Although the notion of world anthropology has opened up a space to consider non-Western scholarly traditions as crucial in the making of anthropology as a discipline, it is still too readily assumed that the boundaries of the political community are coterminous with the boundaries of scholarly traditions. This article departs from this assumption by arguing that the privileging of a regional tradition, that of folklore studies in Bengal, provided Bengali intellectuals with a language to contest both colonial and nationalist modes of representing India. The region becomes the space for a critical reflection on nationhood that reflects a specific conjuncture of language, politics, and culture. Although Bengal was not the only region in India that used the local to explore the potential of nationhood while India was still in the making, it offers a unique example of how the category of folk allows tradition and newer social formations to coexist.

Keyword(s): Bengalmythregionvernacular history

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