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Partha Chatterjee wins prestigious award

  The Columbia University Press Distinguished Book Award 2021 has gone to Partha Chatterjee's I AM THE PEOPLE. In a statement, the awarding committee said: "Chatterjee’s genealogy of populist politics, in India and around the world, is at once a significant intervention into political theory and a trenchant diagnosis of our contemporary condition. Chatterjee brings critical theory to life, using it not only to deconstruct the modern nation-state but also to excavate the more hopeful possibilities embedded in the present." The award is be given annually by the Press to a book by a Columbia University faculty member that brings the highest distinction to Columbia University and Columbia University Press for its outstanding contribution to academic and public discourse. The Press’s faculty Publication Committee members serve as jurors. Each year they will consider books published in the two full calendar years prior to the award year. The winning au
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SÁLIM ALI: WORDS FOR BIRDS The Collected Radio Broadcasts

“Fifty years ago bird watching in India was nowhere as popular, or indeed respectable, as it has become today. In my younger days I would time and again fall in with persons who left me with a feeling, as they withdrew, that they were inwardly tapping a pitying finger on their foreheads. Their first glimpse of me very often was, it is true, of a distinctly shabby khaki-clad individual of the garage mechanic type, wandering leisurely and rather aimlessly about the countryside and surreptitiously peeping into bushes, and holes in tree-trunks and earth banks” The ornithologist Sálim Ali has long been synonymous with the scholarship, appreciation, and conservation of Indian birdlife. It is not as well known that he was also the most engaging raconteur about birds. This aspect – the great ornithologist as enthralling storyteller – is most apparent in this, the first and only, collection of all his radio broadcasts. The thirty-five talks that comprise this book were broadcast between 1941 an

Niraja Gopal Jayal: Citizenship Imperilled; India's Fragile Democracy

  Who is an Indian? For the first time since independence, the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 brought Indians face-to-face with this question. In line with the idea of a Hindu Rashtra in which only Hindus are fully worthy of being Indian citizens, the amendment suggests Indian citizenship should be faith-based. It attempts to diminish the value given to religious diversity and equal citizenship, regardless of religion, by the Indian constitution.      With this, India has turned its back on the civic nationalism, however fragile and imperfect, forged over the anti-colonial struggle and largely sustained since independence. Its civic nationalism is now threatened by cultural nationalism in the form of religious majoritarianism.      This book examines how the constitutional guarantee of equal citizenship has been imperilled. It traces changes in the law and practices of citizenship advanced by Hindu majoritarianism. It examines the implications of these changes for India’s secular democ

SHERALI TAREEN: DEFENDING MUHAMMAD IN MODERNITY

WINNER OF THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PAKISTAN STUDIES BOOKS PRIZE 2020 Finalist for the American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence, Analytical-Descriptive Studies     In this groundbreaking study, SherAli Tareen offers the most comprehensive account of the longest running dispute in modern Islam: the Barelvī–Deobandī polemic. The Barelvī and Deobandī groups are two normative orientations with beginnings in colonial South Asia almost two hundred years ago, yet their differences haunt the religious sensibilities of South Asian Muslims even today. Tareen challenges those who see intra-Muslim contest through the prism of liberal-secular binaries like legal/mystical, moderate/extremist, and reformist/traditionalist. He argues that the Barelvī–Deobandī polemic was animated by “competing political theologies” – contrasting visions of the normative relationship between divine sovereignty, prophetic charisma, and the practice of everyday life. Based on a close reading of unexplored print

"Every nationality has its own distinct stench": by G. Kanato Chophy

A wonderfully written and deeply moving new book on society and history in Nagaland over the past couple of centuries has just been published by Permanent Black and Ashoka University in collaboration with the New India Foundation. Its young author, G. Kanato Chophy, is one of the brightest Naga scholars on the Indian horizon from the north-east. Permanent Black asked Kanato to reflect on what’s in his book and why he wrote it. For some time now I’ve been wanting to work on a book called “constitutional Indians” – a concept that I have briefly touched upon in the conclusion of the book you’ve just published. My argument in it is that, for a putatively renegade ethnic community like the Nagas, the “idea of India” hangs precariously in the balance, supported by a piece of paper, the Indian Constitution, which we have until recently understood as a guarantee of equal rights to Indian citizens irrespective of religion, ethnicity, class, and gender. I belong to an emerging class of educated

