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Indian cricket mobilized a large and diverse popular following in the twentieth century. What was so special about cricket and why was it so important to a large number of people? Why do postcolonial Indians identify with the colonial game the way they do? Is the engagement with English culture a mechanism for empowering and modernising themselves? What does cricket tell us about the making of a public culture? This presentation, based on my book Cricket, Public Culture, and the Making of Postcolonial Calcutta, will discuss the moulding of the Indian public as cricket followers and cricket's role in the emergence of a postcolonial society. Through thematic explorations of cricket’s significance for the people of Calcutta, it will explore the making of public culture in a postcolonial city. The followers and critics of cricket in Calcutta are the protagonists in this history. A study of their entanglement offers two important insights into the making of postcolonial society. First, it enables us to understand how people attach symbolic values to cultural forms to reimagine and reinvent themselves. Second, it enhances the analytical value of cricket as a cultural tool that empowered, modernised, and gave new meanings to its community.  

Souvik Naha’s doctoral research at ETH Zurich, funded by a Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship, examined how journalists and broadcasters popularised cricket as an ideal everyday leisure activity in twentieth-century Calcutta. In doing so, it shed light on the dynamics of cultural transfer and the afterlife of colonialism in a decolonising society, integrating the histories of everyday life, popular culture, regional politics, and the transnational circulation of ideas in a postcolonial context. This research led to a monograph that explored how cricket gave the Bengalis of postcolonial Calcutta a tool to understand and form themselves as a cultural community, creating new social relationships.

Prior to joining the University of Glasgow Souvik taught History at the West Bengal State University and the Indian Institute of Management Rohtak. He also held a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowship at Durham University. This project extended his work on decolonisation by examining cricket’s significance as a tool of reshaping Indo-British relationship after India’s independence, focussing on issues of race, mobility, migration, diplomacy, and environment. This research has laid the foundation for his second monograph, which will examine the role of sport in recasting the British World and the Commonwealth in the 1940s-60s.

Please note that registration for this seminar will close 24 hours in advance so that the seminar convenors can distribute the meeting details to registered attendees.

All welcome- this seminar is free to attend, but advance registration is required.