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The First World WarLiterature, Culture, Modernity$

Santanu Das and Kate McLoughlin

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266267

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266267.001.0001

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Entangled Emotions

Entangled Emotions

Race, Encounters and Anti-Colonial Cosmopolitanism

(p.240) 12 Entangled Emotions
The First World War

Santanu Das

British Academy

Abstract and Keywords

Undivided India contributed to the First World War more than one million men who served in places as diverse as France, Mesopotamia and East Africa and forged a remarkable range of encounters across the lines of race, religion and nationality. This essay investigates the fraught inner histories of these encounters – their affective, experiential and representational structures – through a range of archival, historical and literary material, as produced by Indian combatant and civilian writers, including Mulk Raj Anand and Rabindranath Tagore. Focusing on three kinds of encounters – behind the battlefield of the Western Front, in a hospital in Mesopotamia, and a series of wartime lectures delivered in the United States – it reflects on the role of the ‘literary’ in such cross-cultural encounters and their representations, and how such moments and processes at once expand our understandings of a more ‘global’ war and put pressure on conventional understandings of ideas of ‘modernity’ and ‘cosmopolitanism’.

Keywords:   India, cosmopolitanism, modernity, encounter, Rabindranath Tagore, Mulk Raj Anand, Mesopotamia

ONE FINE EVENING IN March 1919, the Belgian novelist Cyriel Buysse was thrown headlong into the River Scheldt. He was cycling back from Brussels to his native village of Deurle when part of the bridge blew up. A local farmer rushed to his rescue and fished him out. When Buysse complained about the situation, the farmer warned him of ‘far worse things’. In the moonlight, the farmer and his wife led Buysse to their farm and opened a closed hatch with ‘eyes filled with terror’:

Through a small square-framed window a wonderful spectacle unfolds before my eyes on an inner courtyard.

A milling of men with brown faces, in khaki uniforms and with red chéchias [skullcaps] on their heads, around a flickering wood fire. They are humming and smiling: some of them are dancing in a strange manner, whereas others are playing small musical instruments. Their white teeth and the whites of their eyes are brightly illuminated by the moon: it’s an encampment of Moroccan tirailleurs […]

‘Are they doing any harm?’ I ask, highly interested in the spectacle.

‘No Sir, but we are terribly afraid of them. And they don’t understand us. When we ask them when they intend to leave, they laugh at us. We daren’t even go to bed, Sir!’

The farmer closes the hatch with trembling fingers; and I go towards the soldiers through a rear door. Without too much trouble they tell me that they will stay just two more days and I hasten to bring these glad tidings to the farmer and his wife. They bless me as it were. They grasp both my hands and appear to want to hold on to me.

‘We were scared of the Germans, Sir’, hiccupped the woman, ‘but at least they were human.’1

Buysse vividly evokes the climate of anxiety and fear in a post-war Belgium still inhabited by colonial troops. What is striking in the above passage is that this is (p.241) no state-manufactured racist propaganda; instead, it raises fundamental and disturbing questions about the relationship between racial difference and humanistic universalism in a post-conflict situation.2 The farmer and his wife are somewhat timid, otherwise decent people who, like many locals, suddenly find themselves to be in the minority as hundreds of thousands of soldiers from different parts of the world pour into Ypres. In a provincial town, unused to foreigners and devastated by the war, racial difference is perceived as sub-human otherness: unfamiliarity translates into prejudice, fear deforms any sense of the ‘ethics’ of hospitality in a ‘world of strangers’.3 Instead, the above scene is an adult version of the white child’s first encounter with the ‘black man’ – ‘Look a Negro […] Mama, see the Negro! I’m frightened’ – that Frantz Fanon recalls in Black Skin, White Masks.4 But here colour trumps even the knowledge that the Moroccan tirailleurs have come to fight and die for Belgium. We are grateful for the presence of Buysse, our cosmopolitan novelist-negotiator, even as the woman’s terrified hiccup turns into our open-mouthed shock at her comment. But the farmer’s wife cannot be dismissed: prejudice and resistance, and not only from white participants, are the initial heart-beat of wartime encounters even when such encounters occur between people of allied nations.

The Moroccan tirailleurs were part of the four million non-white men, including both combatants and non-combatants, who were mobilized by the armies of Europe during the war. Quasi-mercenaries for whom hunger had made life cheap and the army was a profession, these men were the joint conscripts of modernity and empire. If industrial modernity – artillery, tanks, gas, landmines – created unprecedented havoc on the battlefields, it was the same technological modernity – in the form of wireless, ships, submarines, trains and even London buses in some cases – that resulted in the transportation of the colonial troops from Asia and Africa to fill in the ‘gaps’. Colonial troops had been used by European empires through the long nineteenth century but the scale of mobilization and the distance they travelled during the First World War were unprecedented: of the four million non-white troops mobilized, half of them passed through France and Belgium between 1914 and 1919.5

Two questions will guide my investigation in this essay. First, if the above extract as well as the essays by Claire Buck and Jahan Ramazani in this volume (p.242) examine encounters, real or fictional, through Western eyes, this essay reverses the gaze: how are such moments and processes understood and represented by the colonized subjects and how do they expand our understandings of a more ‘global’ war and its literary cultures? Second, if ‘travels and contacts’, as the anthropologist James Clifford has argued, ‘are crucial sites for an unfinished modernity’,6 how do wartime encounters – particularly ‘lateral encounters’ between colonial subjects from different parts of the world – intersect with the racial politics of a more global modernity? In recent years, there has been a turn to ‘histoire croisée’ as a way of understanding global modernity with its complex webs and connections, often obscured by national and comparative perspectives or the strict binaries of colonizer and colonized.7 The concepts of ‘encounter’, ‘exchange’ and ‘entanglement’ have emerged as resonant terms for this reconceptualization. If ‘encounters’ are often considered to be contingent and ‘exchange’ implies a certain reciprocity and equality, the model of ‘entanglement’ captures the complex structures of power and unequal alliances underlying the shared histories and relationships between different racial, cultural, religious and national groups.8 The conditions of the First World War – the unprecedented movement of people, including the four million colonial combatants and non-combatants – provide us with a rich historical test-case to examine these terms, particularly the porous boundaries between them, and enable us to move from the ‘grey’ of theory to the ‘green’ of experience.9

Closely connected to this reconceptualization of the war as a lateral contact-zone and at the heart of my argument is the idea of a certain experiential cosmopolitanism, informed by a robust but half-articulate anti-colonial sentiment. Cosmopolitanism has been one of the most crowded fields of recent enquiry, constantly enlivened by different theoretical and disciplinary perspectives.10 As already mentioned in the Introduction, it was in the context of war and peace that Immanuel Kant wrote his magisterial ‘To Perpetual Peace’ (‘Zum Ewigen (p.243) Frieden. Ein Philosophischer Entwurf’) (1795) which has played a key role in the history of the idea.11 Here, he passionately argues for a political community grounded in universal right, including republican constitution and a federation of free states, and finally moves beyond the polis or state-form towards the idea of ‘cosmopolitan right’ which he likens to ‘universal hospitality’ with a view to ‘intercommunication’.12 There is something wonderfully idealistic and poignant here, but what is often ignored is that he immediately follows it up with a severe reservation: the ‘inhospitable behaviour of the civilised nations, especially the commercial states of out continent’ which ‘fill us with horror’. He observes:

America, the negro countries, the Spice Islands, the Cape etc. were, on being discovered, looked upon as countries which belonged to nobody; for the native inhabitants were reckoned as nothing. In Hindustan [India], under the pretext of intending to establish merely commercial depots, the Europeans introduced foreign troops; and, as a result, the different states of Hindustan were stirred up to far-spreading wars. Oppression of the natives followed, famine, insurrection, perfidy and all the rest of the litany of evils which can afflict mankind.13

Kant’s ideal of ‘cosmopolitanism’ is equally alert to the world of experience, of ‘intercommunication’ gone wrong; in its relentless quest for equality and freedom of human beings, Perpetual Peace is lit up by a moral critique of colonialism while embracing the idea of cosmopolitanism.

