The Subaltern and the Minor

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In conversation with the work of Qadri Ismail, this essay explores the figure of the minor. It suggests that Ismail and others have given that figure a distinctive torsion by imbuing it with the moral aspiration for a freedom and equality no longer centered on sovereignty and autonomy. That aspiration is not new; in parallax ways, both Babasaheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi strive for such a freedom and equality. The aspiration is also an implicit stake of the Subaltern Studies tradition, as is manifest in Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's invocation of "love."The other freedom arising from the love of the minor, the essay suggests, cannot be thought save by way of "religion."The essay explores how Ambedkar and Gandhi give a distinctive inflection to the conventional association of religion with the sacred and sacrifice. From their thinking of religion, it suggests, a range of concepts and quasi-concepts cascade out, including a distinction between belief as the sovereign form of religion and faith as its nonsovereign form; a distinction between an idealist impossible and a messianic impossible; authority without sovereignty; and political friendship as the comportment proper to the minor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-309
Number of pages35
JournalCritical Times
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Ajay Skaria.


  • Babasaheb Ambedkar
  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • minor
  • political friendship
  • Qadri Ismail
  • subaltern


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