CHRISTIANITY AND POLITICS IN TRIBAL INDIA by G. KANATO CHOPHY

“Richly researched and stylishly written, Kanato Chophy’s social history of Naga Christianity is a major contribution to the literature on a vital, fascinating, yet massively under-studied part of South Asia. This book will be read, and its arguments debated, for years to come.”  RAMACHANDRA GUHA Landlocked and remote, the mountain state of Nagaland in north-east India has, within a century of missionary contact, become the most Baptist state in the world. Nearly 80 per cent of Nagaland’s two million people are devout Christian adherents of this sect. This makes Nagaland the religious outlier of India – a country in which about 80 per cent of the population is Hindu. How has this come to be? G. Kanato Chophy chronicles the historical and socio-cultural processes by which Naga tribals – known a century ago as “primitive headhunters” – were transformed into a vibrant and politically assertive community of the Christian faith in colonial and post-Independence India. Besides outlining the

Reading Savarkar: Vinayak Chaturvedi

Vinayak Chaturvedi's Essentials of History: VD Savarkar and the Meaning of Hindutva will be published in 2022 by Permanent Black and Ashoka University, and subsequently by the State University of New York Press. Here is a taster, out now in Scroll.   Reading Savarkar: Was the Hindutva icon actually Hinduphobic? Accusations of Hinduphobia in those who do not see eye-to-eye with Hindutva have reached new heights in recent years. An obscure 19th-century concept is now the default mantra for Hindutva-vadis against all critiques of their ideas. The recent furore against the upcoming conference called “Dismantling Global Hindutva” (September 10-September 12) has made me wonder whether, ironically, these same individuals might also – if they had the patience and capacity to read his large corpus of writing – need to identify Vinayak Damodar Savarkar as Hinduphobic.  After all, a basic truth made clear in Savarkar’s writing is that Hindutva is not Hinduism . They are not equivalents. In

PARTHA CHATTERJEE: THE TRUTHS AND LIES OF NATIONALISM as narrated by Charvak

"While the Covid-19 pandemic was still raging in the autumn of 2020, I found, one evening, placed outside the door of my home in Kolkata, a sealed packet. Apparently, it had been left there sometime during the day. It did not come by post or any of the courier services that usually deliver mail because, if it had, someone would have rung the bell and I was home all day. In fact, the parcel did not bear any seal or inscription except my name and address written in English script in a confident cursive style rarely seen these days. My curiosity was aroused because the package did not look like a piece of junk mail. The thought that it might contain something more sinister did strike my mind – after all, the times were not exactly normal. But something in the look of the packet persuaded me that it should be examined. After dutifully spraying the packet with a disinfectant, I unwrapped it and found, within cardboard covers and neatly tied in red string, what looked like a manuscript

THE MUGHALS AND THE SUFIS: Read an excerpt in Scroll.in

In this new book, Muzaffar Alam synthesises two major areas of his expertise – Mughal History and India Islam – to show how rulers interact with religious figures and institutions. In the present Indian context, where the ruling regime is closely connected with religion, Muzaffar Alam’s book is startlingly relevant in showing similar iterations of such strong associations – and some of their consequences – between religion and rulers during the Mughal Period. Like imperial dispensations in many places and times, Mughal India involved a complex nexus between political elites and religious divines. They had mutual sympathies as well as differences – sometimes apparently irreconcilable – regarding the management of politics and the social order. In this book I have tried to show the trajectory of these differences, historical and political, as well as the efforts on each side to accommodate and adjust with the other. Amongst both political and religious elites, there were var

Just out: Muzaffar Alam's THE MUGHALS AND THE SUFIS

"In his new book, The Mughals and the Sufis – Islam and Political Imagination in India: 1500–1750 , Alam once again breaks new ground, this time by harmonising two major domains of scholarship – Mughal History and Indian Islam – honed with painstaking care over a lifetime of study. What emerges is a highly nuanced and complex examination of the relationship between Mughal political culture and the two dominant strains of Islam’s Sufi traditions in South Asia: one centred around orthodoxy, the other focusing on a more inclusive and mystical spirituality" AVIK CHANDA,  Scroll This book examines the complex evolution of relationships between the Mughal court and two dominant modes of Islamic mysticism in early-modern India: one centred around conservative orthodoxy, the other around a more accommodating and eclectic approach to spirituality. Based on Persian texts, court chronicles, epistolary collections, and biographies of Sufi mystics, this book outlines and analyses