In the last few years, these fraught and knotted aspects have been increasingly addressed, particularly by anthropologists such as James Clifford who has persistently moved the debates of cosmopolitanism from an ethical idea or duty towards a lived reality, with its tensions, compromises and ‘mixed feelings’.14 More recently, the idea of real-life encounter and ideas of cosmopolitanism have been brought into dialogue by the social and political historian Kris Manjapra in ways that are germane for the present essay. Rather than studying encounters in terms of the ‘pity of colonial domination’ or ‘the charms of cross-cultural encounter’, a new study of entanglement, according to Manjapra, will ask, ‘what do different groups, some stronger, some weaker, get out of their political relations together?’15 He continues:

(p.244) In the context of a world symbolically dichotomized by imperial power and European racism into center and periphery, North and South, East and West, white and coloured, anticolonial cosmopolitanisms challenged this cartographic imagination and showed the violence at the heart of colonial universalism […]

To frame the global circulation of ideas within the lone axis of center versus periphery is to view the world through the colonial state’s eyes and through its archive. As theorists of interregional and transnational studies have pointed out, the practice of taking sideways glances towards ‘lateral networks’ that transgressed the colonial duality is the best way to disrupt the hemispheric myth that the globe was congenitally divided into an East and West, and that ideas were exchanged across that fault line alone.16

Manjapra’s is a more politicized and aspirational version of cosmopolitanism which, rather than being defined in opposition to nationalism,17 is powered by the spirit of anti-colonial resistance. If, in the context of European nation-states, cosmopolitanism and nationalism are usually regarded as oppositional – the latter aligned with imperial aggression and parochialism – the relation between the two is very different in the context of former colonial states.18 Nationalism, in the Indian context, was often fuelled by ‘cosmopolitan sympathies’, with the Irish cause or with Soviet Bolshevism.19 Cosmopolitanism in this version provides the ethical ground on which ‘zones of conversation’ outside the imperial axis and between different cultural, linguistic and political communities develop in the pursuit of shared interests and perceived good. Such conversations go back to the nineteenth century, but reach their apogee in the early twentieth, facilitated by modern transportation and communication and increasing resistance to the impunity of imperial domination. In this narrative, ‘anti-colonial cosmopolitanism’ becomes one of the most (p.245) important features of colonial modernity, binding together transnational groups (both white and non-white) and feeding into the process of decolonization.20

In this essay, I wish to examine some of these issues through a focus on the South Asian experience of the First World War, and its literary representations. The war does not figure in Manjapra’s account but it can be regarded as a turning-point in the history of such ‘lateral contacts’ as well as in the rise of ‘anti-colonial cosmopolitanism’. Undivided India contributed more than a million men, including combatants and non-combatants, who served in places ranging from France and Salonika to the Middle East to East Africa and forged an unprecedented range of encounters.21 If much of the work on encounter, pioneered by social historians and political scientists, has focused on its social and political aspects, what I wish to investigate is the inner histories of these encounters – their affective, experiential and representational structures – and how they put pressure on neat formulations such as ‘anti-colonial cosmopolitanism’. Or, to put the matter in a different way, what happens to macro-narratives of transnational encounters and resistance when read against the grain of freshly recovered wartime letters and memoirs as well as essays and fiction by Indians representing such moments and processes? There is also a methodological issue at hand: what is the role of the literary, in terms both of source-material and of its practice of close-reading, in such an investigation? I shall here focus upon three different kinds of encounters taking place in three very different locations to suggest the range and complexity: behind the frontline in the Western Front, both from the perspective of a non-literate sepoy and the way he is represented by the novelist Mulk Raj Anand; a hospital in Mesopotamia, as recorded by an educated middle-class stretcher-bearer and prisoner of war (POW); and finally on the global stage, as exemplified by the hugely popular lectures by the civilian-writer and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in Japan and the United States. Particularly important will be intersection of the histories of race and empire with categories such as class, colour, location and wartime identity, and the uneven and contradictory nature of the intersections. I shall conclude with a short reflection on the relation of such moments and processes to a more intimate history of early twentieth-century (anti-)colonial modernity.

(p.246) Brownness as feeling: insecurity, prejudice and self-encounter

It was a first in many senses. On 26 September 1914, under autumnal skies and a maturing sun, the first contingent of Indian troops set foot on French soil for the first time amidst ecstatic cries of ‘Vive l’Angleterre! Vivent les Hindous!’ Some of the local women, having never encountered Sikhs before, generously offered to shave off their luxuriant beards, thinking that they must have been on the ship for far too long. Meanwhile, interpreters were sent off to the local market to buy 3,000 safety-pins, for the underpants issued to the Gurkhas (who were initially mistaken as Japanese) had proved several sizes too large.22

For the first time in history, the British empire was ‘allowing’ its non-white troops to fight against Europeans on European soil, a ‘privilege’ extended to Indians but not to West Indians or black South Africans. Over the next year, the number of Indians on the Western Front would swell to 140,000. The experiences of these men, recruited from peasant-warrior backgrounds in North India, bear out the multiple aspects of modernity. At a simple level, for many it was exposure for the first time to urban modernity. Wonder had piled upon wonder as they were transported via railways from their village huts to Bombay or Lahore with their massive colonial buildings and roads and automobiles; and before they knew it, they were on huge ships, row upon row ploughing the seas, while submarines kept watch; and then arriving in ‘Marsels’, to be cheered by white men in coats and kissed by white women in hats or to be taken on sightseeing tours of Paris with its shining lights. Europe and civilization and modernity melted in a dream so sweet that, if these sepoys awoke, they wished Caliban-like to dream again. ‘We have seen things that our eyes never dreamt of seeing’, wrote Sepoy Sulaiman Khan from France.23 ‘Occidentalism from below’ is written as a state of sensuous rapture: Paris is compared to a ‘Fairyland’, every house is ‘a sample of Paradise’, and ‘the bazaars are most magnificent’.24 From 17 October 1914, the sepoys would be moved to the trenches; in the course of the next twelve months, they would take part in the battles of First and Second Ypres, Neuve Chapelle, Festubert, Loos and Cambrai. If the trauma of the Western Front defied the limits of ‘communicable experience’, as Kate McLoughlin argues in her essay in this volume,25 one cannot even begin to imagine the plight of these men who had arrived in the trenches in (p.247) their summer cotton tunics. ‘This is not a war; this is the end of the world’: lack of measure yielded to mythic imagining.26 But, behind the front, another reality was opening up, a rejection of age-old feudal hierarchies and a new-found sense of self founded on ideas of dignity and equality: ‘In Europe, sweepers, chamars, bhatiyars, Nawabs, Rajas are all one and sympathise with each other […] Here labour is not a disgrace, but a glory.’27

