26 December 2009


Anupama Rao

The Caste Question

Dalits and the Politics of Modern India

This innovative work of historical anthropology explores how India's Dalits, or ex-untouchables, transformed themselves from stigmatized subjects into citizens. Anupama Rao’s account challenges standard thinking on caste as either a vestige of precolonial society or an artifact of colonial governance. Focusing on western India in the colonial and postcolonial periods, she shines a light on South Asian historiography and on ongoing caste discrimination, to show how persons without rights came to possess them and how Dalit struggles led to the transformation of such terms of colonial liberalism as rights, equality, and personhood. Extending into the present, the ethnographic analyses of The Caste Question reveal the dynamics of an Indian democracy distinguished not by overcoming caste, but by new forms of violence and new means of regulating caste.

“Anupama Rao has written a powerful book on caste, a subject that has dramatic importance not only for the history of democracy in modern India, but for the general discussion on the interferences of social inequalities and cultural exclusions. The Caste Question goes beyond the usual antitheses of localism and globalism, and illustrates a decisive notion of intensive universality. It will be of considerable interest for scholars and students who look for an updated reflection on the anthropological dimensions of the political—and vice versa.”—Etienne Balibar

“Rao, a truly fine scholar, offers a profound reflection, at once historically rich and theoretically nuanced, on the nature of political modernity itself. Her ‘alternative history of democratic liberalism’ rooted in the global south demands a wide readershipacross the social sciences and humanities—and beyond.”—John Comaroff

“Anupama Rao's sweeping account of a century of ‘caste radicalism’ among Mahar dalits in western India [offers] an extended argument about the salience of dalit politics for many of the foundational categories of modern Indian democracy. She is entirely convincing in this brilliant and audacious re-evaluation of political modernity in India through the perspective of anti-caste struggles.”—Mrinalini Sinha

“Rao offers us a sustained and probing analysis of the modern history of caste in Western India, connecting issues of gender, personhood, property, and politics to facts of oppression andinequality. This is the most politically and theoretically engaged book on caste to have come out in a long time and it will do much to further discussions of citizenship in Indian democracy.”—Dipesh Chakrabarty

Hardback / 414pp / Rs 750.00 / ISBN 81-7824-286-9 / South Asia rights / Jan-Feb 2010 / Copublished with the University of California Press, Berkeley


Sunset view of Trishul (extreme left) and Nanda Devi (extreme right) from the Permanent Black office, Ranikhet

Thought-provoking signboard at golf course, Ranikhet


Over these years we've published 300+ books, hardbacks and paperbacks combined. The list speaks for itself, its high quality is internationally recognized.

Permanent Black was recently chosen by the University of California Press at Berkeley, Chicago University Press, and Columbia University Press, to be the South Asia copublisher of their collective new series titled 'South Asia Across Disciplines' (General Editors: Sheldon Pollock, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and Sanjay Subrahmanyam)

16 November 2009


Islamism and Democracy in India
The Transformation of Jamaat-e-Islami

Jamaat-e-Islami Hind is the most influential Islamist organization in India today. Founded in 1941 by Syed Abul Ala Maududi with the aim of spreading Islamic values in the subcontinent, Jamaat and its offshoot, the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), has been watched closely by Indian security services since 9/11. In particular, SIMI has been accused of being behind terrorist bombings.

Islamism and Democracy in India is the first in-depth examination of India’s Jamaat-e-Islami and SIMI. It explores political Islam’s complex relationship with democracy and gives us a rare window into one immensely significant Islamic trajectory in a Muslim-minority context.

Irfan Ahmad conducted extensive ethnographic fieldwork at a school in Aligarh, among student activists at Aligarh Muslim University, at a madrasa in Azamgarh, and during Jamaat’s participation in elections in 2002. He deftly traces Jamaat’s changing position towards India's secular democracy and the group’s gradual ideological shift in the direction of religious pluralism and tolerance. He demonstrates how the rise of militant Hindu nationalism since the 1980s—evident in the destruction of the Babri mosque and widespread violence against Muslims—led to SIMI’s radicalization, its rejection of pluralism, and its call for jihad.

Islamism and Democracy in India argues that when secular democracy is responsive to the traditions and aspirations of its Muslim citizens, Muslims in turn embrace pluralism and democracy. But when democracy becomes majoritarian and exclusionary, Muslims turn radical.

IRFAN AHMAD is an anthropologist and assistant professor of politics in the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University in Australia, where he helps lead the Centre for Islam and the Modern World.


