08 January 2019


To listen to TWO excellent discussions on this book,
the first including Romila Thapar,
click here

and the second including Partha Chatterjee,
click here

This book examines how, over colonial times, the diverse practices and customs of an existing rural universe – with its many forms of livelihood – were reshaped to create a new agrarian world of settled farming. While focusing on Punjab, this pathbreaking analysis offers a broad argument about the workings of colonial power: the fantasy of imperialism, it says, is to make the universe afresh.

Such radical change, Bhattacharya shows, is as much conceptual as material. Agrarian colonisation was a process of creating spaces that conformed to the demands of colonial rule. It entailed establishing a regime of categories – tenancies, tenures, properties, habitations – and a framework of laws that made the change possible. Agrarian colonisation was in this sense a deep conquest.

Colonialism, the book suggests, has the power to revisualise and reorder social relations and bonds of community. It alters the world radically, even when it seeks to preserve elements of the old. The changes it brings about are simultaneously cultural, discursive, legal, linguistic, spatial, social, and economic. Moving from intent to action, concepts to practices, legal enactments to court battles, official discourses to folklore, this book explores the conflicted and dialogic nature of a transformative process.

By analysing this great conquest, and the often silent ways in which it unfolds, the book asks every historian to rethink the practice of writing agrarian history and reflect on the larger issues of 
doing history.

 "The Great Agrarian Conquest is at once deeply theoretical as well as solidly empirical. It elegantly bridges different fields and approaches generally treated in a segmented manner by less accomplished (or less ambitious) historians. It integrates texts with contexts, discursive practices with material reality. This is a history of ideas and of institutions, of livelihood practices and of everyday social relations. It investigates both structure and agency, the reshaping of rural Punjab by a colonial ideology of codification and improvement as well as the actions of individual officials which were often at variance with each other.
At the level of method, the great achievement of Bhattacharya’s book is that it successfully brings together agrarian history and environmental history, two sub-disciplines that have tended to work separately and in isolation from one another...The Great Agrarian Conquest is a subtle and substantial work of scholarship. If there is one book Indians need to read to understand how colonialism actually worked (or did not work), this is it. says Ramachandra Guha, in WIRE

Neeladri Bhattacharya's "path-breaking monograph on significant transformations  in Punjab under British rule (1849-1947) adds to his legendary  reputation of a teacher" says Razi Aquil in Sunday Guardian


taught at Jawaharlal Nehru University for forty-one years, from where he retired in 2017 as Professor of History. He has been a Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford, and has held visiting professorships in Europe, South Africa, and the USA.

Hardback | Rs1195

06 January 2019


There is so much happening in January we don't know where to start. For one thing, Delhi has a bookfair on. And while we know it's chilly and grey and there are a hundred things to do, we promise that stepping into the halls of the bookfair will make the most jaded souls feel like children.

Next up, Neeladri Bhattacharya is in conversation with a galaxy of star scholars about his new book. This event will take place in Calcutta on 14th January 2019. It may be worth travelling there for it, combining the trip with a few of Calcutta's winter treats -- notun gur shondesh, balmy walks on the Strand, breakfast at Flury's, boatrides on the Hooghly, and the standard pollution levels of all our big cities.

On the 18th of January, Jennifer Dubrow will be at the India International Centre, Delhi, speaking in the prestigious Frontiers in History Series. This series of talks, curated from its inception by Jawaharlal Nehru University Professor Partho Datta, has featured some of the best writers and scholars at work today in fields as diverse as history, music, design, even the army. Jennifer Dubrow will be speaking on lots of lively things, ladling out a spot of Avadh Punch to beat the cold.

See you there!

19 December 2018


The Making of Modern Urdu Literary Culture
in Colonial South Asia

In late-nineteenth-century South Asia, the arrival of print fostered a dynamic and interactive literary culture. There, within the pages of Urdu-language periodicals and newspapers, readers found a public sphere that not only catered to their interests but encouraged their reactions to featured content. Cosmopolitan Dreams brings this culture to light, showing how literature became a site in which modern daily life could be portrayed and satirized, the protocols of modernity challenged, and new futures imagined.

Drawing on never-before-translated Urdu fiction and prose and focusing on the novel and satire, Jennifer Dubrow shows that modern Urdu literature was defined by its practice of self-critique and parody. Urdu writers resisted the cultural models offered by colonialism, creating instead a global community of imagination in which literary models could freely circulate and be readapted, mixed, and drawn upon to develop alternative lines of thinking. Highlighting the participation of readers and writers from diverse social and religious backgrounds, the book reveals an Urdu cosmopolis where lively debates thrived in newspapers, literary journals, and letters to the editor.

Arguing against current understandings of Urdu as an exclusively Muslim language, Dubrow demonstrates that in the late nineteenth century Urdu was a cosmopolitan language spoken by a transregional, transnational community that eschewed identities of religion, caste, and class.
The Urdu cosmopolis pictured here was soon fractured by the forces of nationalism and communalism. Even so, Dubrow establishes the persistence of Urdu cosmopolitanism into the present and shows that Urdu’s strong tradition as a language of secular, critical modernity continues to flourish in film, television, and online.

Cosmopolitan Dreams plunges us into the rich world of nineteenth-century Urdu journalism, of sketches and dialogues, witty prose, satirical poetry, and serialized novels that happily crossed all kinds of genre boundaries. In lively depictions and often biting characterizations, sharp pens tackled the new conditions, aspirations, and challenges of colonial modernity. Nothing was spared and every kind of sanctimonious or pompous behavior was ridiculed. Urdu readers from all over India responded enthusiastically. Treading knowledgeably but lightly through a vast archive, and alternating between close readings and broader vistas, Cosmopolitan Dreams is a delight to read and will hopefully send readers scouting for those magazines in old libraries and online repositories” Francesca Orsini, SOAS, University of London

“Dubrow judiciously leads us into the Urdu cosmopolis, a fascinating crisscrossing of times, languages, religions, and technologies. Readers will be struck by the brilliant theoretical insights aligned with careful empirical evidence mined from the treasures of periodicals, satires, and novels. This work will certainly inspire us to rethink South Asian language politics, gender, colonialism, and resistance in exciting new ways.”
S. Akbar Hyder, University of Texas at Austin

Jennifer Dubrow is assistant professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Washington.