If the censored and translated extracts of the sepoy letters document such encounters, it is to imaginative literature we must turn if we want to recover a deeper history of feeling. The most evocative account of the sepoy experience on the Western Front is Mulk Raj Anand’s novel Across the Black Waters (1939). In the 1920s and 1930s, Anand established himself in literary London as a left-wing intellectual, working as the private secretary to T. S. Eliot and hovering on the fringes of the Bloomsbury group.28 An Indian immigrant, he grew up in the Punjab and belonged to the same agricultural-martial community from which the sepoys came. The novel is dedicated to his father who worked for the British Indian army and is based on stories he had heard from his father’s friends who fought in the war: the novel is thus a re-imagining of the war rather than based on ‘combat gnosticism’.29 Across the Black Waters opens up a whole new world in war literature as we see the protagonist Lalu – provincial, shy, and sensitive – and his fellow sepoys arriving in France. The first third of the novel is an exhilarating tour de force as Anand shows the sepoys discovering Europe: its farms, statues, shops, people, houses, clothes, bars and even brothels. The wonder and awe that one finds in the sepoy letters is brilliantly portrayed by Anand and linked to their ‘ingrained sense of inferiority’ which underpins almost all such interactions:

  • ‘What does he say!’ asked one of the sepoys.
  • ‘Something in Francisi, Allah knows what,’ answered another.
  • At that the Frenchman bowed very politely, smiled and went his way.
  • ‘Salaam Huzoor,’ said the sepoys saluting and almost coming to attention in the face
  • of the white man. For all white men, military or civil, were to them superior like the
  • English sahibs in India who surrounded themselves with princely airs.30

No anti-colonial cosmopolitanism here: what we have is its very reverse. Anand exposes the ultimate triumph of the British Raj – colonialism not as a political or economic process but rather as a structure of (obsequious) feeling internalized by the subjects and interacting with local feudal and class hierarchies.

(p.248) Anand’s Lalu trilogy, of which Across the Black Waters is the middle part, is essentially an exploration of what it is to ‘become modern’ for men consigned to the waiting-room of history: it tracks the journey of Lalu, from his caste-bound, prejudice-ridden village in the Punjab, through the experience of the ‘European War’ and captivity in the POW camp in Berlin into the anti-colonial milieu of post-war India. Cross-racial encounters in the novel are not neat exercises in Indo-European camaraderie or racial alienation but complex flash-points through which the subjectivity of Lalu is explored. Mole-like, Anand burrows under these moments to prise open their cultural and psychic frontiers. Consider the following two passages, the first being an encounter between a sepoy and a little girl:

‘Come children,’ Uncle Kirpu said, affectionately to the boys and girls who had left their game and rushed excitedly to join their playmates who already stood staring at the sepoys. Then he beckoned to a little girl who clung to an elder sister.

The child held her finger dubiously in her mouth and stood shyly hesitant.

‘Come, Mooni, come here,’ Uncle Kirpu called her endearingly in his dialect.

The elder sister of the child encouraged her to talk but the little girl stood peering at the strange phenomena of turbaned, brown men, with her untrusting hazel eyes.

‘Come, daughter, come,’ Daddy Dhanoo coaxed.

But she still stood shy and enigmatic.

Whereupon Uncle Kirpu lunged forward and picked her up in his arms and caressed her in the best fatherly tradition of India. Just then Major Peacock Sahib, the regimental second-in-command came that way. Kirpu did not know what to do. He was half-afraid to be seen holding a child, because in the Indian cantonment the sepoys were asked to refrain from touching the English children […] But the Major Sahib, hard in ordinary times, smiled to see the pale, flustered Kirpu, changed his course and left the doting sepoys to amuse themselves.31

And the second, not so much an encounter, but rather an experience of proximity and curiosity, as the Indian sepoys stare at ‘a platoon of stalwart black troops’:

‘Habshis,’ [pejorative term for ‘blacks’] said someone in an undertone half-suppressed by the clatter of marching feet, and there were other inquisitive whispers.

‘They are sepoys like us of the Francisi Army,’ said Havildar Lachman Singh. ‘Watch your step, boys, watch your step! …’

‘But they have got curly hair and are jet black and not brown as we are’ young Kharhu protested, his belief in the superior brown skin of his inheritance shocked by the comparison which Lachman had put them to …

Lalu felt guilty at having averted his eyes from them. At Marseilles he had seen a few African soldiers talking openly to girls in the cafes and the French sahibs did not mind, though he himself had been rather surprised, for the English did not like even the brown-skinned Indians to look at white women. He wondered how the English liked the French being so free and easy. And if the French liked the blacks, why shouldn’t he like them? Why had he thought himself superior? He felt ashamed […]

(p.249) ‘Ohe, fool, Uncle, we didn’t return the salaams of those Moorish sepoys’ Lalu said impatiently.

‘They are surely savages, are they not?’ ventured Dhanoo.32

The exaggerated salaam to the French troops, the anxiety around the Belgian girl and the racist contempt for the North African soldiers are interlinked processes through which Anand examines the weight of colonial and racial history in the labyrinth of the sepoy psyche.

Both the passages confront us with the relation between racial difference and humanistic universalism with which we started the chapter. The passage with Kirpu and the little girl is deeply hopeful: paternal impulse triumphs over racial boundary and colonial etiquette; spontaneity and trepidation rub against each other; processes of touch and intimacy are indulged in, tenderly, tentatively, as racist codes are both evoked and thrown away. ‘“Come, Mooni, come here,” Uncle Kirpu called her endearingly in his dialect.’ The moment is tender, but Anand is no simplifier: race intrudes as visual difference. The French child stares with her ‘untrusting’ hazel eyes, ‘shy and enigmatic’. However the distrust is born of unfamiliarity rather than deformed by fear. Later, when Major Peacock appears, he is perceived as humane, non-racist and tactful but the mutual registering of the colonial codes of touch leaves its tremor on the scene. Anand’s humanism accommodates paternity and tenderness alongside the weight of history which informs and inflects the intimate history of emotions but cannot hijack them. In the second passage, by sharp contrast, we have a grotesque internalization and deflection of the racist hierarchies. Instead of political and racial identification with the black troops, the Indian sepoys behave like the Belgian farmers. And worse: the farmer was afraid, the sepoy is contemptuous. But such racism is part of his insidious identity-formation in the intensely divided world – marked by colonial and racial as well as feudal and caste hierarchies – in which these men had been brought up. Accused of ‘savagery’ himself, the sepoy – insecure and beleaguered – projects a ‘brown over black’ hierarchy, exults ‘at the superior brown skin of his inheritance’ and tries to assert his ‘humanity’. Lalu however questions and resists, even if such questioning is mimetic: ‘And if the French liked the blacks, why shouldn’t he like them? Why had he thought himself superior?’ This sustained dramatization of racial politics and self-encounter with prejudice is one of the earliest representations of ‘inverse racism’ and is indeed a radical moment in a text by a South Asian writer.

