Benjamin Conisbee Baer

Associate Professor of Comparative Literature
Office Phone
104 East Pyne

Periods: Modern and Contemporary

Languages: Bengali, German, French

Research Interests: Marxism, Deconstruction, Postcolonial Literature and Theory, Translation Problems, Subaltern Predicaments

Office Hours Spring 2024:  Tuesday, 11am-1pm. 104 East Pyne. Email [email protected] for appointment.

Ben Baer is a comparatist and not an area expert. His teaching, research, and writing focus on problems of representation, language, idiom, and translation; the politics of culture and cultural politics; historical and contemporary modes and situations of subalternity; differentiated patterns of modern imperialism and colonialism; Marxism in an international framework; epistemic change and intellectual labor; theories and practices of education. The parts of the world he works on are pockets of South Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and Africa; and the limits of his scholarship confine him mainly, but not exclusively, to modern and contemporary conjunctures. He has learned from and continues to try and teach several genres of literary writings, Marxist theory, deconstruction, and postcolonial theory.

Baer’s most recent book is Indigenous Vanguards: Education, National Liberation, and the Limits of Modernism (Columbia, 2019). Its object is the imagination and figuration of practices of common education for all the future citizens of emerging postcolonial states—citizens who would in principle be equally enabled to participate in a nonimperial society and world. In a series of overlapping case studies of literary engagements with structures and representations of public teaching and learning by anticolonial and antiracist cultural vanguards from the 1920s to the 1940s, Indigenous Vanguards examines the far-reaching epistemic, epistemological, cultural, and political mutations brought about by the unprecedented emergence of public education in modernity. The book’s central examples are drawn from the Harlem Renaissance, French West Africa, the colonial French Caribbean, and the period of the Gandhian uprisings in India, with comparative discussion of Western European and Soviet philosophies and practices of education.

New research is on intellectual labor and cognitive development in the context of technoscientific development and social difference.

Ben Baer has been a member of the following collective interdisciplinary projects: Radiating Globality (prehistories of so-called globalization in Senegambia, South China, and French India); Rethinking South Asian Studies/Himalayan Regionalism (Kathmandu); Development and the Unsystematized Languages of Africa; Statistics and Narrative: Rural/Urban Interface in Accra and Nairobi. He is an executive member of Princeton’s Program in South Asian Studies.



Indigenous Vanguards: Education, National Liberation, and the Limits of Modernism. Columbia University Press, 2019. 
  The Tale of Hansuli Turn by Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay. Translated and introduced by Ben Conisbee Baer. Columbia University Press, 2011.
  “Snakes and Ladders.” Modernism/modernity Print+. Vol. 3, Cycle 4, February 2019. Contribution to cluster on “What is the Scale of the Literary Object?”
  “South Asian Literary Studies: For Better and Worse.” South Asian Review. Vol 35, no. 3., 2017
  “Schiz-ability.” PMLA. Vol. 29, no. 3. May 2014.
  “It’s Only the End of the World.” Boundary 2. Vol. 41, no. 2. Summer 2014.
  “What Is Special About Postcolonial Translation?” Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Translation Studies, eds. Sandra Bermann and Catherine Porter. (2014, Wiley-Blackwell).
  “Karl Marx: Theorist of Capital and Social Justice.” Modern Social Thinkers, ed. Pradip Basu. (2012, Setu).
  “Spivak Lessons: Review of Sangeeta Ray, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: In Other Words.” Cultural Critique, no. 80, (Winter 2012).
  “Terodacktil Apocalypse: Writing Catastrophe in Mahasweta Devi’s Pterodactyl, Puran Sahay, and Pirtha.” In Culture, Environment, and Eco-Politics, eds. N. Heffernan and D. Wragg (2011, CSP).
  “Creole Glossary: Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay’s Hansuli Banker Upakatha.” PMLA, 125:3 (May 2010).
  ‘Forest Interface.’ Book chapter in Pradip Basu (ed.) Discourses on Naxalite Movement (1967-2009): Insights into Radical Left Politics (Kolkata: Setu Prakashani), 2010.
  ‘Creole Glossary: Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay’s Hansuli Banker Upakatha,’ PMLA, vol. 25 no. 3, May 2010
  ‘Edward Said Remembered on 9/11/2004: An Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’ in Adel Iskandar and Hakem Rustom (eds.), Edward Said: Emancipation and Representation (University of California Press, 2010)‘Edward Said Remembered on 9/11/2004: An Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’ in Adel Iskandar and Hakem Rustom (eds.), Edward Said: Emancipation and Representation (University of California Press, 2010)
  ‘Shit Writing: Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable, the Image of Gandhi, and the All India Progressive Writers’ Association,’ Modernism/Modernity 16:3, September 2009