HB | Rs 795

18 December 2018


The Indian Beginnings of a European Genre

edited by Baidik Bhattacharya & Sambudha Sen

This volume looks at the early Indian novel in a comparative frame, in the light of new conceptual approaches and research. It looks at novels written in various Indian languages as well as English.
This is not a chronological or comprehensive history of the Indian novel, but a book about the connections between the novel in India as an emerging genre in relation to discourses such as political writing, visual culture, popular print genres, law and ethnography.
A wide-ranging examination of the early Indian novel of the kind to be found here has not been attempted before. This volume breaks new ground in the scholarship on the novel both in India and Europe. It will contribute to discussions on cultural modernity, the emergence of public spheres, and the history of expressive resources and literary languages in modern India.

Baidik Bhattacharya is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Delhi. He is the author of Postcolonial Writing in the Era of World Literature: Texts, Territories, Globalizations (2018), and co-editor of The Postcolonial Gramsci (2012). His essays have appeared in Critical Inquiry, New Literary History, Boundary 2, Interventions, and Postcolonial Studies among other places. He serves on the editorial board of the journal Postcolonial Studies.

Sambudha Sen is Professor of English, Shiv Nadar University, Uttar Pradesh. He has published essays on the print and visual culture of Victorian England in Representations, Victorian Studies, English Literary History, and Nineteenth Century Literature. He is the author of Dickens’s Novels in the Age of Improvement (Manohar, 2003), and London: Radical Culture and the Making of the Dickensian Aesthetic (Ohio State University Press, 2013). He is currently researching the ways in which contagion was understood in nineteenth-century England, especially in relation to the poor. He is also beginning a project on the development of English literary prose in India.

HB | Rs 795

14 December 2018


How did states come to monopolize control over migration? What do the processes that produced this monopoly tell us about the modern state? 

In Indian Migration and Empire Radhika Mongia provocatively argues that the formation of colonial migration regulations was dependent upon, accompanied by, and generative of profound changes in normative conceptions of the modern state.
Focused on state regulation of colonial Indian migration between 1834 and 1917, Mongia illuminates the genesis of central techniques of migration control. She shows how important elements of current migration regimes, including the notion of state sovereignty as embodying the authority to control migration, the distinction between free and forced migration, the emergence of passports, the formation of migration bureaucracies, and the incorporation of kinship relations into migration logics, are the product of complex debates that attended colonial migrations. By charting how state control of migration was critical to the transformation of a world dominated by empire-states into a world dominated by nation-states, Mongia challenges positions that posit a stark distinction between the colonial state and the modern state to trace aspects of their entanglements.

RADHIKA MONGIA is Associate Professor of Sociology and faculty in the Graduate Programs of Sociology, Political Science, Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies, and Social and Political Thought at York University, Toronto.

Indian Migration and Empire is a highly original, compelling, and superbly crafted work that thoroughly reveals the racialized foundations of the modern state. Given the contemporary debates about the relationship between migration, the state, and race—whether in relation to Europe’s refugee crisis or the exclusionary immigration politics of Donald Trump's America—this book could not be more relevant or timely”
Professor of State and Democracy, University of Göttingen

“Scholars have long claimed that modernity’s signature—the nation-state—is the consequence of imperial power. In this sweeping history of the territoriality of the western state system, Radhika Mongia offers new analytical paradigms for understanding the relationship between national sovereignty and colonial labor. A corrective to facile transnational arguments and a rigorous case for the management of migration as the genealogical heart of modern western state formation, Indian Migration and Empire roots modern European state practices in mobile bodies and the regulatory regimes they provoked”
Catherine C. and Bruce A. Bastian Professor of Global
and Transnational Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

HB| Rs 695

27 September 2018


This book locates essential aspects of the material, mental, and spiritual world of western Himalayan peasant society.

In this large and difficult region, human enterprise and mountainous terrain long existed in a precarious balance. Natural adversity occasionally disrupted this balance.

Small peasant communities lived here in scattered environmental niches and tenaciously extracted from their harsh surroundings a rudimentary but sustainable livelihood. Family organisation, social custom, and religious practices were adapted to their purposes.

The communities were integral constituents of larger political institutions, the state being one such. This laboriously created life-world was enlivened by myth, folklore, legend, and religious tradition.

When colonial rule was established in the region during the eighteenth century, it transformed the peasant’s relationship with his natural surroundings. Old political allegiances were weakened. Yet, resilient customary hierarchies retained their influence through religio-cultural practices. These are some of the many themes of Himalayan history offered in this book.

Indian historians have mainly studied riverine belts and life in the plains. Sophisticated mountain histories are relatively rare. This book, by one of India’s most reputed historians of the Himalaya, is essential for a more complete understanding of Indian history.

Chetan Singh, former Professor of History at Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla, has been researching and writing on the history and culture of the western Himalaya for more than two decades. He was Director, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, from 2013 to 2016. His publications include Natural Premises: Ecology and Peasant Life in the Western Himalaya, 1800–1950 (1998), and Region and Empire: Panjab in the Seventeenth Century (1991).

  1. Introduction
  2. Defining Spaces, Constructing Identity: Regional History and the Himalaya
  3. Defining Community: A Historical Study of Territory and Transformation in the Western Himalaya
  4. Geography, Religion and Hegemony: Constructing the State in the Western Himalaya
  5. Nature, Religion and Politics: Case Studies of Keonthal and Kumharsain
  6. The Dum: Community Consciousness, Peasant Resistance or Political Intrigue?
  7. The Place of Myth, Legend and Folklore in Himalayan Society
  8. Strategy of Interdependence: Gaddi, Peasant and State
  9. Between Two Worlds: The Trader Pastoralists of Kinnaur
  10. Migration and Trade in Mountain Societies: A Comparative Study of Historical Processes in Upper Dauphine (Alps) and Kulu–Kinnaur (Himalaya)
  11. Pastoralism and the Making of Colonial Modernity in Kulu, 1850-1952
  12. Diverse Forms of Polyandry and Customary Rights of Inheritance and Landownership in the Western Himalaya
  13. Thresholds in the Wilderness: Identities, Interests and Modernity in Western Himalayan Borderlands
  14. Riverbank to Hilltop: Pre-Colonial Towns and the Impact of British Rule on Urban Growth
  15. Bibliography

Series: Hedgehog and Fox
HB/ Rs 895/ copublished with Ashoka University

06 September 2018


Remembering Ravi Dayal (1937–2006)

Rukun Advani

Had he been alive, Ravi Dayal would have turned seventy on 6th September 2007. Keeping in mind Mark Antony’s opinion—‘the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interr’ed with their bones’—as well as the fact that good books live a long time whereas their publishers are soon forgotten, it seems worthwhile to briefly recall the most significant figure in Indian publishing after Independence.

