What Chatterjee Doesn't Tell Us

Dr Philip Holden, University Scholars Programme, National University of Singapore


Chatterjee gives a convincing account of what happens in the transition from colonialism to nationalism, and makes us question concepts such as "tradition," modernity," and "culture," which we might otherwise think of being independent of politics. However, Chatterjee doesn't seem to provide simple answers to the following questions:

  1. Why has there been a resurgence of "civil society" activity in Singapore from the 1990s onwards?
  2. Are there transnational communities or solidarities which are not colonial?
  3. Is the Enlightenment world view so bad after all? What's the alternative?
  4. What is the function of "premodern" communities in the postcolonial state? Are they always doomed to subaltern status?
  5. Singapore is very different from Bengal. One key difference is that Singapore is largely an immigrant society and has inherited no obvious central "national" culture which all citizens share. How significant is this difference?

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Last Modified: 19 April, 2002