Anand at once anticipates and challenges some of the recent thinking on cosmopolitanism. In his celebrated essay ‘Travelling Cultures’, James Clifford powerfully argues that the status of ‘travellers’ should at long last be accorded to the ‘host of servants, helpers, companions, guides, bearers etc’ who made Victorian travel (p.250) possible, and who had their own ‘specific cosmopolitan viewpoints’.33 Anand simultaneously invokes and uncouples the assumed link between world-travel and ‘cosmopolitanism from below’: the sepoys have been travelling the world for decades but remain deeply provincial, bound by restrictions of caste, class and language and plagued by a sense of inferiority. In wartime France, Lalu and his friends stay with French families and develop strong bonds but they co-exist, Anand shows, with racism towards other non-white groups. Lalu’s self-encounter with prejudice is the beginning of a new journey: it is the first step towards ‘cosmopolitan sympathies’, not just with British Tommies and French women but fellow non-white subjects and victims. It is an essential part of Lalu’s ‘becoming modern’ while the depiction of such psychic conflict becomes a sign of Anand’s modernity as a writer. The exposure of the sepoys’ racism and Lalu’s resistance are also shaped by their creator’s anti-colonial cosmopolitanism forged in 1920s London through contact with the young Tamil poet Tambimuttu and anti-imperial socialists such as E. M. Forster, Leonard Woolf and George Orwell.34

Cosmopolitics in extremis? Subjugation, vulnerability and anti-Westernism

If sepoy letters and Across the Black Waters provide insights into Indo-European and inter-colonial encounters from the perspective of the peasant-soldiers, a very different ‘entanglement’ was taking place at the same time in Mesopotamia, the main theatre of war for the Indian troops. Some 600,000 Indians – both combatants and non-combatants – served there in a mobile campaign against the Turks. The well-known photograph of an Indian in an advanced state of starvation has come to represent all that was horrific about the campaign, marked by mismanagement on the part of the colonial government and brutality from the Turkish captors.35 The nadir of this campaign was the nine-month-long siege of Kut and the ultimate British surrender on 29 April 1916; more than 10,000 Indians and several thousand British soldiers were captured and detained there until the end of the war.36 However, even a hundred years on, very little is known about the Indian experience; there are no sepoy letters, for example. But Sisir Prasad Sarbadhikari’s (p.251) hitherto unknown memoir Abhi le Baghdad – written in Bengali and translated here for the first time – breaks the silence.

An educated middle-class Bengali youth, Sarbadhikari volunteered for the Bengal Ambulance Corps as a stretcher-bearer and arrived at Basra on 15 July 1915.37 He nursed the wounded behind the firing line at the battle of Ctesiphon and, during the siege of Kut, he worked at the British General Hospital at Kut. As a POW, he had his share of traumatic ordeal, surviving the 500-mile-long march to Ras-el-Ain in July 1916. A medical orderly, Sarbadhikari was employed in a number of hospitals across the Ottoman empire. However the focus of his attention in the memoir is his time at Aleppo’s Markaz hospital:

I was at Aleppo’s Markaz hospital for another month and half. We were, on the whole, friendly with the Turkish soldiers who used to say – ‘You are not at war now, so we are all kardas’. ‘Kardas’, meaning ‘brother’, was an oft-used word […]

There were one or two Indians here, and a Romanian named Alda Sava. The Armenian doctor Shagir Effendi is a great man, he cares very much for his patients. There were two khadamas in the kaus: one was an Armenian woman called Maroom, the other a Syrian Christian man called Musha. The two of them looked after us very well. Their responsibilities were to make the bed, sweep the wards etc. […]

There was another man at the Markaz khastakhana with whom we were quite intimate. He was an Armenian, named George. His home was in Diyar Bakr, his children had all been killed – he was the only one to escape with his life to Aleppo. George was given the task of cleaning the toilets. He cooked, slept – all at one spot. On cold days we used to go to him and we would chat while warming our hands over his angithi (coal-fire brazier). We had only a single stove in our ward and we received very little fire for kindling.38

While Anand tunnels into the racial politics of encounters, Sarbadhikari evokes the experience of an Indian non-combatant as it intersects with the multi-racial and multi-ethnic fabric of an empire in the process of modernization, with its own hierarchies, alliances and tensions.39 Sarbadhikari is also a witness to the Armenian genocide: ‘It is not at all advisable to drink from these wells; there are Armenian corpses rotting in most of them.’40 Yet, only a few hundred kilometres away, the hospital is still a relatively safe zone: the chief doctor is Armenian and there is a significant Armenian presence.

Can the milieu at the Aleppo Markaz be called ‘cosmopolitanism from below’? In Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (1986), the (p.252) anthropologist Paul Rainbow observes that the term should be extended to transnational experiences that are particular rather than universal, experiences that are unprivileged, even coerced, defining the term as ‘an ethos of macro-interdependencies, with an acute consciousness (often forced upon people) of the inescapabilities and particularities of places, characters, historical trajectories, and fates’.41 In Sarbadhikari’s account of the hospital, Indians, Turks, Armenians, Syrian Christians, Rums, British and Russians co-habit and share life-stories, heat and food; George the Armenian receives temporary refuge and Armenian doctors tend to Turkish patients. However, these men and women come together not because of commitment to some ethical or socio-political ideal in times of war but through the ‘unbearable vulnerability’42 produced by historical and geopolitical entanglements. The most moving and meaningful encounters in the text are between Sarbadhikari and the hospital staff, all of whom are Armenians: Sarbadhikari idolizes the chief doctor; the cleaner Mariam looks after him like a ‘mother’; his closest friend is the 15-year-old orderly Elias to whom Sarbadhikari gives his most precious possession – his only warm coat – as Elias flees one night. Thinking beyond yourself and giving your only warm coat to an Armenian orphan, as Sarbadhikari does, may be the first powerful gesture, more than any ratiocinative exercise, towards ‘feeling and thinking beyond the nation’.

The differences between Anand’s novel and Sarbadhikari’s memoir are as much about location and genre as they are about the histories of wartime France and Mesopotamia. If Anand the novelist zooms in on particular moments in order to unpack their hidden emotional histories, Sarbadhikari the memoirist remembers and records with a wide-angled lens the derelict human fair at the Aleppo hospital. The core of the memoir is the web of relationships, friendships and alliances that develop between him and the people around him, built around his multiple, often contradictory, identities – as POW, as a British colonial subject, as fellow-Asian, as educated and middle-class, as both friend and enemy. While the Turks and the British are locked in hostility, Sarbadhikari – who speaks both Turkish and English – opens up lines of communication. The racializing discourse around the ‘barbaric Turk’ that we find in English POW memoirs is wholly absent in Abhi le Baghdad. But he does not shy away from mentioning Turkish brutalities; instead, they co-exist with a sense of bonding with injured Turkish soldiers whom he nurses in the hospital:

We spoke of our lands, our joys and sorrows […] One thing that they always used to say was, ‘This war that we are fighting – what is our stake in this? Why are we slashing each others’ throats? You stay in Hindustan, we in Turkey, we do not know (p.253) each other, share no enmity, and yet we became enemies overnight because one or two people deemed it so.’ Is this on the mind of every soldier of every nation?

