Local Worldliness

by zunguzungu

From Ian Buruma’s review of Sunil Khilnani’s The Idea of India:

“Chandigarh,” exclaimed an Indian academic whom I visited in Delhi, “is a symbol of all that is inauthentic about modern urban India.” It depends, of course, on what one means by inauthentic…Nehru “fully recognized the depth and plurality of religious beliefs in India. It was precisely this that convinced him of the need to keep social identities outside the political arena.” Again the parallel with Corbu’s modernist internationalism is striking. As Khilnani puts it, in a passage on Chandigarh: “In celebrating a wholly alien form, style and material, it aspired to a neutrality, a zero-degree condition that would make it equally resistant to the claims upon it of any and all cultural or religious groups.”

From Chinua Achebe’s The Education of a British-Protected Child:

I write in English. English is a world language. But I do not write in English because it is a world language. My romance with the world is subsidiary to my involvement with Nigeria and Africa. Nigeria is a reality which I could not ignore. One characteristic of this reality, Nigeria, is that it transacts a considerable portion of its daily business in the English language. As long as Nigeria wishes to exist as a nation, it has no choice in the foreseeable future but to hold its more than two hundred component nationalities together through an alien language, English. I lived through a civil war in which probably two million people perished over the question of Nigerian unity. To remind me, therefore, that Nigeria’s foundation was laid only a hundred years ago, at the Berlin conference of European powers and in the total absence of any Africans, is not really useful information to me. It is precisely because the nation is so new and so fragile that we would soak the land in blood to maintain the frontiers mapped out by foreigners.

English is therefore not marginal to Nigerian affairs. It is quite central. I can only speak across two hundred lingusitic frontiers to fellow Nigerians in English…