For an interview of the author in THE HINDU, copy-paste-click this link in your browser:

“This is an outstanding historical and ethnographic account of one of the most influential Islamist movements in South Asia. It is the result of courageous fieldwork at a time of increased Hindu-Muslim tension in India. The book's thesis that even a radically antisecular Islamist movement can be transformed into supporting secular democracy is an extremely important contribution to today's global discussions. It is essential reading for political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, historians, and students of Islam.”—Peter van der Veer

“Irfan Ahmad's book could not be more timely or important. At a time when clichés about ‘Islamists’ and ‘Islamic terrorists’ abound, he demonstrates the ideological transformation of one of the twentieth century’s most important Islamist movements, India’s Jamaat-e-Islami, in support of active participation in a secular, plural democracy. Ahmad’s work is essential reading not only for scholars, but for policymakers and concerned citizens alike.”—Barbara D. Metcalf

“This is the most important book written on Muslims in India in the last three decades. Ahmad traces the incremental shift of most adherents of Jamaat-e-Islami to moderation and participation in Indian democracy, showing that from its inception the movement has been thoroughly modern. He deals with an aspect of India that is frequently neglected and engages the main debates concerning the relation of Islam to democracy.”—Dale F. Eickelman

HARDBACK / 328PP / Rs 695 / ISBN 81-7824-269-9 / SOUTH ASIA RIGHTS / Publishing in January 2010 / Copublished with Princeton University Press

28 October 2009


The World’s First Anti-Dam Movement
The Mulshi Satyagraha 1920–1924

During the time of contemporary India’s most famous anti-dam movement, the Narmada Bachao Andolan, a professor of politics in Pune, Rajendra Vora, wrote a study in Marathi of that movement’s forgotten predecessor. Back in the 1920s, the peasants of Mulshi Peta, near Pune, had protested against the construction of a dam being built with government support by the industrial house of the Tatas.

The struggle was led by Pandurang Mahadev ('Senapati') Bapat, a socialist and nationalist who had been educated in England. Like Medha Patkar of the Narmada Andolan, Bapat was a leader of much charisma and courage. Like her, he identified completely with the peasants who fought to save their ancestral lands from being submerged.

In 1995, Rajendra Vora's book on the Mulshi Satyagraha won the prestigious G.H. Deshmukh award of the Pune Sahitya Parishad. Vora was then persuaded to write an English version. This is that version: it is less a straight translation than a text extensively rewritten for an English-reading audience, including a chapter which links contemporary anti-dam protests with ideas and activities first expressed in the 1920s.

This is a study that will engage a wide range of audiences—those interested in Maharashtrian history, in the history of Indian nationalism, in the politics of the environment, in the sociology of peasant protest, and in alternative strategies of economic development.

RAJENDRA VORA (1946–2008) was Lokmanaya Tilak Professor of Political Science at the University of Pune, from which position he retired in September 2006. He was deeply concerned and connected with political and social processes, and the direction he gave to research in this area has influenced two generations of students and researchers. He co-edited Indian Democracy: Meanings and Practices (2004) as well as an encyclopaedic dictionary of political science in Marathi, Rajyashastra Kosh (1987).

At a function in Fergusson College, Pune, on 25 October 2009, Medha Patkar addressed a distinguished gathering in honour of the late Rajendra Vora and his posthumous book (see news cutting above).

Hardback / 240pp / ISBN 81-7824-248-6 / Rs 595 / World rights / 2009

20 October 2009

THE TIMES OF HINDUSTANI: Bharatendu to Manto, via Premchand

Nationalism in the Vernacular

Hindi, Urdu, and the Literature of Indian Freedom

with Introductions by Vasudha Dalmia and Christopher Shackle

This anthology comprises a selection of formative literary writings in Hindi and Urdu from the second half of the nineteenth century, leading up to Indian Independence and the creation of Pakistan. The texts here are mostly hitherto unpublished translations into English.

The anthology provides a picture of how nationalism—as a cultural ideology and political movement—was formed in literature.
Unlike other anthologies, this one focuses on writings in two North Indian vernaculars with a contested relationship: Hindi and Urdu. The combination is deliberate: the relationship of Hindi and Urdu was being consolidated and sealed even as these texts were being written.

There are two separate Introductions to this anthology. Each grounds, respectively, the peculiar paths taken by Hindi and Urdu proponents and practitioners.
The anthology emphasizes the shared ground of Hindi and Urdu. The Hindi and Urdu texts are arranged into eight thematic clusters, each represented by a nationalist mode of reasoning. Autobiographical writings in Hindi, prison poetry in Urdu, and social reform writings around gender, caste, class, and Dalits are also included in this fascinating collection.

SHOBNA NIJHAWAN teaches Hindi at York University in Canada. Her PhD, on women’s Hindi journals and nationalism, was from the University of California, Berkeley. Her special areas of interest lie in South and Southeast Asian Studies (Hindi/Urdu), with an emphasis on women, gender, and sexuality.

Hardback / 536pp / Rs 795.00 / ISBN 81-7824-260-5 / World rights / Early 2010

16 October 2009

Finally Arriving and Soon to be Seen: The Siberian Crane of Indian Political Analysis


The Imaginary Institution of India

Politics and Ideas

Sudipta Kaviraj has long been recognized as among India’s most thoughtful and wide-ranging political thinkers and analysts, and one of the subtlest and most learned writers on Indian politics in recent times. Paradoxically, this has remained something of a state secret, because Kaviraj’s writings on these subjects have remained scattered in learned journals, many of which remain difficult to access. So the present volume fills a most important gap in the literature on politics and political thought in South Asia.