Another thing that was notable about them was their hatred for the Germans. All of them used to despise the Germans – they used to say that Germany was responsible for getting them into this war. The particular cause of dissatisfaction was that the Germans would receive the best of all of Turkey’s produce. Eggs, for example, would be sent first to the German hospitals, and after their requirements were met, what remained (if anything did) would go to the Turks. It was the same with everything else. We used to think that the situation was the same in our country, but our consolation was that we were actually under British domination, but Germany and Turkey were allies!43

What brings captive and captor together here is a shared anti-European sentiment based on a history of political, economic and racial subjugation and a sense that the war is not theirs. We do not get to know the views of these Turkish soldiers on the Armenian massacre, but given the commitment of the Armenian doctors and nurses towards the wounded Turkish patients, it becomes one more instance of personal intimacies co-existing with state-sanctioned violence. Similarly, Sarbadhikari is friendly with and fond of the British officers, without any of the inferiority complex of Lalu, but his memoir bristles with accounts of British institutional racism:

The discrimination that is always practised between the whites and the coloured is highly insulting. The white soldier gets paid twice as much as the Indian sepoy. The uniform of the two is different – that of the whites is better […] Not only are we a defeated race, we’re black on top of that.44

It would be naïve to see the Markaz as the last vestige of a certain Ottoman cosmopolitanism against the forces of Turkish nationalism; it is debatable whether it can even qualify as a ‘cosmopolitics in extremis’ which exemplifies ‘an ethos of macro-interdependencies’. Racial and ethnic tensions ripple under the surface; even though the hospital, it seems, is under German protection and thus is able to shelter the Armenians, the latter gradually start to get dismissed. What happens to the chief doctor or Mariam or Elias? We will never know. But the still point in this changing world is Sarbadhikari: with his openness, ease and sympathy towards a variety of groups (who are often at war with each other), and yet always retaining a sharp sense of dissent against imperial discrimination and inequality, he bears out a version of ‘anti-colonial cosmopolitanism’ at an affective level. Such an outlook is intrinsically related to his sense of colonial modernity (as part of the educated, anglicized Bengali bourgeoisie) – which his fellow national and Bengali Rabindranath Tagore was trying to forge at exactly the same time at an intellectual level amongst the global elite.

(p.254) Global thought-zones: critique, exchange and ‘re-orienting the Orient’

During the war years, Rabindranath Tagore might have been a global superstar and Sisir Sarbadhikari a disenfranchised POW and medical orderly but both came from the same stock: the emerging Bengali middle-class intelligentsia. It was a class that had embraced Western liberalism and education, only to feel bitterly the inequalities of the British Raj. Tagore remembered how his childhood days and nights were ‘eloquent’ with the ‘stately declamations of Edmund Burke, Macaulay’s long-rolling sentences and discussions of Shakespeare’s drama’ and yet ‘I began increasingly to discover how easily those who accepted the highest truths of civilisation disowned them with impunity whenever questions of national self-interest were involved’.45 The same combination of love for British culture and antipathy towards British colonialism characterizes Abhi le Baghdad. Both men were anti-empire but not anti-British: the distinction is crucial.

Tagore catapulted to global stardom in 1913 with his Nobel Prize-winning Gitanjali, but it was during the war years he began to be celebrated as ‘biswa-kabi’ or ‘world-poet’. The First World War years were some of the most important in his life. It was in 1916 that Tagore first set off on a global oceanic voyage, passing through Rangoon, Penang and Singapore on his way to Japan and the United States; in both countries, he met the leading intellectuals of the day and gave a series a high-profile lectures. In May 1920, he set off again, this time to Europe, in course of which he visited the battlefields and discussed the state of the world and humanity with Henri Bergson, Romain Rolland, Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein. In 1924, he set sail again, on yet another lecturing tour, to China and Japan. During the war and immediate post-war years, Tagore thus opened up a rare dual traffic, cross-pollinating East-West dialogues with parallel East-East dialogues. Equally important, the war shaped much of his socio-political and philosophical thoughts, from those on nation and empire to his thesis of counter-modernity and vision of a redemptive ‘Asia’. If with Anand’s sepoys in France and Sarbadhikari’s castaways in Mesopotamia, we had encounters and entanglements at the experiential and affective level, Tagore evolves them into a process of exchange and dialogue about the very future of mankind at the highest reaches of international intelligentsia.

Rather uncommonly for an Indian, Tagore had an almost hysterical loathing of nationalism. While the Boer War and the revolutionary excesses of the Indian nationalist movement, in their different ways, provided him with ample proof of his thesis, the First World War was its shattering climax. In his lectures in Japan and the United States, he made nationalism the be-all and end-all of all wars and (p.255) evils in the world. At Boston, he thundered to a 3,000-strong audience that ‘this European war of Nations is the war of retribution’ and laid the blame squarely on ‘the terrible absurdity of the thing called the Nation’:

The Nation has thriven long upon mutilated humanity. Men, the fairest creations of God, came out of the National manufactory in huge numbers as war-making and money-making puppets, ludicrously vain of their pitiful perfection of mechanism. Human society grew more and more into a marionette show of politicians, soldiers, manufacturers and bureaucrats, pulled by wire arrangements of wonderful efficiency […]

In this war the death-throes of the Nation have commenced. Suddenly, all its mechanism going mad, it has begun the dance of the Furies, shattering its own limbs, scattering them into the dust. It is the fifth act of the tragedy of the unreal.46

The war had opened up for an Asian intellectual the vantage-point from which to judge and chastise Europe. More importantly, it enabled not just a critique of empire but a full-scale civilizational assault on the ‘West’ in which some of Tagore’s oldest enemies – industrial modernity, forces of capital and nationalism – were fused and confused.47 Such critique for Tagore was, however, an index of his love for Europe, an attempt to save it from its suicidal path. ‘Will Europe never understand the genesis of the present war, and realise that the true cause lies in her own growing scepticism towards her own ideals – those ideals that have helped her to be great? She seems to have exhausted the oil that once lit her lamp.’48 It is in this context that Tagore now embarks on his grand project of what Rustom Bharucha has called ‘re-orienting the Orient’49 – the project of re-connecting the various Asias in order to evolve a vision of pan-Asian universalism and spirituality which can both counter and save European civilization. We witness the process in his lecture in Japan where he commends Japan for infusing ‘hope in the heart of Asia’ but rebukes it for betraying its own ideals: ‘What is dangerous for Japan is not the imitation of the outer features of the West, but the acceptance of the motive force of Western nationalism as her own.’50 ‘Modernism’, he warns, ‘is not in the dress of the Europeans […] True modernism is freedom of mind, not slavery of taste.’51 Tagore’s pronouncements sparked off a national debate in Japan (p.256) about whether the country’s future lay with Asia or the West. In the lecture on ‘Nationalism in the West’ delivered in some fifteen cities across the United States, he noted in quasi-religious vocabulary: ‘When the morning comes for cleansing the blood-stained steps of the Nation along the high-road of humanity, we shall be called upon to bring our vessel of sacred water.’52 And he laid out his vision most clearly in his lecture in China in 1924:

The West is becoming demoralised through being the exploiter, through tasting of the fruits of exploitation. We must fight with our own faith in the moral and spiritual power of man. We of the East have never reverenced death-dealing generals nor lie-dealing diplomats but spiritual leaders. Through them we shall be saved, or not at all. Physical power is not the strongest in the end. That power destroys itself. Machine guns and bomb-dropping aeroplanes crush living men under them. And the West is sinking to its dust. We are not going to follow the West in competition, in selfishness, in brutality.53