The first thing that struck anyone on meeting Dayal was how articulate he was, and the polish with which he spoke. Dayal’s articulation and polish were aspects of his charisma, and both were central to the attractiveness of his aristocratic personality. When hearing him speak I felt extremely envious, because his mind seemed a reservoir of perfectly formed sentences that he could summon at will. This made his diffidence as a public speaker seem quite odd, but I think the reason he disliked such occasions was that, like the great editors of the old world, he was reluctant to be the focus of attention. An essential element in his worldview, which made him different from many editors in our time now, was that he wanted all the attention to fall on his authors. In Dayal’s world, claiming credit for editorial work was a form of bad manners, an appaling deficiency in publishing civility. The editor was, in his view, a backstage person who made a book well structured and readable, but also someone who took no credit for it, never mind if he had virtually coauthored it.

In fact, because he possessed an unmatched level of scholarship, Dayal coauthored and ghost-wrote more books than he edited, and he may well have rewritten more books and authors than any editor in the history of Indian publishing. This was in fact where his heart lay, and he was pretty mulish about it, as he was about many things, such as never being driven to office by a chauffeur. He never allowed his headship of OUP India to get in the way of his editorial work. In this sense, as someone who did not revel in the power of the top job but in the power of his pen, he was completely singular. Some months back I met the head of the University of California Press, a woman called Lynne Withey who, like Ravi Dayal, was earlier the history editor of her press. I asked her if she still edited books, and she said of course she didn’t, she had too much else on her plate heading the Berkeley press. It struck me even more clearly then how different Ravi Dayal had been. Over all the years that he was OUP India’s CEO, he never stopped being its chief editor. He delegated finance and admin to the extent possible, managing a 300-people company while also blue pencilling his way through each script he’d taken on. He refused an airconditioner in his room because it would have made the organization inegalitarian in a way he considered unacceptable. This was the sort of Gandhian trait that earned him huge respect, and which made his organization congenial and unhierarchical. It created a sort of ‘Dayal Bagh’ in which everyone grumbled about low salaries but where everyone stuck it out because the bidi-smoking boss at least looked like he was in the same boat as the bidi-smoking chaprasis.  No one cultivated unglamorous socialist fellow feeling with as much perverseness as Dayal.  Most people who worked with him secretly hoped he would one day see the light of capitalist hedonism. But he never did.

Various other virtues place Ravi Dayal within a publishing ethos that has passed. Editors today specialize. They either acquisition or manage, and the actual editing of scripts is either farmed out or seen as a low-end occupation to be handled by assistant editors. In Ravi Dayal’s conception, these specializations were the product of a corporate ethos, whereas he wanted his publishing house to be in many ways the antithesis of a corporation. The German sociologist Tönnies’s distinction between a community of craftspeople and an industrial corporation is relevant when remembering Dayal. The crafts community is distinguished by a lack of specialization, by the ability in a worker to turn his hand to every aspect of his trade, and by an ethos of trust rather than contracts. The publishing house that Dayal created was like a gharana, a community of people engaged in a craft that they had to learn every aspect of, most specially copyediting which, in his view, was the most difficult and vital part of any publisher’s job.  By giving everyone a long rope and encouraging them to outgrow their specializations, he created a rare sort of commitment among personnel on low salaries. People stayed on in his organization far longer than personnel on very high salaries do today. In this, Dayal’s uncorporate management style was unusual and effective. It showed a fundamental instinct for what attracts people to publishing, what makes them stay there, and what makes a publishing organization tick.
Five employees of OUP India in the 1960s. Ravi Dayal second from left, Girish Karnad third from left. 

Dayal’s world was a necktie-free zone. I’ve seen a picture of Ravi Dayal in a necktie when he was fresh out of Oxford, but over the years I knew him he was allergic to neckties. It was his way of keeping a distance from his white bosses in the West, as well as a symbol of keeping his own work ethos and personnel free of the restrictions of a corporation. His sartorial preferences, like his fierce nationalism, were anti-modern and Nehruvian. Given the size of Indian publishing, it may seem disproportionate to connect Dayal with Nehru, but the analogy makes sense to people who were a part of publishing in the 1970s and 1980s, when Dayal was the Colossus  in that small world. Like Nehru, he was an Oxbridge-trained aristocrat who spoke English with cultivation and polish, and like Nehru he could out-aristocrat any of the Brit white sahibs who in those days thought they were still masters of the universe. If Nehru was the last Englishman to rule India and create a new country by distancing England, Dayal was the last Englishman to rule Indian publishing by wresting a wholly new autonomy and authority for desi publishing. Not wholly perhaps, but in substantial measure, it was Dayal who created Indian academic publishing by local academics in history, sociology, politics, economics, and literature, as well as—in the words of Ashis Nandy—being the man who gave Indian writers and authors, for the first time, a self-respect and confidence in their own abilities that they had never before possessed.

