Stiches on Time: Colonial Textures and Postcolonial Tangles
Dube, Saurabh. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004. 304 pgs. softcover, $23.95. ISBN: 0822333376.
Saurabh Dube's Stiches on Time is a multilayered work with rich criticism for both the reader wanting to learn about postcolonial studies as well as the reader well-versed in the field. The strengths of Dube's work comes from the meticulous establishment of the critics who have gone before and an analysis of their work. Dube's synthesis of major contributors in the field such as Partha Chatterjee, Peter Burke, and Dipesh Chakrabarty, among others offers a vast array of what he calls "conjunctions" in terms of understanding the varieties present in the colonial and post-colonial context and highlighting the gaps and possibilities in the established body of critical discourse.
The book offers Dube's latest work on the difficulties of history-writing in midst of the overlapping factors. Dube's research is considerable and merely reading the account of village disputes or the events of missionaries in India is enough to impress one with this author's commitment. As a result, Stiches on Time does not suffer from being more focused on one particular aspect of the colonial question then another as many works similar to this project do. Instead Dube skillfully weaves in questions of caste, religion, gender, class, and economics into the specific cases studied in each chapter.
Dube covers topics over a wide range encompassing a discussion of state and civil society. He delves into how modernity, community, and the nation state overlap and influence one another. The chapters are helpful distinctions to keep separate the variety of topics Dube unpacks in such a dense volume. Really no aspect of colonialism or the postcolonial response is left unturned by Dube; from village politics, to the interplay between culture, religion, conversion, and missionaries, to the interplay of science and faith, Dube's work questions the fluid interplay among the variables of each of these interactions.
The most useful aspect of Dube's work focuses around the thoughtful questions he poses after each critic. His work with Chatterjee for example, does not react to the claims there, which many critics have done and been distracted by, rather Dube's objective analysis allows him the distance to push the work further into new spaces for interrogations.
Again and again Dube returns to remind the reader that ‘the beast that is colonialism' is far more complex then to be completely unpackaged in the space of one work. Instead Dube's seven chapters serve to complicate the static notion of history and globalization as a one way exchange with the West civilizing the rest. Instead through primary research and teasing apart the work of others, he demonstrates how the elisions and slippages of the static narratives of events always have another more subtle story.
Dube's concise and careful definitions of terms will prove useful to the reader new to the postcolonial field because he replaces the innate assumption that his audience is the well versed with precision that allows a new reader to integrate immediately into the conversation without the normal feelings of disorientation often associated when one reads outside his/her own field. For example when he discusses his purposes and understanding of the term "people's history":
… I use the term in a restricted way to refer to the moves toward the historical study of subordinate groups that have developed since the 1960s, recently finding newer meanings through the importance accorded to "minority" histories. Such a use of the term people'shistory or historiesfrom below does not deny that these later studies can share continuities with past traditions and/or that they differ among themselves in method and politics. (133)
Stitches on Time is a valuable work by an established researcher and critic in the field of postcolonial discourse and in this latest work Dube confirms his abilities as a careful and exacting critic of in the field.