Tagore’s ideas were echoed by his host, fellow-philosopher and the architect of modern China, Liang Qichao: ‘On the far shore of this great ocean millions of people are bewailing the bankruptcy of material civilisation and crying out most piteously for help, waiting for us to come to their salvation’.54 Similarly, the Chinese intellectual Yan Fu, who had started as a Western-style liberal, signed a petition in 1916 asking for Confucianism to be made state religion, noting: ‘Western culture, after this European war, has been corrupted utterly’.55 Tagore in turn observed: ‘Perhaps that dawn will come from this horizon, from the East where the sun rises’; fitting indeed from a poet whose name ‘Robi’ meant the ‘sun’.56

Tagore was no prophet crying in the wilderness. Instead, he was taking part in an international conversation and modifying already existing discourses of pan-Asianism. The idea of a ‘spiritual East’ as the antidote to an exhausted and materialist Europe was already a powerful trope in the nineteenth century. It appears in the writings of European travellers, missionaries and writers, going back to the eighteenth century, and was revived powerfully in the humanistic scholarship of European and American Orientalists in the nineteenth. Tagore would have been familiar with much of this tradition, as he would have been with the work of several charismatic nineteenth-century religious reformers in Bengal. These men, such as Keshab Chandra Sen and the Hindu religious reformer Swami Vivekananda, had (p.257) blazed the trail for him by lecturing in both Europe and the United States on their own versions of a ‘spiritual East’, partly in emulation of and partly in competition with Christian missionaries.57 More immediately, Tagore’s vision of a pan-Asian universalism resonated with and was indebted to his dear friend, the Boston-based Japanese art critic Okakura Tenshin, who had introduced him to such a thing as an ‘Asiatic mind’. In particular, Tagore was likely to have read Okakura’s The Ideals of the East (1903) with its call for pan-Asian revival – a book which in turn was co-written with the Irish theosophist Margaret Noble who had settled in Calcutta and become a disciple of Vivekananda.58 And in yet another iteration of the inter-cultural mise-en-abyme, Vivekananda’s ideas of Asia, delivered in his famous lecture at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, were partly shaped by and in turn received within a climate of European Orientalism in the wake of works such as Sir Edwin Arnold’s The Light of Asia (1879) and Max Müller’s India: What Can It Teach Us? (1883).

But Tagore introduced some key differences. First, what was a vision of the ‘spiritual Orient’ was now turned into an urgently needed redemptive potential in the wake of the war. Second, such ideas were encouraged by Tagore’s conversations not just with Okakura and Qichao, but equally resonated with and were often shaped by his English, French and American friends. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell noted that ‘The Great War showed that something went wrong with our civilisation’, while the French poet Paul Richards told him that ‘peace will come from Asia’.59 Tagore’s flowing beard, robed and statuesque figure and humanistic messages fitted the need perfectly. But it was not just self-fashioning. As Tagore scholar and fellow-Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has noted, the conversations ‘genuinely influenced’ his thinking:60 indigenous traditions, European Orientalism, transnational conversations and post-war gloom all fed into Tagore’s grand project of ‘re-orienting the Orient’.

In 1919, Romain Rolland, who had read Tagore’s essays on nationalism, invited him to be one of the twenty-one original signatories to the ‘Declaration of Independence in Spirit’ along with men such as Henri Barbusse, Albert Einstein, Hermann Hesse and Bertrand Russell. Tagore promptly wrote back: ‘I feared that the lessons of war had been lost, your letter came and cheered me with its message of hope […] We have great need of an appeal from without which would make us aware of our mission.’61 A few months later, in protest against the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre in the Punjab, Tagore would return his knighthood in what was (p.258) perceived as an unprecedented act by a colonial subject. The war made him realize afresh the need for a more cosmopolitan education and led him to expand the small school he had founded in Santiniketan into the international university Visva-Bharati, where even today students from different parts of the world study together.

It is curious that Tagore never wrote a play or novel or short story about the Indian experience in the First World War. But the war was fundamental to his thinking at this time: it confirmed his loathing of nationalism, sharpened his ideas on the relationship between war, empire and capitalism and helped him to consolidate his critique of Western industrial modernity. While the war scattered people across the world, it opened up for him networks of exchange with both East Asian and European intellectuals, leading to the ‘re-orientation of the Orient’ not just as an alternative to the violence of the West but as the potentially redemptive ground for the future.

Modernities, lateral contact and anti-colonial cosmopolitanism

Given the very different locations, experiences and encounters, our three examples challenge any homogenous definition of either ‘Indian war experience’, ‘cosmopolitanism’ or ‘anti-cosmopolitanism’. Lalu the provincial non-literate sepoy, Sarbadhikari the middle-class orderly, Tagore the global intellectual: each travels for a different reason, inhabits a different world and has a different experience of war and modernity. Even within the arc of individual war narratives, different kinds of modernity – technological, cultural, political – intersect in different ways and in unequal degrees. While it would be hubris to regard travel or inter-cultural contact or warfare as ‘modern’, what does distinguish these events is the change of scale, whether in terms of the mobilization and transportation of troops, the industrial nature of the combat, the intensity and unspeakability of trauma, or the range of encounters which had begun in the late eighteenth century and reached their apogee in 1914 to 1918. However, it is on anti-colonial cosmopolitanism in particular that I would like to make some concluding observations.

If the nineteenth century was the age of empire, one of the distinguishing features of twentieth-century modernity was the rise of anti-colonial dissent and the process of decolonization. A turning-point was the Russo-Japanese war in 1905 which became a ‘global moment of reflection’ on the legitimacy and structures of the imperialist world order.62 Even if the victory was partly attained through the aid of Pax Britannica, it was hailed all over the world as the first victory of an Asian nation against a major Western empire – a foundational moment for what Pankaj (p.259) Mishra has called ‘the revolt against the West’.63 The Russo-Japanese war was also one of the first wars in which modern media played a vital part: reports from different fronts through telegraph networks, international news agencies and prompt translations created a public sphere far more global than at the time of the Boer War. Turkish, Arab, Persian, Indian, Vietnamese and Chinese nationalists avidly wrote and discussed about the meanings of victory; the Chinese nationalist leader Sun Yat-sen found himself congratulated on the Japanese victory by Egyptian nationalists while passing through the Suez Canal; even the pacifist Tagore was inspired to organize a victory march in Shantiniketan.64

If the Japanese victory challenged Western superiority and gave the anti-colonial thinkers across Asia a new-found sense of confidence, such a process would reach its apogee during and after the First World War. It is indeed one of the greatest ironies of history that an imperial war would accelerate the process of decolonization. What the carnage of the Western Front did was to prompt not just pity or opportunistic nationalism but a sense of metaphysical bewilderment across Asia and Africa at the destructive potential of the West, the supposed agents of the ‘civilizing mission’; and a parallel sense that a different world-order, an alternative world-view, was not just possible but imminent. As historians such as Cemil Aydin and Prasenjit Duara have argued, the war resulted in an irreversible undermining of any claims of moral superiority on the part of the West: critique of empire would now develop into a wholesale civilizational critique of Europe.65 In political terms, it took various forms, ranging from the rise of nationalism in individual countries to the strengthening of transnational alliances and movements, such as Pan-Asianism, Pan-Africanism and Pan-Islamism. In South Asia, Mahatma Gandhi brought together Hindus and Muslims by declaring his support for the Khilafat movement in their protest at the dismemberment of the Ottoman empire and sympathy for the Turks, while Marcus Garvey travelled from Jamaica to Cuba and the United States and re-established the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Harlem, New York, home to a growing community of African Americans and Caribbean and African migrants. Such transnational projects, resistance and dreams of freedom defined the tone in the post-war era as newly politicized ethnic and racial groups joined forces to challenge European subjugation and demand their rightful place in the world.66