In publishing, the greatest privilege and the biggest achievement is to be a listbuilder, to create an enduring list of authors and books that come to be seen as seminal to an area of reading and research. For a publishing list to be respected, it is vital that the list be a discriminating one. The trend today is to publish virtually anything that will sell, and attractive jacket designs alongside media massaging have made all sorts of mediocre stuff look saleable. Succumbing to this form of publishing is argued as being inescapable because it is driven by shareholders clamouring for annual increases in turnover. But in the long run this practice is also responsible for reputed imprints looking diluted.  Ravi Dayal’s achievement, in contrast, was to prove that there is an optimum number of books to publish annually, and if you habitually exceed that number your imprint will decline. Dayal managed this difficult balance of healthy annual turnover increases with enhancing—and later maintaining—the OUP’s brand value. I doubt that anyone else could have managed this so skilfully. His strong personality, his authority, his persuasiveness, and his enviable articulation skills added up to a charisma which made everyone, including his Oxford superiors, accept what he was doing even when they disagreed or had reservations. Through all his fifteen or so years as the first Indian head of OUP India, he refused to publish anything less than first-rate, regardless of its saleability. He was incorruptible and could not be pressurized. He joked that he hated the India International Centre because it was a den of rejected authors keen to stab him both back and front. But the result was that he transformed a textbooks-centred imprint that looked run-of-the-mill before he took charge into one that made his press the undisputed leader in South Asian academic publishing.

Between the 1960s and 1980s India produced many intellectual pioneers in the arts and social sciences, and Ravi Dayal deserves to be remembered alongside his friends and contemporaries Sálim Ali, R.K. Narayan, Girish Karnad, M.N. Srinivas, S. Gopal, Ashis Nandy, Amartya Sen, Romila Thapar, Ranajit Guha, and Irfan Habib. We have historians of literature and social science who provide us with cultural memory filled with such names. We don’t have historians of publishing, so it is easy to forget Dayal’s intellectual and cultural importance within the same scenario. But if a history of modern Indian publishing were to be written, there would be consensus on the fact that discrimination, adherence to high standards, and longevity of tenure made Ravi Dayal the finest publisher of modern India.

Like Bjorn Borg, Dayal took early retirement while right on top in the mid 1980s, giving up a safe income and immense prestige at a young age. Borg went bust, but Dayal went on to pioneer high-class literary fiction publishing. By setting up ‘Ravi Dayal Publisher’ in 1987 he anticipated the arrival of Penguin India, Picador India, Random House. But once these highly capitalized firms had arrived with their heavy marketing artillery to publish fiction and general books in India, it became virtually impossible for a one-man venture such as Dayal’s to remain the dominant force His venture became a delicatessen in the middle of publishing supermarkets: he continued publishing a handful of books annually, usually by authors who valued intelligent feedback and high editorial skills above slick packaging and glamorous marketing.

I’ll conclude on a personal note because, certainly in Ravi Dayal’s case, the personal life of likes and dislikes and feelings was inseparable from his professional activities; to understand some of the affections that made him what he was is an oblique route to understanding the kind of publishing ethos he believed in.

Dayal didn’t have a dog of his own, but he loved dogs. A man’s response to animals often tells you more about him than his response to people, and Dayal’s response to dogs said a great deal about him. Every time he met my dog Biscoot, he would greet her like a long lost friend, he would call her ‘Bitia’ and make a great fuss over her. Only when her tail had ceased wagging would he bother to greet me. To anyone who has ever had a dog, this makes complete sense. It made me connect with Ravi Dayal the person. His disinterested and genuine affection for dogs suggested something that, deep down, was not in the least different from his feeling for books and authors because it showed he never lost sight of small things—the importance of positioning a comma correctly, the necessity of petting a dog sufficiently.

Two other oddly endearing things about him come to mind. The first is that late in life he became addicted to saas-bahu serials. I put this addiction down to the fact that after a lifetime with the sociology of M.N. Srinivas, he was seeking relief in the sociology of Ekta Kapoor. The second was his refusal to drink imported whisky. For some unfathomable reason, he felt it was a betrayal of India to drink what Khushwant Singh has unofficially demonstrated is India’s national drink, Scotch.  Ravi Dayal must have been the only man ever to have lived in Sujan Singh Park who only drank Royal Stag himself, while bestowing Black Label upon his guests as a form of punishment, letting them know all the while that they were traitors to the country. I sometimes wondered if Dayal’s antipathy to Scotch was his form of rebelling against his father-in-law, Khushwant Singh.

My fondest memory of Ravi Dayal is of a small-built man with a large heart whose affections filled his vast mansion in Ranikhet. Here you could hear him sometimes whistling tunefully, sometimes playing the mouth organ. He could play almost any tune you asked him to, from memory. But he was quite snooty about what he played. Once, my wife, tired of his renderings of ‘Carmen’ and the ‘Tannhäuser Overture’ and other lofty stuff, asked him to play ‘Hey Jude’. At this Ravi Dayal raised an eyebrow and said scornfully, ‘What, that beetle?’, and flatly refused to play the song.

28 August 2018

Out in Paperback: History, Bhakti, and Public Memory

Namdev is a central figure in the cultural history of India, especially within the field of bhakti, a devotional practice that has created publics of memory around the figure of Namdev for over eight centuries. Born in the Marathi-speaking region of the Deccan in the late thirteenth century, Namdev is remembered as a simple, low-caste Hindu tailor whose innovative performances of devotional songs spread his fame widely.

In the modern period, Namdev appears throughout the public spheres of Marathi and Hindi and in India at large, where his identity fluctuates between regional associations and a quiet, pan-Indian, nationalist-secularist profile that champions the poor, oppressed, marginalized, and low caste. Christian Lee Novetzke considers the way social memory coheres around the figure of Namdev from the sixteenth century to the present, examining the practices that situate Namdev’s memory in multiple historical publics. He vividly illustrates how religious communities in India preserve their pasts and, in turn, create their own historical narratives.

“This erudite study is an important contribution to several important issues in contemporary social theory” Sumit Guha, Rutgers University

“Novetzke brings the cultural world of Namdev to life. He breaks new ground in the field of bhakti studies” Eleanor Zelliot, Carleton College

“Novetzke is a skilled and sensitive writer, and he has produced a challenging, erudite, and engaging book that will interest both historians and scholars of religion” William R. Pinch, Wesleyan University.

Christian Lee Novetzke is Professor at the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies in the South Asia Program and Comparative Religion Program.

