An attempt has been made in this paper to identify the areas of endogenous intellectual creativity in Bangladesh, and to examine the extent of correspondence between creativity and the material substratum on which it is based. The historical experience of Bangladesh has been analyzed with these objectives, but the analysis has been severely handicapped by the paucity of source materials from earlier times. Nevertheless, it is hoped that the paper gives an idea about the creative tradition in this part of the world. The historical evidence, however skeletal, seems also to justify the relationship postulated between creativity and the material base.

The paper begins with a section on analytical aspects dealing with the concepts and definition of the unit of analysis. The next section provides a review of endogenous intellectual creativity in Bangladesh. The third section draws out the general perspectives in terms of the analytical frame. The final section states the implications of the findings and presents some reflections for the future.


Creativity may be defined as the capability to cope with the changing or unforeseen situations, resulting in "products" which are "new" and "original". The domain of intellectual creativity may be said to be one constituted of such intellectual capability used in the widest sense of participation, so as to include not only professional intellectuals, artists or ideologues, but also collective entities such as groups, classes or nations. The processes of innovation, adjustment, and response to exogenous variables may be seen to be integrally related to this notion; so are all processes concerned with changing the limits of consciousness, including the creativity of the visionary and the artist.

One of the major manifestations of intellectual creativity is in the expression of collective identity and consciousness in a given social formation. It provides the source of values, beliefs, and world-views which constitute the bedrock of any culture. It is significant as a mechanism for either legitimizing or repudiating any given socio-economic system. Indeed, the ideological superstructure which binds local level class relations at the aggregate levels of the nation, region or particularistic group may be seen as the product of the cumulative intellectual creativity of generations. It follows. therefore, that intellectual creativity cannot be evaluated independently of its ideological and material bases.

The concept of endogenous intellectual creativity refers to creative processes arising out of the inner articulation of a given socio-cultural system. Where the boundaries of such a system have themselves changed over time (as is the case with Bangladesh), the aspects of exogenous processes which have been assimilated over time into the pre-existing cultural fabrics of the system must be included as endogenous in the notion of inner articulation.

An adequate evaluation of the material and ideological bases of endogenous intellectual creativity would require further elaboration of the social structure in terms of production and social relations, which has been attempted in this paper. However, there is a hypothesis implicit in our approach which suggests that endogenous intellectual creativity is broadly shaped by the social and economic conditions of the milieu from which it arises. This correspondence between elements of the ideological superstructure and those of the material substratum may be one of the mechanical convergence, or one of relative or full autonomy.

The unit of analysis in this paper is Bangladesh. However, this entity, in both geographical and cultural terms, has been "a part of changing wholes" all through its history. There has been a continuous change in the boundaries between the exogenous and the endogenous. It is necessary, therefore, that the analysis takes into account the experience of regions which were once related to this contemporary nation-state, but which are now outside its political boundaries. The boundaries of the present-day Bengali-speaking area - Bengal in general terms - will be adequate for the purpose. While there are sub-regional variations within this area, we shall confine the treatment to a general overview, subsuming such variants.

Although historical evidence for this region goes back much earlier, comparatively detailed and interrelated information is only available from the fourth century A. D.; the temporal perspective will therefore cover a period of one millennium and a half.

This region has been inhabited, both in the present and the past, by numerous tribal groups, most of whom inhabit the mountainous fringe of the area. With respect to communities of the "men from the plains"- the Bengalis inhabiting the stratified villages of the deltaic flatland - the tribal groups may the regarded as encysted minority groups with sharply contrasting cultural, social, and economic traits. While their varied traditions of endogenous intellectual creativity are no less interesting than those of the plainsmen, the constraints of space have made it necessary that we exclude them from the following analysis.


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