What the examples of Anand’s sepoys, Sarbadhikari’s memoir and Tagore’s writings provide are more intimate, affective and necessarily messy counterparts to (p.260) these larger political narratives. If East-West encounters have become increasingly important within literary and postcolonial studies for the examination of anti-colonial modernity,67 Anand, Sarbadhikari and Tagore all puncture the hemispheric myth of the globe and show the power of lateral contacts developed during the wars around a shared sense of subjugation, sympathy and dissent. ‘Anti-colonial cosmopolitanism’ is a good way to describe it, but it is by no means a stable or homogenous formation: what the three cases equally show is that it was no immediate, easy or even fully conscious process. The shock of Lalu’s encounter with the Moorish troops and his self-questioning, Sarbadhikari’s bonding with the wounded Turkish patients and Tagore’s address towards his Japanese and Chinese audiences all put pressure on and lead us to extend, amend or modify such definitions. But what they all share is a new sense of self operating outside the imperial axis while being entangled with the structures of empire. Such a sense, often half-articulate even to oneself (as with Lalu), may take different forms but is marked by a greater confidence, an increased awareness of the illegitimacy of European subjugation, an intimation of an alternative world-order. The simultaneity of such a process on the global stage – the radicalization of Lalu on the Western Front, Sarbadhikari’s sharp sense of discrimination in the Aleppo Markaz or Tagore’s critique of the European nation-state on a global stage are just three examples – was facilitated by the war and was of unprecedented value. Something had irreversibly shifted in the recesses of the colonial self caught up in the maelstrom of a ‘European’ war; such politicization was infused with a sense of political modernity.

In 1920, Tagore visited the battlefields of the Western Front for the first time. He observed:

Lately I went to visit some battlefields of France which had been devastated by war. The awful calm of desolation, which still wore wrinkles of pain – death-struggles stiffened into ugly ridges – brought before my mind the vision of a huge demon, which had no shape, no meaning, yet had two arms that could strike and break and tear, a gaping mouth that could devour, and bulging brains that could conspire and plan. It was a purpose, which had a living body, but no complete humanity to temper it. Because it was passion – belonging to life, and yet not having the wholeness of life – it was the most terrible of life’s enemies.

Something of the same sense of oppression in a different degree, the same desolation in a different aspect, is produced in my mind when I realise the effect of the West upon Eastern life – the West which, in its relation to us, is all plan and purpose incarnate, without any superfluous humanity. […]

The wriggling tentacles of a cold-blooded utilitarianism, with which the West has grasped all the easily yielding succulent portions of the East, are causing pain and indignation throughout the Eastern countries. The West comes to us, not with the (p.261) imagination and sympathy that create and unite, but with a shock of passion – passion for power and wealth. This passion is a mere force, which has in it the principle of separation, of conflict.68

The sentiments would have resonated not just with fellow war-travellers and nationals Anand and Sarbadhikari, or even fellow colonial-intellectuals. The connection that Tagore draws between war and empire – that the violence of the First World War was nothing wholly new but an extension into Europe of the barbarity that for several decades had been inflicted by the West in other parts of the world – shows a new-found sense of confidence and clarity in the critique of the West and would soon be echoed by intellectuals as diverse as Hannah Arendt, Jean-Paul Sartre and Frantz Fanon. In such knowledge would be grounded the ethical project of anti-colonialism and gradual processes of decolonization for the majority of the world’s people.


(1) Cyriel Buysse, Verzameld werk 7 (Antwerpen: Manteau, 1982), pp. 734–5 (originally published as the column Op wandel in Vlaanderen I in the Dutch newspaper Haagse Post, 19 July 1919), quoted in Dominic Dendooven, ‘Living Apart Together’, in Race, Empire and First World War Writing, ed. Santanu Das (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), pp. 143–57: p. 153.

(2) For a thoughtful reflection on the relation between the two, see Paul Gilroy, Postcolonial Melancholia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).

(3) Kwame Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (London: Penguin, 2007). Also see Claire Buck’s similar point with reference to encounters between Borden and her patient ‘Henry’, ‘a nigger from Central Africa’: ‘The encounter with difference is turned into an encounter with otherness’ (p. 228).

(4) Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks [1968] (London: Pluto, 2008), p. 112.

(5) See John Horne, ‘Immigrant Workers in France during World War I’, French Historical Studies 14.1 (Spring 1985), pp. 57–88.

(6) James Clifford, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978), p. 2.

(7) See Antoinette Burton, At the Heart of the Empire: Indians and the Colonial Encounter in Late-Victorian Britain (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998); and Elleke Boehmer, Indian Arrivals: Networks of British Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). For a more trans-historical, theoretical account, see Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmermann, ‘Beyond Comparison: Histoire Croisée and the Challenge of Reflexivity’, History and Theory 45.1 (February 2006), pp. 40–50.

(8) See Wolf Lepenies, ed., Entangled Histories and Negotiated Universals (Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2003); Jurgen Kocka, ed., Comparative and Transnational History (New York: Berghahn Books, 2009).

(9) The phrases ‘grey theory’ and ‘green of experience’ occur in Sigmund Freud, ‘Neurosis and Psychosis’ (1924), in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, trans. under the general editorship of James Strachey in collaboration with Anna Freud, vol. 19 (1923–1925) (London: Random House, 2001), p. 149.

(10) See Pheng Cheng and Bruce Robbins, eds, Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling beyond the Nation (London: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), for a cross-disciplinary and wide-ranging collection of essays on the topic.

(11) Kant’s vision of cosmopolitan community is no rarefied self-selecting coterie of ethically-driven high-minded intellectuals but rather a world political community grounded in ‘cosmopolitan right’, the right to universal citizenship (Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Essay, trans. M. Campbell Smith with a preface by Robert Latta (New York: Garland Publishing, 1972). For an excellent discussion of Kant’s essay, see Allen W. Wood, ‘Kant’s Project for Perpetual Peace’, in Cosmopolitics, ed. Cheng and Robbins (Part I: ‘Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism’), pp. 59–76.

(13) Ibid., p. 139.

(14) James Clifford, ‘Mixed Feelings’, in Cosmopolitics, ed. Cheng and Robbins (Part IV: ‘Responses’), pp. 362–70. Also see Bruce Robbins, ‘Actually Existing Cosmopolitanism’, in Cosmopolitics, ed. Cheng and Robbins (‘Preface’), pp. 1–19.

(15) Kris Manjapra, Age of Entanglement: German and Indian Intellectuals across Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), p. 6.

(16) Kris Manjapra, ‘Introduction’, in Cosmopolitan Thought Zones: South Asia and the Global Circulation of Ideas, ed. Sugata Bose and Kris Manjapra (London: Palgrave, 2010), p. 2.