Read an interview with Christian Lee Novetske here

Paperback/ Rs 695/ BUY

08 August 2018


By the Author of

The Imaginary Institution of India
The Trajectories of the Indian State
The Enchantment of Democracy and India

Sudipta Kaviraj has long been internationally recognized as a political analyst and thinker. In this book he shows that he is also one of the most acute writers on the interconnections of literature and politics. The essays here lie at the intersection of three disciplines: the study of literature, social theory, and intellectual history.

Kaviraj argues that serious reflections on modernity’s predicaments and bafflements lie in literature. Modernity introduced new literary forms—such as the novel and the autobiography—to Indian writers. These became reflections on the nature of modernity. Some of the questions central to modern European social theory also grew into significant themes within Indian literary reflection.

What was the nature of the self—did modernity alter this nature? What was the character of power under conditions of modern history? How is the power of the modern state felt by individuals? How does modern politics affect the personality of a sensitive individual? Is love possible between intensely self-conscious people? How do individuals cope with the transience of affections, the fragility of social ties? Kaviraj’s essays show modern Indian literature as reflections on modern times, particularly of their experiential interior.

SUDIPTA KAVIRAJ is professor of Indian politics and intellectual history at Columbia University. He has also taught for many years at SOAS, London University, and at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He has been a fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford, and a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as at the University of Chicago.

Paperback/ Rs 695

13 July 2018


Empires between Islam and Christianity uses the innovative approach of “connected histories” to address a series of questions regarding the early modern world in the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic.

The period between 1500 and 1800 was one of intense inter-imperial competition involving the Iberians, the Ottomans, the Mughals, the British, and other actors. Rather than understand these imperial entities separately, Sanjay Subrahmanyam reads their archives and texts together to show unexpected connections and refractions.

He further proposes, in this set of closely argued studies, that these empires often borrowed from each other, or built their projects with knowledge of other competing visions of empire. The emphasis on connections is also crucial for an understanding of how a variety of genres of imperial and global history-writing developed in the early modern world.

The book moves creatively between political, economic, intellectual, and cultural themes to suggest a fresh geographical conception for the epoch.


is Distinguished Professor and Irving & Jean Stone Chair of Social Sciences in the Department of History in UCLA. He is also a long-term invited professor at the Collège de France (Paris). He has authored a number of books on early modern South Asian, Iberian, and global history, including The Portuguese Empire in Asia (1993), The Career and Legend of Vasco da Gama (1997), Courtly Encounters (2012), and Europe’s India (2017). He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.

Hardback| Rs 995

18 June 2018

PUMPKIN FLOWER FRITTERS: Back in gorgeous new clothes


Some of these recipes have fed and delighted Jawaharlal Nehru and Sarojini Naidu. All of them have provided nourishment and comfort to generations of Bengali families. Now for the first time, these time-tested recipes are available in English.

Renuka Devi Choudhurani (1910–1985) was married off at the age of ten into a zamindari family. That was when her culinary education began, mainly from her father-in-law, but also from itinerant bawarchis and specialist cooks. As her interest in good food developed, she took to collecting and recording recipes. Ultimately, she published a two-volume Bengali work containing about 400 vegetarian and 300 fish- and meat-based recipes. From the simplest dal to the most elaborate biryani, her recipes are easy to follow, and produce delicious results.

This book contains a wide-ranging selection from the original Bengali work. It covers all the courses that might normally be served in a Bengali meal: starters, fritters, vegetables, lentils, rice, fish, meat, chutneys, dessert. Renuka Devi’s eloquent autobiographical introduction is also included here. 


29 April 2018


This book shows how Indian cinema’s many origins in the technologies and practices of the nineteenth century continue to play a vital and broad function in the twenty-first.
Mahadevan proposes that there has never been a singular cinema in India; rather, Indian cinema has been a multifaceted phenomenon that was understood, experienced, and present in everyday life in myriad ways.

Employing methods of media archaeology, close textual analysis, archival research, and cultural theory, he digs into the history of photography, print media, practices of piracy and showmanship, and contemporary everyday imaginations of the cinema to provide an understanding of how the cinema came to be such a dominant cultural force in India. The result is an innovative account of Indian cinema’s “many origins.”

“a rich study of a wide array of primary materials and an important intervention about how we might try to imagine writing the many histories of cinema . . . provides us with new lenses through which we can reconstruct the past and begin to understand the present . . . at a historical moment when the state is aggressively promoting narrow ideas of cultural nationalism, Mahadevan’s book is a powerful reminder that what we tend to take for granted as ‘national’ cultural practices actually emerged through the traffic and circulation of images and material infrastructures across India, Britain and Europe. For all this and more, Mahadevan’s engaging and elegantly written book should be on every cinema student’s reading list”

“Through its brilliant excavation of the media ecology in which cinema made itself at home in early twentieth century India, this book makes a major contribution to both film studies and to the cultural history of Indian modernity, and widens our understanding of how to do film history and media archaeology” MANISHITA DASS

“This book asks us to look at the emergence of cinema at key historical junctures and through certain persistent lines of connection with the contemporary. Exploring the relationship amongst photography, print culture, the circulation of media commodities and the formation of early cinema, Sudhir Mahadevan undertakes a work of archaeology which argues that older media configurations never quite go away. The result is a stimulating series of provocations challenging linear histories and and opening up multiple archives to engage film and media experience”

“a work of great theoretical sophistication and rigorous historical scholarship. A revisionist and definitive treatment of early Indian film, the book shows how prevailing attitudes toward technology, photography, empire, commodity, and mass culture made the cinema a socially and culturally distinct form in India. Drawing on a wealth of primary research, A Very Old Machine fills many gaps. Anyone who wants to know how Indian cinema became Indian will need to consult this book” JAMES MORRISON

SUDHIR MAHADEVAN is Associate Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature, Cinema and Media, at the University of Washington.

