[Japan-India Distinguished Visitors Program]
Between Nationalism and Internationalism: The Political Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore

This event now concluded. Report available here.



  • Lecturer: Ramachandra Guha (Historian/Biographer)
  • Moderator: Sato Hiroshi (South Asia researcher; Translator of India After Gandhi)
  • Date: Wednesday, March 18, 2015, 6:30-8:00 pm
  • Venue: Iwasaki Koyata Memorial Hall, International House of Japan
  • Seating: 200
  • Language: English / Japanese (with simultaneous interpretation)
  • Co-organizer: The Japan Foundation
  • Admission: Free (reservations required)
Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian to win a Nobel Prize, is widely admired for his poetry, plays, and novels. But he was also a prescient political thinker, although this aspect of his legacy has not got the attention it deserves. This lecture will reconstruct Tagore’s political philosophy by focusing on what he said and did in his travels through Japan, China, and the United States. He had a special affinity for Japan, a country he visited five times and whose cultural and aesthetic traditions he greatly admired. But he was worried about growing militarism in Japan, and spoke out against national and racial rivalries and hatreds. Tagore is important for his views, and for whom he influenced. As this lecture will show, his visionary internationalism had a profound impact on the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi, the acknowledged leader of the Indian freedom struggle, and on Jawaharlal Nehru, the first and longest serving Prime Minister of India.



  • Text of Dr. Guha’s essay (PDF file 175KB)
  • *No part of this essay may be used, edited, or reproduced in any manner without prior permission.

    Ramachandra Guha (1958-)

    Photo:Ramachandra GuhaDr. Ramachandra Guha is a historian and biographer based in Bangalore. He has taught at Yale and Stanford universities, held the Arné Naess Chair at the University of Oslo, and been the Indo-American Community Visiting Professor at the University of California at Berkeley. In 2011-2012 he served as the Philippe Roman Professor of History and International Affairs at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

    His books include a pioneering environmental history, The Unquiet Woods (University of California Press, 1989), and an award-winning social history of cricket, A Corner of a Foreign Field (Picador, 2002). India after Gandhi (Macmillan/Ecco Press, 2007) was chosen as a book of the year by the Economist, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Time Out, and Outlook, and as a book of the decade in The Times, Times of India, and The Hindu. His most recent book is Gandhi Before India (Knopf, 2014), which was chosen as a notable book of the year by the New York Times.

    Apart from his books, Dr. Guha also writes a syndicated column that appears in six languages in newspapers with a combined readership of some twenty million. His books and essays have been translated into more than twenty languages. The New York Times has referred to him as “perhaps the best among India’s nonfiction writers”; Time Magazine has called him “Indian democracy’s pre-eminent chronicler.”

    Dr. Guha’s awards include the Leopold-Hidy Prize of the American Society of Environmental History, the Daily Telegraph/Cricket Society Prize, the Malcolm Adideshiah Award for excellence in social science research, the Ramnath Goenka Prize for excellence in journalism, the Sahitya Akademi Award, and the R. K. Narayan Prize. In 2009, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan Award, the Republic of India’s third highest civilian honor. In 2008, and again in 2013, Prospect magazine nominated Dr. Guha as one of the world’s most influential intellectuals. In 2014, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in the humanities by Yale University.

    Japan-India Distinguished Visitors Program

    In 2012, commemorating the 60th anniversary of Japan-India diplomatic relations, I-House and Japan Foundation jointly launched the Japan-India Distinguished Visitors Program. This program invites to Japan eminent Indian public figures who are proposing new values or innovative ideas to change the status quo of society. Fellows will be invited for a period of 5-7 days to meet counterparts and leaders who are tackling similar issues in Japan in their area of expertise. The fellows will also engage in public seminars or lecture programs during their stay.