Fellow 2023/2024Prabhat Kumar

Fellowship Term: 10/2023-03/2024

Prabhat Kumar was trained as a historian at University of Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg, Germany. He taught history at Presidency University, Kolkata before joining the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi. Broadly invested in the north Indian cultural history, he works on Hindi print media, both literary and visual in its myriad forms. He is interested in exploring the vernacular articulations of modern political imaginaries, social sensibilities, their continued cultural appeal and presence in contemporary times. He is presently finishing a book manuscript on the local experiences of political and technological modernity and futuristic imaginations of global world order in South Asia during the Interwar years. He has curated and translated an anthology of eleven twentieth century Hindi stories on the theme of domestic servants. Titled Lesser Lives, the book is co-edited with Nitin Sinha. His has published his research articles in English and Hindi. He is co-editor of Pratiman: Samay Samaj Sankriti (biannual social science journal in Hindi).

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In the Spotlight: Prabhat Kumar 

 Prabhat Kumar

Apocalyptic Frames: Imagining Crisis and its Aftermath in the Interwar South Asia

Apocalyptic narratives have been frequently deployed in South Asian cultures to make sense of a wide range of historical, natural and social events to conceive the present as a moment of crisis, on the cusp of transition towards a better future. Despite their ubiquitous presence, often crisscrossing the ‘rational-modern’, the apocalyptic narratives have not merited much scholarly attention. This project, therefore, investigates the many lives of apocalyptic narratives and uncovers the particularity of its political meaning, cultural function and endearing appeal in the specific historical context of late colonial South Asia. My proposed study seeks to examine a diverse set of oral and printed Hindi narratives that draw upon the pre-modern (Hindu/Buddhist) cosmological and eschatological traditions and deals with a range of intellectual-political concerns and visions about the past, present and, more importantly, the future of Indian society. To make the study practically feasible, the project looks at only those apocalyptic narratives which emerged during the 1920s and 1930s –a period marked by high tide of anti-colonial nationalist movement, anti-caste mobilisation, crisis of European/imperial order, dense global circulation of a variety of anti-imperialist activists and networks, specter of Bolshevism, etc. We will focus on four sets of narratives– those concerning natural disaster, those about imperialist war and global destruction, narratives that concern themselves with the crisis caused by popular democratic assertion of the hitherto disenfranchised castes and classes and, finally, utopian imagination of a new social, moral, and political order.