreb, Croatia
John Hutnyk: Quid pro quo: the East as a career
7th Subversive festival: “Power and Freedom in the Time of Control”
Moderator: Bernard Koludrović

reading Marx daily –

you can get the New York Daily tribune to read online via Library of Congress. Cross referencing the resources of the Marxist Internet Archive here for the dates of pieces not yet transcribed, you can then search the scanned copies of the NYDT here. Thus reading Marx’s journalism in situ as it were. This means the usual sunday morning with the papers is somewhat different today.

For example, Marx on China from page 8 of the Dec 3 1959 edition (second scan, column 2)

cover NYDT Dec 3image_587x817_from_0,0_to_6064,8439

The East as a Career – talk 22.5.2014

  • Logo Universität Hamburg

  • Institut für Volkskunde / Kulturanthropologie

  • 16. Mai 2014 | Studium und Lehre

    Do. 22.5. | Kollaboratives Forschen mit John Hutnyk

    John Hutnyk, London: “The East as a career: Marx Writing Capital and the Value of Bengal.”

    Um 18.15 Uhr in Raum 220