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Response to Review no. 741

Professor Prashad is much too modest in neglecting to note that his own work on India and its ties to the United States, including African-Americans, blazed the trail for those – e.g. myself – who have sought to follow his example. 

I would also note that what is at stake here is a re-definition of the very enterprise of writing history, i.e. to keep pace with a complex reality that is unfolding quite rapidly, our labour cannot be mired in stasis. To wit, it is evident that what has been termed ‘globalization’, whatever its definition, subsumes a vast array of worldwide changes, that are tending to either make less relevant national boundaries or place same in a different context. For example, universal jurisdiction (a Spanish magistrate seeking to indict a Chilean leader or the United States indicting and convicting a Liberian leader or the solidifying of the International Criminal Court, etc.); the response to climate change; the ongoing discussion of global regulation of national markets; the rise of the doctrine of the ability of the international community to intervene in domestic contexts via the ‘responsibility to protect’ – all this and more suggests that in this century there will be a continuing challenge to the idea of observance of strict national sovereignty. 

However, we need a historical context for this new departure and here arises work –e.g. my own and that of Professor Prashad – that posits the idea of historically constructed trans-national citizenship (ties between African-Americans and Indians, for example) that neatly underpins the new and unfolding global reality of trans-nationalism. 

Of course, the task is daunting and the charge to historians is similarly compelling. For example, history now cries out for collaboration across national borders, though this is not done as much as the need demands. The need for international history has never been greater and this rich field too must involve trans-national collaboration if it is to reach its full potential. 

Fortunately, with scholars like Professor Prashad toiling in the vineyards, I am certain that our obligation to history will be met.