Indo-Portuguese Identity Formation & Print Media

A Review of 19th Century Periodicals of Portuguese India: An Assessment of Documentary Evidence and Indo-Portuguese Identity, by Liladhar Ramchandra Pendse.

Liladhar Ramchandra Pendse’s dissertation deals with periodicals published in Portuguese in India during the 19th century, today held in various libraries in Portugal, India, and the United States. Rather than producing a chronological narrative of the periodicals, the dissertation examines these periodicals “as a group” and weaves an account around the periodicals’ social history and their life in present-day library collections (p. 2). Pendse’s extensive professional experience as a university librarian has undoubtedly helped in developing a research framework that addresses both the value of the periodicals for researchers in South Asian studies, colonial and post-colonial studies, and literary studies, as well as information studies and the stewardship of the collections.

The dissertation is structured along two research purposes, namely to address the periodicals “as documentary evidence of Portuguese India,” and to examine issues that revolve around contemporary stewardship of these periodicals in library collections (p. 2). At the same time, three themes give a chronological shape to the dissertation. The first theme details the history, genres, and contexts of Portuguese periodicals in India; the second theme is the author’s discussion of specifically Portuguese-language literary journals as a useful primary source for analysing identity formation and hybridization; the third and final theme addresses the periodical collections and the present-day stewardship of these collections in the United States, India, and Portugal.

Chapter one provides an introduction to the relevance of the study in addressing what the author refers to as so-called ‘“in-production” and “post-production” realities for Portuguese periodicals’ in their colonial and post-colonial contexts, respectively (p. 5).

After a literature review in chapter two of relevant theories of colonial control and colonial print media (e.g., Homi K. Bhabha. Nation and Narration. London: Routledge, 1990; Partha Chatterjee. “Whose Imagined Community?” Millennium – Journal of International Studies. 20.3, 1991: 521-525), the author points to use of researching Portuguese periodicals in order to examine “the modes by which the national Indo-Portuguese identity as an amalgamation of both Portuguese and Goan culture was created, maintained and reflected upon” (p. 12).

In chapter three Pendse maps the evolution of print publications from “O Metrópole,” or “the Metropole,” as the Portuguese colonial writers referred to Portugal (p. 41), and the emergence of the printing press in the colonial ‘periphery’ of Índia Portuguesa, or Portuguese India (p. 48). Having placed his theoretical framework in conjunction with the historical context of print in Portugal, and specifically Indo-Portuguese printing, chapter four sets the scene for an analysis of 19th-century Indo-Portuguese periodicals, addressing genres, content, and functions of the Portuguese-language press as it evolved in Portuguese India – foremost ‘New Goa’ and ‘Old Goa’ – and among the established Indo-Portuguese community in Bombaim (Bombay/Mumbai). Important to note here is the author’s observation that the evolution of periodicals during this time was also shaped by “ideas” and “perhaps the technical know-how” from British India brought back by migrants from Goa and other parts of Portuguese India (p. 73).

Having contextualized the changes in the periodicals under study within the larger picture of socio-political developments in Portugal and its colonies during the 19th century, the author zooms in on specifically journals dedicated to literature (chapter five). Essentially this core chapter is dedicated to an in-depth analysis of the writing of Indo-Portuguese poets, embedded in the context of religious and governmental changes taking place in Portugal and the larger colonial world. Throughout the chapter the “romantic era Portuguese literary tradition” and “concepts that were Indic in their essence” emerge as the two main influences in the poems (p. 102). To the poets, Indian concepts and various terms from local languages such as Konkani and Sanskrit served “to differentiate their Indo-Portuguese identity” (p. 169). Interestingly, in Recreio das damas, a journal published in 1863 that was the first in Portuguese India and the entire Indian sub-continent to be dedicated to women’s issues (p. 109), none of the poems used Indian or Portuguese-Indian themes (p. 151). Instead the readership were presented translations, historical essays, and “moral precepts that were chosen by nineteenth century Portuguese and Indo-Portuguese men” (p. 153).  The author interprets the absence of a “substantive representation” of women from Portuguese India in the journal as “a sort of imposed censorship” by men in the colonies “who acted as brokers of information” (ibid).

In chapter six, Pendse maps and discusses the emergence and stewardship of the collections 19th century Portuguese language periodicals in India, Portugal, and North America. Interviews with librarians who work with the periodicals in the three continents reveal different perceptions of stewardship depending on cultural backgrounds and the types of institutional facilities the respective libraries intend to provide. By reflecting on the production of history in a post-colonial world, specifically India, Portugal, and North America where the collections under review are held in university as well as in national and municipal libraries, Pendse asks questions into the neutrality and responsibilities of “stewardship” when it comes to librarians as custodians of these materials (p. 176).

Having discussed the librarians’ professional experiences on grassroot levels in three geographically distinct regions, Pendse suggests in the conclusion (chapter seven) that the issues involved in the preservation of the periodicals “point to perhaps a fundamental lack of global consultative stewardship that is backed by the financial guarantees from the developed world” (p. 242). UNESCO’s endeavours to preserve and digitize endangered print heritage might be a step in the right direction, although it does not prove sufficient to cover collections such as the group of periodicals under review (pp. 242-243).

By examining the issues involved in the stewardship of the periodicals, Pendse addresses post-production realities of relevance to many primary sources managed by libraries and archives in nations of former colonizers and colonies. This shared heritage, as Pendse demonstrates, should be a common interest to preserve as a primary source for understanding identity formation and hybridization in a postcolonial world.

Eleonor Marcussen
Junior Fellow
School of Ecology and Environment
Nalanda University

PhD student
Department of History
South Asia Institute
Heidelberg University
eleonor.marcussen@gmail.com

Primary Sources

National Library of Portugal
Goa State Central Library
Porto Municipal Library
Recreio das damas
Goa Sociável

Dissertation Information

University of California, Los Angeles. 2013. 294 pp. Primary Advisor: Anne J. Gilliland.

Image: Goa Sociável. Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal.

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