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The Common CausePostcolonial Ethics and the Practice of Democracy, 1900-1955$
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Leela Gandhi

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226019871

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226020075.001.0001

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Elementary Virtues

Elementary Virtues

The Great War and the Crisis of European Man

Chapter:
(p.93) Three Elementary Virtues
Source:
The Common Cause
Author(s):

Leela Gandhi

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226020075.003.0003

This chapter surveys the military cosmopolitanism of the WWI, with its complex migration of soldiers from colonial outposts to the battlefields of Europe and back again, as a setting for an inter-civilizational ethics of intimate-enmity devoted to rescuing the endangered spirit of Europe from the clutches of imperial-fascism, and at the cost of immediate anticolonial nationalist aims. Based on nationalist war-recruitment records and letters written by Indian-peasant soldiers, the chapter gleans from the rhetoric of sacrifice a discrepant genealogy for moral imperfectionism, and tracks its development through the decolonization era. This trope of sacrifice may well be the most elementary virtue of anticolonial antifascist democracy as a work of self-ruination. Its clarification, and with it of the obscured story of colonial participation in the violent European wars of the previous century, answers some of the key questions that have provoked this book: Did non-western decolonization movements ever refuse the spoils of anticolonial nationalism for the sake of reparative solidarity with colonial cultures? Did these movements conceive demands for independence from Europe not just as a rejection of Europe but also as a desire to salvage the very best of Europe?

Keywords:   WWI, military cosmopolitanism, intimate-enmity, decolonization, virtue, peasant soldiers, sacrifice, nationalism, Europe

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