Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China

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University of Chicago Press, Nov 20, 1996 - History - 286 pages
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Prasenjit Duara offers the first systematic account of the relationship between the nation-state, nationalism, and the concept of linear history. Focusing primarily on China and including discussion of India, Duara argues that many historians of postcolonial nation-states have adopted a linear, evolutionary history of the Enlightenment/colonial model. As a result, they have written repressive, exclusionary, and incomplete accounts.

The backlash against such histories has resulted in a tendency to view the past as largely constructed, imagined, or invented. In this book, Duara offers a way out of the impasse between constructionism and the evolving nation; he redefines history as a series of multiple, often conflicting narratives produced simultaneously at national, local, and transnational levels. In a series of closely linked case studies, he considers such examples as the very different histories produced by Chinese nationalist reformers and partisans of popular religions, the conflicting narratives of statist nationalists and of advocates of federalism in early twentieth-century China. He demonstrates the necessity of incorporating contestation, appropriation, repression, and the return of the repressed subject into any account of the past that will be meaningful to the present. Duara demonstrates how to write histories that resist being pressed into the service of the national subject in its progress—or stalled progress—toward modernity.

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This work challenges the orthodoxy of nationalist narratives itself. He argues that nationalism has become too dominant an intellectual force that oversimplifies the narrative and crushes counter ... Read full review


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Bifurcating Linear Histories in China and India
The Campaigns against Religion and the Return of the Repressed
Secret Brotherhood and Revolutionary Discourse in Chinas Republican Revolution
The Genealogy of Fengjian or Feudalism Narratives of Civil Society and State
Provincial Narratives of the Nation Federalism and Centralism in Modern China
Critics of Modernity in India and China

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Page 18 - Then inactive contemplation is left for activity; by the close of the day man has erected a building constructed from his own inner sun; and when in the evening he contemplates this, he esteems it more highly than the original external sun. For now he stands in a conscious relation to his spirit, and therefore a free relation. If we hold this image in mind, we shall find it symbolizing the course of history, the great day's work of spirit.
Page 18 - The boundless forgetfulness of his individuality in this pure splendor, is his first feeling— utter astonishment. But when the sun is risen, this astonishment is diminished; objects around are perceived, and from them the individual proceeds to the contemplation of his own inner being, and thereby the advance is made to the perception of the relation between the two. Then inactive contemplation is quitted for activity; by the close of day man has erected a building constructed from his own inner...
Page 18 - Africa proper, as far as History goes back, has remained - for all purposes of connection with the rest of the World - shut up; it is the Gold-land compressed within itself - the land of childhood, which lying beyond the day of self-conscious history, is enveloped in the dark mantle of Night.
Page 18 - Light is a simply self-involved existence; but though possessing thus in itself universality, it exists at the same time as an individuality in the sun. Imagination has often pictured to itself the emotions of a blind man suddenly becoming possessed of sight, beholding the bright glimmering of the dawn, the growing light, and the flaming glory of the ascending sun.

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About the author (1996)

Prasenjit Duara is chair of the department of history at the University of chicago. He is the author of Culture, Power, and the State: Rural North China, 1900-1942 and Sovereignty and Authentcity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern.

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