Suppress ego to write biography: Ramachandra Guha

Guha said history oscillates between social sciences and literature

GN Bureau | February 24, 2017


#history   #biography   #Ramchandra Guha   #India news  


Noted historian Ramachandra Guha has listed reasons on why historical biographies never took off in a big way in India.

Delivering the annual lecture at Sahitya Akademi’s Festival of Letters in New Delhi on Thursday, Guha said that historical biography is that part of history which is more allied to literature than any other parts of history. “History oscillates between social sciences and literature,” he said. 
 
Here are his reasons on why Indian historians refrain from writing biographies.
 
•    The burden of religious inheritance. Religions such as Hinduism are inimical to writing a biography due to its inherent belief system based on karma and rebirth. 
 
•    Scholarly inheritance, especially Marxism since Marxism diminishes the importance of the individual. 
 
•    History’s tilt towards social sciences, though history began as a branch of literature. 
 
•    Indians’ indifference to record keeping. The archives in the country, central and state, are in complete disarray. 
 
•    Indians are diffident on writing biographies for the fear of offending eminent individual. 
 
•    Biography is a challenging literary form. 
 
•    Writing of biography requires writers and scholars to suppress their own egos and write about another writer with an equally big ego. 
 
Guha explained how anthropologist Verrier Elwin’s life and works transformed him and his critical outlook. He illustrated the challenges of writing a biography through his attempts to write a biography of Verrier Elwin. He observed that while historical biography is an underdeveloped field and challenging, young scholars should tell their stories since historical biography in India is on the rise and in the coming years we are likely to see more number of historical biographies.
 

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