(17) The reference point in this debate is often Martha Nussbaum’s landmark collection For Love of Country (1996). If, in Nussbaum’s account, cosmopolitanism in the Kantian sense was the overcoming of ‘bad particularism’, the debates have progressed greatly in recent years, with scholars as diverse as Amartya Sen and Kwame Anthony Appiah observing that ‘cosmopolitanism’ can be co-existent with patriotism. See Sen, ‘Is Nationalism a Boon or a Curse’, in Cosmopolitan Thought-Zones, ed. Bose and Manjapra (Part I: ‘Theory and Methods’), pp. 23–37; and Kwame Anthony Appiah, ‘Cosmopolitan Patriots’, in Cosmopolitics, ed. Cheng and Robbins (Part I: ‘Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism’), pp. 91–116.

(18) In his essay, ‘Is Nationalism a Boon or a Curse?’, Amartya Sen powerfully shows how the answer depends on the context. Sen invokes the First World War as an example of harmful nationalism: ‘When the Germans, the British and the French tore each other apart during 1914–1918 in fighting what was, to a large extent, a war of nationalism, they could have taken more note than they did of the identities they shared with each other’; on the other hand, he argues, with reference to the Indian anti-war hero’s clarion call for freedom – ‘There is no power on earth that can keep India enslaved’ – that such declamations brought out a ‘hugely appealing face of nationalism’. Bose’s nationalism was particularly fired by transnational collaboration with Japan and Germany, a separate and fraught topic (pp. 23–36: pp. 33, 23).

(19) See Cemil Aydin, The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007).

(20) Manjapra, ‘Introduction’, pp. 1–19: p. 3. The thesis of ‘anti-colonial cosmopolitanism’ also has similarities with Cemil Aydin’s thesis of ‘anti-Westernism’ in The Politics of Anti- Westernism in Asia, and the ‘ethical style of anti-colonial dissent’ in Leela Gandhi’s The Common Cause: Postcolonial Ethics and the Practice of Democracy (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2014). Both regard, though in very different ways, such dissent and its transnational bindings as one of the hallmarks of a global modernity.

(21) Santanu Das, ‘Indians at Home, Mesopotamia and France’, in Race, Empire and First World War Writing, pp. 70–89: p. 70.

(22) Santanu Das, Indians in Europe, 1914–1918 (Paris: Gallimard, 2014), p. 45. Also see David Omissi, The Sepoy and the Raj (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994); David Omissi, ed., Indian Voices of the Great War 1914–1918 (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1999).

(23) Sulaiman Khan, France, October 1916, Censored Indian Mail of the First World War (CIM), British Library, India Office Library (IOL), L/MIL/5/826/8/1272.

(24) Sirdar Ali Khan, Sialkot Cavalry Brigade, 6 August 1916, CIM, British Library, IOL, L/MIL/5/825.

(25) See Kate McLoughlin, ‘Three War Veterans Who Don’t Tell War Stories’, Chapter 2 in this volume, pp. 39–55.

(26) ‘A wounded Punjabi Rajput’, 29 January 1915, CIM, British Library, IOL, L/MIL/5/825.

(27) 16 September 1916, CIM, British Library, IOL, MSS EUR F143/92.

(28) See Saros Cowasjee, So Many Freedoms: A Study of the Major Fiction of Mulk Raj Anand (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1977).

(29) James Campbell, ‘Combat Gnosticism: The Ideology of First World War Poetry Criticism’, New Literary History 30 (1999), pp. 203–15.

(30) Mulk Raj Anand, Across the Black Waters (London: Orient Longman, 1939), p. 37.

(31) Ibid., p. 94.

(32) Ibid., pp. 93–4.

(33) James Clifford, ‘Travelling Cultures’, in Cultural Studies, ed. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson and Paula A. Treichler (New York: Routledge, 1992), pp. 106–7.

(34) See Cowasjee, So Many Freedoms, pp. 25–6. Also see the project ‘Making Britain: South Asians in Bloomsbury’, www.open.ac.uk/arts/research/asianbritain/making-britain (accessed 1 May 2016).

(35) A. J. Barker, The Neglected War: Mesopotamia 1914–1918 (London: Faber and Faber, 1967), p. 137; also see Paul K. Davis, Ends and Means: The British Mesopotamian Campaign and Commission (Madison, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1994).

(36) The figures were published in the Turkish newspaper Journal de Beyrouth of 2 May 1916, and quoted in Major E. W. C. Sandes, In Kut and Captivity (London: John Murray, 1919), p. 261.

(37) The archival records on the work of the Bengal Ambulance Corps in Mesopotamia can be found in ‘The Bengal Ambulance Corps’, Confidential File 312/16, West Bengal State Archives, Kolkata, India.

(38) Sisir Prasad Sarbadhikari, Abhi le Baghdad [On the Road to Baghdad] (Calcutta: privately printed, 1957), pp. 158, 159. Translated for the first time into English by Upasana Dutta in 2015.

(39) For the processes of modernization in the Ottoman empire just before the war, see Leila Fawax, A Land of Aching Hearts: The Middle East in the Great War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014).

(41) Paul Rainbow, ‘Representations Are Social Facts’, in Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, ed. James Clifford and George E. Marcus (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), pp. 234–61: p. 258.

(42) Judith Butler, Precarious Lives: The Power of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2004), p. xi.

(44) Ibid., p. 188.

(45) Rabindranath Tagore, ‘Crisis in Civilization’ (1941), in Selected Essays (Calcutta: Rupa, 2004), p. 263.

(46) Rabindranath Tagore, ‘Nationalism in the West’ (1917), in Nationalism (London: Penguin, 2010), pp. 34–66: pp. 63–4.

(47) The ‘West’ however was no homogenous category for Tagore: throughout ‘Nationalism in the West’, he made a careful distinction between the ‘spirit of the West’, which he admired, and the ‘Nation of the West’, which he loathed. ‘Nationalism in the West’, p. 45.

(48) Tagore’s letter to C. F. Andrews, 11 July 1915, quoted in C. F. Andrews, ed., Letters to a Friend: Rabindranath Tagore’s Letters to C. F. Andrews (Delhi: Rupa, 2002), p. 42.

(49) See Rustom Bharucha’s delicately textured account in Another Asia: Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 51–111.

(50) Rabindranath Tagore, ‘Nationalism in Japan’, in Nationalism, pp. 1–33: p. 22.

(51) Ibid., p. 20.

(53) Quoted in Tagore and China, ed. Tang Chun, Amiya Dev, Wang Bangwei and Wei Liming (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2011), p. 31.

(54) Quoted in Jerome B. Greider, Intellectuals and the State in Modern China: A Narrative History (New York: Free Press, 1981), p. 252.

(55) Pankaj Mishra, From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt against the West and the Remaking of Asia (London: Penguin, 2013), p. 212.

(56) Rabindranath Tagore, ‘Crisis in Civilisation’, in Selected Essays, pp. 260–8: p. 268.

(57) See Stephen N. Hay, Asian Ideas of East and West: Tagore and His Critics in Japan, China and India (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970), pp. 82–124.

(60) Amartya Sen, ‘Tagore and China’, in Tagore and China, ed. Chun et al., p. 8.

(65) Prasenjit Duara, ‘The Discourse of Civilisation and Pan-Asianism’, Journal of World History 12.1 (Spring 2001), pp. 99–130: p. 111.

(66) See Robert Gerwarth and Erez Manela, Empires at War, 1911–1922 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

(67) See Leela Gandhi, Affective Communities (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006); Elleke Boehmer, Indian Arrivals, 1870–1917: Networks of the British Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

(68) Rabindranath Tagore, ‘Creative Unity’ (1922), in Selected Essays, pp. 42–54: pp. 44–5.