Topics: Nationalism, Rabindranath Tagore, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi Pages: 39 (22537 words) Published: April 13, 2015
Heidelberg Papers
in South Asian
and Comparative Politics

Rabindranath Tagore and Nationalism:
An Interpretation


Michael Collins

Working Paper No. 42
October 2008

S o u t h As i a I n s t i t u t e
D e p a r t me n t o f P o l i t i c a l S c i e n c e
U n i v e r s i t y o f He i d e l b e r g

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Rabindranath Tagore and Nationalism:
An Interpretation1
Michael Collins2
What is needed is eagerness of heart for a fruitful communication between different cultures. Anything that prevents this is barbarism. Rabindranath Tagore, Rabindra Rachanabli.3
Rabindranath Tagore is often referred to as a „nationalist poet‟ or a „nationalist leader‟.4 This presents problems both historical and historiographical, since by the 1

This paper was originally given at the South Asia Institute colloquium, University of Heidelberg, on 6th November 2007. I‟m indebted to all the responses and constructive criticisms offered that day, and in particular to Subrata K. Mitra and Barnita Bagchi. I would also like to thank David Washbrook of Trinity College, University of Cambridge, for his critical reading of this paper. Needless to say its remaining deficiencies are my responsibility alone.

Michael Collins is Lecturer in 20th Century British History at UCL (opens webpage with contact details).
Rabindranath Tagore, „Rabindra Rachanabli‟: Kalyan Sen Gupta, The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005). p. 13.
The instances of this are numerous and widespread. In a 1990 essay on W. B. Yeats, Edward Said referred to Tagore as one of the „great nationalist artists of decolonisation and revolutionary nationalism‟: a passing comment indicative of just how poorly represented Tagore has sometimes been in mainstream postcolonial writing. See Edward Said, 'Yeats and Decolonisation', in Frederic Jameson & Edward Said Terry Eagleton (ed.), Nationalism, Colonialism, and Literature (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990). p. 73. In Culture and Imperialism (1993), Said shifted his stance a little and acknowledged that „many nationalists are sometimes more coercive or more intellectually self-critical than others‟, and argued that his own thesis was „that, at its best, nationalist resistance to imperialism was always critical to itself‟. Moreover, he wrote, „an attentive reading of towering figures...

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