Gandhi and his Interlocutors

Term: Spring 2009

Subject Code: GANT

Course Number: 5225

In 1926, after the failure of his first great movement of civil disobedience, Gandhi paused to re-think the meaning of non-violence. Among his conclusions were the following: that violence was a positive and non-violence a negative phenomenon with no life of its own. Moreover violence could not survive without the help of non-violence, which gave the former a legitimacy it did not otherwise possess. For Gandhi, these seemingly contradictory statements proved that violence and non-violence were not opposed phenomena, but intimately related to one another in complex ways. Whatever else the Mahatma accomplished, he brought to light many of these complicated relations, while at the same time making them available to political thought in productive new ways. Gandhi is only the most famous among those who have thought about the relationship of violence and non-violence in South Asia. While this thinking is distinctive because it emerges from the distinct history of South Asia, it is by no means peculiar to it. The region�s history has produced not only distinctive forms of violence and non-violence, but equally distinct ways of thinking about their relationship, whose relevance is not however confined to its geography. The purpose of this course is to explore some of these theorizations by focusing on the social life of violence and non-violence in contemporary South Asia.


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