15 January 2018

Get the Smell Right by Rukun Advani

When the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014, the apprehension in academic publishers' minds that sales of liberal and Left books might suffer was offset by the assumption that the economy would flourish and keep them happy. Also, since no one in the new regime was likely to be interested in looking at anything written too long after the Vedas and the Golden Age of Sanskrit, there did not seem much cause for worry. In any case, the Congress had never failed to cave in when the crunch came to choosing between freedom of expression and mob violence, so the general situation seemed well described by the French cynicism of plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

But what did create chaos for publishers, as much as for everyone else, was demonetization. Once people decide against buying everything seen as inessential, roughly the first thing they stop buying in India is books. With sales plummeting, most publishers and booksellers in the business of selling general books had to look around for alternative earning methods. Some supplemented bookselling with renting out bookshop space for talks and events, some switched desperately to editorial and design services. My own attempt was to try and find out if translation rights could be sold abroad for some of the academic books I had published. The Chinese and the Japanese had bought rights for some of Partha Chatterjee's learned tomes. Why not try selling many more such to them as well as to the Europeans? In this effort I was not very successful, but my attempt did yield some quite interesting information about the whole business of publishing translations.

The key question to ask when trying to sell translation rights, I discovered, was: "What precisely is there within a book that will persuade a publisher abroad to buy translation rights?" Scholarly books, it became clear, do not travel unless the body of ideas they contain is quite path-breaking. Only four scholars that I'd published struck a chord in foreign presses, and the reason seemed to be that each of them was identified with one particular Grand Idea. Ranajit Guha was seen as Subaltern Studies. Partha Chatterjee was seen as Political Society (as against Civil Society). Ashis Nandy was known as the Intimate Enemy. And the historian, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, was connected with his notion of Connected Histories. The conclusion I came to was that in order to sell an academic author into a foreign language, the publisher needs to be able to show the buyer a Grand Idea couched within a simple mnemonic, such as Subaltern Studies, Political Society, Intimate Enemy, or Connected Histories. When no such short phrase is available, the possibilities dim.

When I put my key question to Christopher MacLehose - a friend famous for publishing world literature in English translation (Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy being among his best-known acquisitions) - he answered in an intriguing way: "The answer to your question could be 'the smell of egg in a drop of blood falling from a kitchen ceiling'."

Read the rest here in The Telegraph

30 December 2017

Living Class in Urban India: by Sara Dickey

Honorable Mention in the 
Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy 
Book Prize 2018

"She achieves an extraordinarily intimate understanding of her subjects' circumstances"

Economic and Political Weekly

 Many people still envision India as rigidly caste-bound, locked in traditions that inhibit social mobility. In reality, class mobility has long been an ideal, and today globalization is radically transforming how India’s citizens perceive class. Living Class in Urban India examines a nation in flux, bombarded with media images of middle-class consumers navigating the currents of capitalism and the inequality they can produce.

Anthropologist Sara Dickey puts a human face on the issue of class in India, introducing four people who live in the “second-tier” city of Madurai: an auto-rickshaw driver, a graphic designer, a teacher of high-status English, and a domestic worker.
Drawing from over thirty years of fieldwork, she considers how class is determined by both subjective perceptions and objective conditions, documenting Madurai residents’ palpable day-to-day experiences of class while also tracking their long-term impacts. By analyzing phenomena like wedding ceremonies, religious practices, philanthropy, and loan arrangements, Dickey’s study reveals the material consequences of local class identities. Simultaneously, this gracefully written book highlights the poignant drive for dignity in the face of moralizing class stereotypes.
Through extensive interviews, Dickey scrutinizes the idioms and commonplaces used by residents to justify class inequality and, occasionally, to subvert it. Along the way, Living Class in Urban India reveals the myriad ways that class status is interpreted and performed, embedded in everything from cellphone usage to religious worship.

Sara Dickey is a professor of anthropology at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. She is the author or co-editor of several books including Cinema and the Urban Poor in South India, Home and Hegemony: Domestic Service and Identity Politics in South and Southeast Asia, and South Asian Cinemas: Widening the Lens.

HB| 280 pp| Rs 795 

27 November 2017


“… here we see Sarkar grappling with his intellectual heritage, negotiating his own location within the new Marxist nationalist history of the period. Working within its frame, he pushes at the boundaries, disturbing neat classificatory schemes, resisting false historical comparisons, problematizing categories, and questioning linear narratives. The desire to explore contrary experiences and contradictory pictures is part of his process of questioning”


For the past forty years or more, the most influential, respected, and popular scholar of modern Indian history has been Sumit Sarkar. When his first monograph, The Swadeshi Movement in Bengal 1903–1908, appeared in 1973 it soon became obvious that the book represented a paradigm shift within its genre. As Dipesh Chakrabarty put it when the work was republished in 2010: “Very few monographs, if any, have ever rivalled the meticulous research and the thick description that characterised this book, or the lucidity of its exposition and the persuasive power of its overall argument.”

Ten years later, Sarkar published Modern India 1885–1947, a textbook for advanced students and teachers. Its synthesis and critique of everything significant that had been written about the period was seen as monumental, lucid, and the fashioning of a new way of looking at colonialism and nationalism.

Sarkar, however, changed the face not only of modern Indian history monographs and textbooks, he also radically altered the capacity of the historical essay. As Beethoven stretched the sonata form beyond earlier conceivable limits, Sarkar can be said to have expanded the academic essay. In his hands, the shorter form becomes in miniature both monograph and textbook.

The present collection, which reproduces many of Sarkar’s finest writings, shows an intellectually scintillating, sceptical-Marxist mind at its sharpest.

SUMIT SARKAR is unarguably India’s best-known and most widely admired scholar of modern Indian history. His many books include Writing Social History (1997), Beyond Nationalist Frames (2002), and Modern Times: India 1880s–1950s (2014). He has co-edited (with Tanika Sarkar) Women and Social Reform in Modern India (2007), and Caste in Modern India (2013). He was for many years Professor of History at the University of Delhi, Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, and visiting professor at illustrious campuses in the USA and Europe.

HB | RS 1495 | BUY HERE | OR HERE |

29 September 2017


“Jean Drèze is one of the world’s finest development economists. He works in a space that is widely but incorrectly ignored by most. The practical implications of evidence-based economics cannot be worked through without engaging all of society in democratic discussion, including (especially) those who are working for change. Economics itself fails without that engagement. In this collection of beautiful essays, some previously unpublished, Drèze uses economics, philosophy, and his extensive practical experience to illuminate the whole range of social policy in India. Read on!”

