The UnGandhian Gandhi: The Life and Afterlife of the Mahatma
Keeping clear of the twin pitfalls of hagiography and hyper-criticism, this book throws new light on Mahatma Gandhi by looking simultaneously at his legend and career. The Gandhian legend is analysed through the corpus of texts and images which helped spread it – through India and in the West.
The gradual creation of Gandhi as an icon is shown to be the result of Indian nationalistic selectivity and Western Christian impoverishments of the range and depth of representations of the Mahatma. Markovits suggests that the growth of a legend on the saint as politician through these iconic transformations has obscured the facts of Gandhi’s public career.
Gandhi’s actual professional role in the public sphere, says Markovits, was marked by his long and critical phase of maturation in South Africa, a phase often glossed over, in laudatory accounts, as a preparation for his famous work in India. This later Indian career, Markovits points out, was really the consequence of Gandhi having to radically reinvent himself. Markovits argues that the disjunctions between the early and later Gandhi cannot be wished away or elided: they need to be squarely examined.
This is an exceptionally perceptive and readable short account of the life and ideas of Mahatma Gandhi.
Claude Markovits is Honorary Directeur de Recherche (Senior Research Fellow) at CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research), Paris. His publications include Indian Business and Nationalist Politics (1985), The Global World of Indian Merchants (2000), Merchants, Traders, Entrepreneurs (2008) and India and the World: A History of Connections (2021).
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