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The province of Odisha, previously “Orissa,” was the first linguistically organized province of India. In Language and the Making of Modern India: Nationalism and the Vernacular in Colonial Odisha, 1803-1953 (Cambridge University Press, 2020), Pritipuspa Mishra explores how the idea of the vernacular has a double effect, serving as a means for exclusion and inclusion. She argues that while regional linguistic nationalism enabled nationalism’s growth, it also enabled the exclusion of groups such as the adivasis, who become invisible as a minority in Odisha. Her book traces the role of the vernacular from colonial decisions about governance and education up through the creation of a linguistic homeland in Odisha. Along the way she looks at the construction of literary categories, the idea of the political subject, and the range of views about multilingualism in nationalist discourse. It concludes with a reflective postscript on the continuing impact of linguistic nationalism on adivasi communities in India.

Malcolm Keating is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Yale-NUS College. His research focuses on Sanskrit philosophy of language and epistemology. He is the author of Language, Meaning, and Use in Indian Philosophy (Bloomsbury Press, 2019) and host of the podcast Sutras (and stuff).

 

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