Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy
17 February 2021

Imperial Entanglements: Rethinking Modernity with and beyond Zygmunt Bauman

Lecture by Shalini Randeria

On 28 January 2021, Shalini Randeria, Professor of Anthropology and Sociology and Director of the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy, was invited to give a lecture in the online series dedicated to the Polish sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017). Bauman envisaged and practised sociology as a dialogic exercise. In that spirit, the lecture series organised by the University of Leeds proceeds by inviting a dialogue between Bauman and postcolonial studies.

In stimulating new reflections on Bauman’s work, the series aims to produce a nuanced reconsideration of the function of postcolonial intellectuals at a time when the idea of intellectual labour is increasingly democratised, but democracy itself is increasingly at threat. 

Entitled “Imperial Entanglements: Rethinking Modernity with and beyond Zygmunt Bauman”, Shalini Randeria’s lecture critically engaged with Zygmunt Bauman’s contribution to our understanding of modernity, which played an important role in shifting the debate beyond the teleology of unilinear modernisation.

The lecture was introduced by Graham Huggan, Professor of English, Chair of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Literature, and founding co-director of the Institute for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies at the University of Leeds.

Shalini Randeria addressed the Eurocentrism that characterises not only classical but also contemporary sociological theorisations of modernity, including that of Bauman. She examined some recent alternative theorisations in terms of plural, regional or vernacular modernities. In a postcolonial perspective, Shalini Randeria argued that only a consideration of imperial spatial and temporal entanglements allows us to grasp modernity as relational in the past and in the present. She illustrated these using ethnographic material from her own field research in India on legal entanglements.  

Watch HERE the lecture by Shalini Randeria