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Title: Representing Adda : radical capitalism, Bengaliness and post-partition melancholia
Author: Sil, Esha
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2013
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This doctoral dissertation examines the popular Bengali leisure pursuit, adda, which may be defined as a long, informal talking session among friends, interspersing intellectual discussion and debate with gossip, rumour and small talk. Taking its cue from Dipesh Chakrabarty’s acclaimed essay on the Calcutta adda, my thesis analyses how the social practice of adda functions as a cultural signifier of ‘something quintessentially Bengali’. Such a general assumption of adda’s ‘quintessential Bengaliness’, I argue, is problematised by the present geo-political identity of ‘Bengal’ as a region straddling two different nation-states, namely West Bengal in India, and Bangladesh (former East Bengal). I correspondingly deconstruct the discourse of adda’s ‘quintessential Bengaliness’ along two key theoretical axes – adda’s radical capitalism and post-Partition melancholia. Adda’s radical capitalist premise postulates the economic, sociological and political significance of adda’s leisurely work ethic as a challenging alternative to the hegemonic epistemology of a globalised Western capitalism. Adda’s post-Partition melancholia demonstrates how the overarching West Bengali Hindu representation of this ‘quintessential’ talking practice can be traced back to the 1947 Bengal Partition. Employing a range of historiographical, literary and cinematic sources in conjunction with Edward Said’s contrapuntal reading methodology, my thesis interrogates the Hindu bhadralok master-discourse of the Calcutta adda to explore the marginalised adda narratives of various ‘other’ Bengali communities – both in West Bengal and Bangladesh. For this purpose, I revaluate the West Bengali bhadralok hierarchy against the contrapuntal grain of adda’s different subaltern space-times, including those inhabited by the East Bengali refugee, the West Bengali tribal, the bangal woman, and the Bangladeshi modern. I thereby mobilise both the radical capitalist productivity and critical melancholic agency of adda’s diverse representational imaginaries – preeminent and submerged, normative and transgressive, metropolitan and peripheral, to establish their dynamic presence as the heterogeneous constituents of a post-Partition Bengali contemporaneity.
Supervisor: Kabir, Ananya Jahanara Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available