Prathama Banerjee


Prathama Banerjee is a historian and a political theorist.  Her latest book is Elementary Aspects of the Political: histories from the global south (Duke University Press, 2020) in which she discusses how modern conceptions of political subjectivity, political action, political ideology and political community come to be fashioned in India between late 19th and mid-20th centuries.  Moving beyond decolonial and postcolonial critique, she examines selfhood in light of precolonial Indic traditions of renunciation and realpolitik; action in the constitutive tension between traditional conceptions of karma and modern ideas of labor; the idea of equality as it emerges in the dialectic between spirituality and economics; and people in the friction between the structure of the political party and the atmospherics of fiction and theater. She challenges modern assumptions about the universality, primacy, and self-evidence of the political and gestures toward a globally salient political philosophy that displaces prevailing Western notions of the political masquerading as universal.

Her earlier work was on the Politics of Time, in which she looked at the emergence of the modern discipline of history in colonial Bengal from an encounter with ‘peoples without history’ - tribes, aborigines, primitives - as they were variously called. She mapped this encounter in different discursive and material sites such as that of calendrical reforms, history and geography texts, anthropology, poetry, indentured labour markets, agrarian credit markets, and so on.

Currently she is engaged in a study of the career of political ideas and concepts in India – as they emerge in the cusp of philosophy, religion, history and literature and across the ancient, medieval and modern periods.  She asks if it is possible to think across time from within the discipline of history.

Banerjee is also interested in the emergent futures of democracy in the digital cum viral age.

Email: prathama(at)

Select Publications (Click to Read)

Elementary Aspects of the Political: Introduction

The Abiding Binary: The Social and the Political in Modern India

Democracy and Maoism

State (and) violence

Writing the Adivasi: Some historiographical notes

Between the political and the nonpolitical: the Vivekananda moment and a critique of the social in colonial Bengal, 1890s–1910s

Chanakya/Kautilya: History, Philosophy, Theater and the Twentieth-century Political