Learning from and Translating Peasant Struggles as Anti-Colonial Praxis: The Ghadar Party in Punjab





The Ghadar Party, Punjab, anticolonialism, peasantry, translation, hegemony, Gramsci, Fanon, social movement learning


The Ghadar Party introduced a radical anticolonial praxis to Punjab, British India, in the early 1910s. Much of the literature on the Ghadar Party situates the birth of the movement among Punjabi peasants along the Pacific coast of North America who returned to their homeland intent on waging an anticolonial mutiny. One strand of argumentation locates the failure of the Ghadar Party in a problem of incompatibility between their migrant political consciousness and the conditions and experiences of their co-patriots in Punjab. I use Antonio Gramsci's concept of “translation,” a semi-metaphorical means to describe political practices that transform existing political struggles, to demonstrate how the Ghadar Party's work of political education was not unidirectional, but rather consisted of learning from peasant experiences and histories of struggle, as well as transforming extant forms of peasant resistance – such as, banditry – for building a radical anticolonial movement. Translation is an anticolonial practice that works on subaltern experiences and struggles. The Ghadar Party's praxis of translating subaltern struggles into anticolonialism is demonstrative of how movements learn from and transform existing movements.

Author Biography

Kasim Ali Tirmizey, York University

Kasim Tirmizey has a PhD in Environmental Studies from York University. His recent research examines the history of radical anticolonial movements in relation to the emergence of the Pakistani nation-state. He is currently teaching at Concordia University. He can be reached at kasim.tirmizey@gmail.com.


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Special Issue: Ghadar Movement