Nobel Laureate, Economic Sciences, 2015

Photograph of Jean Dreze copyright Anuradha Roy

  Jean Drèze has a rare and distinctive understanding of the Indian economy and its relationship with the social life of ordinary people. He has travelled widely in rural India and done fieldwork of a kind that few economists have attempted. This has enabled him to make invaluable contributions not only to public debates on economic and social policy but also to our knowledge of the actual state of the country. 

Drèze’s insights on India’s “unfashionable” issues – hunger, poverty, inequality, corruption, and conflict – are all on display here and offer a unique perspective on the evolution of social policy over roughly the past two decades. Historic legislations and initiatives of the period, relating for instance to the right to food and the right to work, are all scrutinised and explained, as are the fierce debates that often accompanied them.

“Jholawala” has become a disparaging term for activists in the business media. This book affirms the learning value of collective action combined with sound economic analysis. In his detailed Introduction, Drèze persuasively argues for an approach to development economics where research and action become inseparably interconnected.

This is a book as much for economists as for every reading citizen.


"A wonderful book by Jean Dreze, India’s Orwell... a distinctly Orwellian anger at poverty and injustice, combined with sparse prose & forensic eye for detail. Dreze is Orwell Plus." 
-- Duncan Green 

"Beautifully produced, with a catchy and moving introduction...this collection is a pleasure to read. Drèze writes elegantly and passionately, shorn of rhetoric, arguing that we see India from the lens of the marginalised" 
ASHWINI DESHPANDE, Professor of Economics at Delhi University, in the Indian Express

INDIA's economists should listen to its activists. Economist Jean Dreze's new book makes an increasingly necessary argument that creating a morally good, progressive society is as important as improving traditional development indexes 

It is this combination of passion and humour, of sincerity and argumentativeness, that makes Jean Dreze's book such a compelling read. You may not always agree with the happy warrior, but you have to engage with him. Besides, he is good company! 
 Maitreesh Ghatak, Professor of Economics at the LSE, on NDTV 

"Offers a remarkable view of these tumultuous years...Not just younger readers but even those familiar with the ground covered in the book will find it useful – occasionally startlingly – to be reminded of the distance India has travelled"
Supriya Sharma in Scroll

"The essays make a rich contribution to several ongoing debates... The right-based schemes, the debates regarding universal basic income and formulation of public policy through a democratic process owe a huge intellectual debt to the jholawalas, of which Jean Dreze is a giant. It is unfortunate that governments have been shutting down skylights, windows and doors to ideas and inputs from outside. Challenges faced by India are too complex to be resolved from fortresses atop Raisina Hill. History bears testimony to that" 
Sunil Bahri reviews SENSE & SOLIDARITY in Outlook.

"Hope the book is translated into the many regional languages of India."  
Huffington Post reviews Sense & Solidarity 

"What distinguishes Dreze from many economists is his solidarity with the lower strata of Indian society. He has used his understanding of economics to study their day-to-day problems, of making a living, of attending to their health problems, of educating their young ones, and much more. This is the content he gives to what has come to be known as “development economics”"
C. T. Kurien in FRONTLINE

Jean Drèze studied Mathematical Economics at the University of Essex and did his PhD (Economics) at the Indian Statistical Institute. He has taught at the London School of Economics and the Delhi School of Economics, and is currently Visiting Professor at Ranchi University. He has made wide-ranging contributions to development economics, with special reference to India. He is co-author (with Amartya Sen) of Hunger and Public Action (1989) and An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions (2013). He is also one of the co-authors of the Public Report on Basic Education in India, known as the PROBE Report. Drèze is active in various campaigns for social and economic rights as well as in the world-wide movement for peace and disarmament. Since 2002, when he became an Indian citizen, he has lived and worked in India.


26 September 2017


This collection explores what may be called the idea of India in ancient times. Its undeclared  objective is to identify key concepts which show early Indian civilization as distinct and differently oriented from other formations.

Read an excerpt here in Scroll.in

The essays focus on ancient Indian texts within a variety of genres. They identify certain key terms – such as Janapada, Desa, Varna, Dharma, Bhava – in their empirical contexts to suggest that neither the ideas embedded in these terms nor the idea of Bharatvarsa as a whole are “given entities”, but that they evolved historically.

Professor Chattopadhyaya examines these texts to unveil historical processes. Without denying comparative history, he stresses that the internal dynamics of a society are best decoded via its own texts. His approach bears very effectively on understanding ongoing interactions between India’s “Great Tradition” and “Little Traditions”.

As a whole, this book is critical of the notion of overarching Indian unity in the ancient period. It punctures the retrospective thrust of hegemonic nationalism as an ideology that has obscured the diverse textures of Indian civilization.

Renowned for his scholarship on the ancient Indian past, Professor Chattopadhyaya’s latest collection only consolidates his high international reputation.

B.D. Chattopadhyaya retired as Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His work on ancient India has been widely acknowledged. His many books include The Oxford India Kosambi: Combined Methods in Indology and Other Writings (2009), Studying Early India: Archaeology, Texts, and Historical Issues (2003), and The Making of Early Medieval India (1997).

HB| Rs 795| BUY

25 September 2017


If you missed these books when they came out in hardback it's time to get them now.

Bodies of Song by Linda Hess

Text and Tradition in South India, by Velcheru Narayana Rao

Beyond Caste, by Sumit Guha

Print and Pleasure, by Francesca Orsini

Dalit Studies, edited by Ramnarayan S. Rawat and K. Satyanarayana

Unconditional Equality, by Ajay Skaria

Nature and Nation, by Mahesh Rangarajan

Writing the First Person, by Udaya Kumar

The Gender of Caste, by Charu Gupta

21 September 2017

Jean Dreze: Undefeated Road Scholar

Jean Dreze was gifted the first copy of his new book, Sense and Solidarity: Jholawala Economics for Everyone, at a pine-cone studded book-launch yesterday. The launch took place at the corporate headquarters of Permanent Black in Ranikhet, Uttarakhand. 
A huge audience of deodar trees attended, listening to every word in rapt silence.

