How 'Dynasty' Became a Modern Global Concept: Intellectual Histories of Sovereignty and Property

The modern concept of ‘dynasty’ is a politically-motivated modern intellectual invention. For many advocates of a strong sovereign nation-state across the nineteenth and early twentieth century, in France, Germany, and Japan, the concept helped in visualizing the nation-state as a primordial entity sealed by the continuity of birth and blood, indeed by the perpetuity of sovereignty. Hegel’s references to ‘dynasty’, read with Marx’s critique, further show how ‘dynasty’ encoded the intersection of sovereignty and big property, indeed the coming into self-consciousness of their mutual identification-in-difference in the age of capitalism. Imaginaries about ‘dynasty’ also connected national sovereignty with patriarchal authority. European colonialism helped globalize the concept in the non-European world; British India offers an exemplar of ensuing debates. The globalization of the abstraction of ‘dynasty’ was ultimately bound to the globalization of capitalist-colonial infrastructures of production, circulation, violence, and exploitation. Simultaneously, colonized actors, like Indian peasant/‘tribal’ populations, brought to play alternate precolonial Indian-origin concepts of collective regality, expressed through terms like ‘rajavamshi’ and ‘Kshatriya’. These concepts nourished new forms of democracy in modern India. Global intellectual histories can thus expand political thought today by provincializing and deconstructing Eurocentric political vocabularies and by recuperating subaltern models of collective and polyarchic power.

Dr Milinda Banerjee is Lecturer in Modern History at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, United Kingdom. He specializes in History of Modern Political Thought and Political Theory, and is Programme Director for the MLitt in Global Social and Political Thought. He is the author of The Mortal God: Imagining the Sovereign in Colonial India (Cambridge University Press, 2018). He has co-edited the volume, Transnational Histories of the ‘Royal Nation’ (Palgrave, 2017); the forum ‘Law, Empire, and Global Intellectual History’, in the journal Modern Intellectual History (Cambridge University Press, 2020); the special issue ‘The Modern Invention of ‘Dynasty’: A Global Intellectual History, 1500-2000’, in the journal Global Intellectual History (Routledge, 2020); and the special issue ‘Forced Migration and Refugee Resettlement in the Long 1940s: A Connected and Global History’, in the journal Itinerario: Journal of Imperial and Global Interactions (Cambridge University Press, 2022). Banerjee has published two other monographs and several articles on the intersections of Indian and global intellectual history and political theory. He is a founder-editor of a new series ‘South Asian Intellectual History’ with Cambridge University Press, a founder-editor of two series with De Gruyter, ‘Critical Readings in Global Intellectual History’, and ‘Transregional Practices of Power’, and Special Projects Editor of the journal Political Theology (Routledge). He is Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

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