Friday, August 5, 2011

Chander on The Asian Century

Anupam Chander, University of California, Davis - School of Law, has just posted an interesting paper, The Asian Century?  It appears in the UC Davis Law Review, Vol. 44, pp. 713-744, 2011.  Here's the abstract:
Rabindranath Tagore
Will an Asian Century, should it come to pass, mark a retreat for human rights, including women’s rights and gay rights? In this introduction to a UC Davis Law Review symposium, I contrast Henry Luce’s vision for an American Century with the internationalism of his near contemporary, the Indian Poet Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. As the United States entered World War II, Luce, publisher of Time, Life, and Fortune, asked, “What are we fighting for?” Luce’s manifesto declaring an “American Century” answered that it was the internationalization of American ideas—promulgated from Hollywood to Washington. Luce’s vision presaged American support for human rights after the war and its forceful, if inconsistent, critique of despots during the latter half of the Twentieth Century.

In the Post-War era, China and India embraced the sovereign nation-state, often proving reluctant to support intervention in the affairs of other countries, even when human rights were at stake. Tagore offered an alternative vision. Hailing from a land that long suffered at the hands of British traders and imperialists, Tagore proposed an internationalism led by neither the merchant nor the soldier. Instead, Tagore offered a world order founded on a kind of critical friendship, unflinchingly focused on human dignity for all.
Readers of this essay will also have an interest in a fabulous forthcoming book:   Colored Cosmopolitanism: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India by Nico Slate, which explores relationships between Indian and American freedom movements, and Rabindranath Tagore plays a role in his narrative.  I'll say more about the book when it's released.

1 comment:

Patrick S. O'Donnell said...

Nice timing on the Chander piece in another way: The Essential Tagore (2011) edited by Fakrul Alam and Radha Chakravarty is a wonderful new collection of his writings.

For those new to Tagore, a helpful introduction is found in Amartya Sen's The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture, and Identity (2005). A more substantial introduction is provided by Krishna Dutta and Andrew Robinson's Rabindranath Tagore: The Myriad-Minded Man (1995). The Wikipedia entry on Tagore is also nicely done.