- Age of Entanglement: German and Indian Intellectuals across Empire by Kris Manjapra
In Colonialism in Question (2005), Frederick Cooper suggested that an underlying motivation for the now decades-old “globalization fad is an important quest for understanding the interconnectedness of different parts of the world. … What is missing,” Cooper continues, “is the historical depth of interconnections and a focus on what the structures and limits of the connecting mechanisms are” (91). Kris Manjapra’s Age of Entanglement provides an exemplary response to Cooper’s entreaty because it focuses “on the constellations of dialogic interdependence” in spheres of intellectual exchange between India and Germany from 1880 to 1945 (291). Manjapra’s well-written, thoroughly researched, and yet broadly constructed work makes an important contribution to German-Indian studies and, critically, to the broader field of transnational history.
This study begins by foregrounding the emergence of the Humboldtian university as a European model for education in the nineteenth century. It depicts how German-trained scientists provided essential support for British imperial aims in India until after 1880, when Germany too became a more assertive player on the colonial playing field. The book’s second chapter explores the international travel of Indian intellectuals during the nineteenth century and their gradual scientific reorientation away from “the ideal of a single British enlightenment universalism centered around the New Rome of British Empire” (54). Here Manjapra illustrates how this reorientation set the stage for Indian thinkers to link their various scientific models to the anti-imperial movement svadeśi—which, broadly construed, means “self-sufficiency.” Conversely, Manjapra also explores German intellectual depictions of Indian thought, especially those of Arthur Schopenhauer. Their popularization through the innovative voices of Paul de Lagarde and later Paul Deussen, for instance, became entangled in attempts to negotiate German cultural and national identity. As Manjapra describes, “embedded in German interest in India during this fin-de-siècle and early twentieth century was the desire to be like the British, but also to overcome them” (61).
Manjapra handles the opaque complexities of the Weimar and Nazi period in a balanced way, avoiding the temptation to simplify the problem of Aryan Studies. [End Page 171] Despite the increasingly racist atmosphere, many Indians travelled to Germany after the Great War to pursue doctorates. Other Indian “svadeśi internationalists”—such as the Oxford-educated and underground anticolonial agitator, Virendranath Chattopadhyaya—founded the Association of Indians of German Europe, which sought to organize Indian students in Berlin “to serve the diasporic student community and to coordinate students for anticolonial resistance” (93). With Hitler’s ascension to power, these “India-German romantic liaisons split up, as much as they joined together” (103). Entanglement had taken a complicated turn and Manjapra manages the complexity of this ambiguous relationship with a fair and balanced assessment.
Yet the core of Manjapra’s research investigates specific fields of entanglement between German and Indian intellectuals primarily after World War I: in art/cinema, economics, Marxism-Leninism, physics, political geography/cultural history, and psychoanalysis. For each, Manjapra effectively corroborates these cross-cultural interactions and influences by fleshing out—through their published works and correspondence—what he terms the “feedback loop” in German and Indian thought (162). Radhakamal Mukherjee’s comparative economic studies and his model of “rurbanization”—the development of rural industry based on small capital—for instance, “was mirrored in the German experience, not that of western Europe” (158). Likewise, Manjapra shows how Werner Sombart’s landmark work from 1928, Das Wirtschaftsleben im Zeitalter des Hochkapitalismus, was significantly influenced by his Indian doctoral student, Zakir Hussain. “While interacting across a power differential of Eastern student to European teacher,” these two intellectuals, Manjapra posits, “saw each other as scholarly compatriots against liberal imperial capitalism” (162). These examples, among many others, illustrate how Manjapra traces specific intellectual influences between Germany and India that challenge conventional binary models of knowledge creation. He effectively substantiates transnational scientific and cultural influences across previously more strictly demarcated geopolitical spaces.
Manjapra’s analysis of the field of psychoanalysis...