The Subaltern Studies Group (SSG) or Subaltern Studies Collective is a group of South Asian scholars interested in the postcolonial and post-imperial societies with a particular focus on those of South Asia while also covering the developing world in general sense. The term Subaltern Studies is sometimes also applied more broadly to others who share many of their views. Their anti-essentialist approach is one of history from below, focused more on what happens among the masses at the base levels of society than among the elite.
The term "subaltern" in this context is an allusion to the work of Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937). It refers to any person or group of inferior rank and station, whether because of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or religion.
The SSG arose in the 1980s, influenced by the scholarship of Eric Stokes and Ranajit Guha, to attempt to formulate a new narrative of the history of India and South Asia. This narrative strategy most clearly inspired by the writings of Gramsci was explicated in the writings of their "mentor" Ranajit Guha, most clearly in his "manifesto" in Subaltern Studies I and also in his classic monograph The Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency. Although they are, in a sense, on the left, they are very critical of the traditional Marxist narrative of Indian history, in which semi-feudal India was colonized by the British, became politicized, and earned its independence. In particular, they are critical of the focus of this narrative on the political consciousness of elites, who in turn inspire the masses to resistance and rebellion against the British.
Instead, they focus on non-elites — subalterns — as agents of political and social change. They have had a particular interest in the discourses and rhetoric of emerging political and social movements, as against only highly visible actions like demonstrations and uprisings.
People associated with Subaltern Studies
Scholars associated with Subaltern Studies include:
- Eric Stokes
- David Arnold
- Dipesh Chakrabarty
- Partha Chatterjee
- Ranajit Guha
- Sudipta Kaviraj
- Gyanendra Pandey
- Gyan Prakash
- Edward Said
- Sumit Sarkar (later dissented)
- Ajay Skaria
- Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
- Sarojini Sahoo
- Young, Robert, White Mythologies. Routledge, 1990, reissued 2004. Several associated ISBNs, including ISBN 0-415-31181-0, ISBN 0-415-31180-2.
- Ludden, David, ed., Reading Subaltern Studies. Critical History, Contested Meaning and the Globalization of South Asia, London 2001.
- Chaturvedi, Vinayak, ed., Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial. London and New York 2000.
- Cronin, Stephanie, ed., "Subalterns and Social Protest: History from Below in the Middle East and North Africa". Routledge, 2008. US & Canada.