Chief Guest Prakriti Mukerjee has been among Jean's band of road scholars, being one of the many students who camped for days in remote villages working on NREGA and PDS surveys through baking summer weather. She is now Research and Communication Officer at Lok Chetna Manch, Ranikhet, and she took time out of her busy schedule to hand over a be-ribonned copy of the book to Jean, as pictured below.

Jean's new book, a superb combination of scholarship, passion, and commitment, is that rarest of things: a work of scholarship that is gripping and accessible. Angus Deaton, Nobel Laureate, who calls Dreze "one of the world's finest development economists", has described the essays as "beautiful", and says they "illuminate the whole range of social policy in India."

Jean looked pretty happy once he'd got the book out of its red ribbons.

The man in the checked shirt to the extreme right is Rukun Advani, Jean's publisher and editor. Their almost daily correspondence during the making of this book would provide material enough for an entertaining little volume; however, editorial communication at Permanent Black is covered by the Official Secrets Act. 

We can tell that the designer and general dogsbody at the press, Anuradha Roy, didn't do much more than grin in a dazed fashion. 

The support staff at Permanent Black appeared more interested in the small eats than in the book, but as publishing veterans are aware, that is the norm at book launches. 

The book will be in the market from 25th September 2017.  
We will post more information about it in the days to come.

06 August 2017


Traditional Indian panditya (scholarship) has a long and distinguished history, but is now practically extinct. Its decline is remarkably recent — traditional panditya flourished as recently as 150 years ago. The decline is also paradoxical, having occurred precipitously following a broad and remarkable flowering of the tradition between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. The important questions this decline poses are the subject of much ongoing work. The intellectual history of the period is still under construction, and the present book represents a major contribution to the edifice.

A notable impediment has been the lack of critical biographies of significant thinkers in this tradition. The importance of personal and social context for reconstructing intellectual histories is widely understood. In the classical Indian intellectual tradition, however, authors systematically exclude such context, making intellectual biography something of a rarity — very rare in English and sparse even in the regional languages.

This book contains translations from the original Kannada of the biographies of Garalapuri Shastri, Shrikanta Shastri, and Kunigala Ramashastri of nineteenth-century Mysore, all representing the highest echelons of traditional panditya at this critical period of transition. Their fields are literature, grammar, and logic, respectively. The biographies focus on the personal lives of these scholars and their many contexts.

These biographies are almost contemporaneous accounts, reflecting first-hand knowledge. The translations are accompanied by copious footnotes as well as appendices drawn from the relevant primary sources.

CHINYA. V. RAVISHANKAR has pursued life-long interests in the humanities as well as in science and technology.  He is Professor of Computer Science & Engineering and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education in the Bourns College of Engineering at the University of California, Riverside. He has been on the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science faculty at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and has a Ph.D. in Computer Sciences from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

HB| RS 995| BUY

03 August 2017


“A model of how social history stands to gain from a fuller use of legal sources.”
C. S. Adcock, American Historical Review

“An invaluable contribution…arguably the most important work to date in [Parsi studies].” 
Simin Patel, Law and History Review

“ … formidably intricate story of legal change … the author has achieved something remarkable. A community and its laws are explained.”
Raymond Cocks, Journal of Legal History

Winner of the 2015 J. Willard Hurst Award
for best book in socio-legal history, Law and Society Association

Parsi Legal Culture • 1772–1947


This book explores the legal culture of the Parsis, or Zoroastrians, an ethnoreligious community unusually invested in the colonial legal system of British India and Burma.

Rather than trying to maintain collective autonomy and integrity by avoiding interaction with the state, the Parsis sank deep into the colonial legal system itself. From the late eighteenth century until India’s independence in 1947, they became heavy users of colonial law, acting as lawyers, judges, litigants, lobbyists, and legislators. They de-Anglicized the law that governed them and enshrined in law their own distinctive models of the family and community by two routes: frequent intragroup litigation often managed by Parsi legal professionals in the areas of marriage, inheritance, religious trusts, and libel, and the creation of legislation that would become Parsi personal law.

Other South Asian communities also turned to law, but none seems to have done so earlier or in more pronounced ways than the Parsis.

Read an excerpt here, at Bombaywallah

MITRA SHARAFI is an associate professor of Law and Legal Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, with an affiliation appointment in History. Her work has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals and has been recognized by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council in the USA.

Paperback| Rs 595| Rights restricted| Buy



From the early years of the Common Era to 1700, Indian intellectuals explored with unparalleled subtlety the place of emotion in art. Their investigations led to the deconstruction of art's formal structures and broader inquiries into the pleasure of tragic tales. Rasa, or taste, was the word they chose to describe art's aesthetics, and their passionate effort to pin down these phenomena became its own remarkable act of creation.
     This book is the first in any language to follow the evolution of rasa from its origins in dramaturgical thought—a concept for the stage—to its flourishing in literary thought—a concept for the page. A Rasa Reader incorporates primary texts by every significant thinker on classical Indian aesthetics, many never translated before.
     The arrangement of the selections captures the intellectual dynamism that has powered this debate for centuries. Headnotes explain the meaning and significance of each text, a comprehensive introduction summarizes major threads in intellectual-historical terms, and critical endnotes and an extensive bibliography add further depth to the selections.
     The Sanskrit theory of emotion in art is one of the most sophisticated in the ancient world. A Rasa Reader's conceptual detail, historical precision, and clarity will appeal to any scholar interested in a full portrait of global intellectual development.

"It is a pleasure to follow the various streams of argument that Pollock traces through the classical texts. A poet does not pour forth rasa until he himself overflows with it, so it is with this insightful scholar. This is indeed a source book for rasa. What now remains is for regional scholars to take up and continue the debate on why and how aesthetics came to be subjugated to or dominated by knowledge. This could help us understand ourselves a little better by coming to terms with art and literature and reintegrating with the world at large."
 Murali Sivaramakrishnan, The Hindu

SHELDON POLLOCK is the Arvind Raghunathan Professor of Sanskrit and South Asian Studies at Columbia University. His publications include Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia (2003); The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India (2006); and World Philology (2015). He is founding general editor of the Murty Classical Library of India, recipient of the Padma Shri award from the Government of India, and fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.