Among Kaviraj’s many strengths is his quite exceptional ability to position Indian politics within the frameworks of political philosophy in the West alongside perspectives from Indian history and indigenous political thought. The writings collected here range over a wide terrain, including studies of the peculiar nature of Indian democracy; the specificities of the regimes of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi; political culture in Independent India; the construction of colonial power; the relationship between state, society, and discourse in India; the structure of nationalist discourse; language and identity formation in Indian contexts; the relation of development with democracy and democratic functioning; and the interface of religion, politics, and modernity in South Asia.

This volume will be indispensable for every student and scholar of South Asian politics, history, and sociology.

SUDIPTA KAVIRAJ, currently a professor of politics at Columbia University, was earlier a professor of politics at the University of Chicago. Before that he taught for many years at SOAS, London University, following a long stint as reader in politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Hardback / 308pp / Rs 695.00 / ISBN 81-7824-283-4 / South Asia rights / Publishing Early 2010
Copublisher: Columbia University Press

09 October 2009


War and Peace in Modern India

A Strategic History of the Nehru Years

Srinath Raghavan

During his seventeen years as prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru led India through one of its most difficult and potentially explosive periods in international affairs. As the leader of a new state created amidst the bloodiest partition in history, saddled with new and outstanding problems, Nehru was confronted with a range of disputes which threatened to boil over.

Srinath Raghavan draws on a rich vein of untapped documents to illuminate Nehru’s approach to war and his efforts for peace. Vividly recreating the intellectual and political milieu of the Indian foreign policy establishment, he explains the response of Nehru and his top advisors to the tensions with Junagadh, Hyderabad, Pakistan, and China. He gives individual attention to every conflict and shows how strategic decisions for each crisis came to be defined in the light of the preceding ones. The book follows Nehru as he wrestles with a string of major conflicts—assessing the utility of force, weighing risks of war, exploring diplomatic options for peace, and forming strategic judgements that would define his reputation, both within his lifetime and after.

War and Peace in Modern India challenges and revises our received understanding of Nehru’s handling of international affairs. General readers as well as students of Indian history and politics will find its balanced consideration of Nehru’s foreign policy essential to gauge his achievements, his failures, and his enduring legacy.

SRINATH RAGHAVAN is Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, and Lecturer in Defence Studies at King’s College London. He is currently writing an international history of the India–Pakistan war of 1971 and the creation of Bangladesh.

For a review of this book by Kanti Bajpai in Seminar 611 of July 2010, see:


War and Peace in Modern India is a major contribution to both history and international relations. In this book, Srinath Raghavan breaks new ground in his research, and in his arguments. He convincingly demonstrates that when it came to protecting India’s security and national interests, Nehru was far more of a “realist” than had previously been supposed. At the same time, his book greatly illuminates the process of state-formation in a large, complex, diverse, and newly independent country. It will influence scholarly debates for years to come.’ — Ramachandra Guha, author of India after Gandhi

‘A remarkable analysis, based on meticulous scholarship, of Nehru’s crisis-handling — in relation to Kashmir, the princely states, Pakistan, and China — and his search for an effective balance between diplomacy and coercion. By demonstrating how strategic thinking emerges in practical contexts, and not through abstract theoretical reasoning, Srinath Raghavan makes an important contribution to current debates in India and elsewhere.’ — Sunil Khilnani, Starr Foundation Professor, SAIS, Johns Hopkins University

‘In this important and readable book, Srinath Raghavan breaks new historical ground with a thorough and acute analysis of Nehru's foreign policy, demonstrating the subtlety and confidence with which he approached the various crises he faced as India's Prime Minister until he was caught out by China.’Sir Lawrence Freedman, Professor of War Studies and Vice Principal, King’s College London

War and Peace in Modern India is international history at its very best: broadly researched, tightly argued and with new interpretations on nearly every page. Raghavan’s book uses precisely the approach that the much under-studied international history of India needs.’ O.A. Westad, Professor of International History, LSE, and author of the Bancroft Prize-winning The Global Cold War

Hardback / 386pp / Rs 750 / ISBN 81-7824-257-5 / South Asia rights / Copublished by Palgrave Macmillan, London / December 2009

03 October 2009


Francesca Orsini

Print and Pleasure
Popular Literature and Entertaining Fictions in Colonial North India

Print and Pleasure tells the story behind the boom in commercial publishing in nineteenth-century North India.

How did the new technology of printing and the enterprise of Indian publishers make the book a familiar object and a necessary part of people’s leisure in a largely illiterate society? What genres became popular in print? Who read them and how were they read?

Our perception of North Indian culture in this period has been dominated by the notion of a competition between Hindi and Urdu, and the growth of language nationalism. Print and Pleasure argues that many other forces were also at work which, in the pursuit of commercial interests, spread quite different and much more hybrid tastes.

The importance of this major new book lies in showing, moreover, that book history can greatly enrich our understanding of literary and cultural history. Francesca Orsini mines a huge and largely untapped archive in order to reveal that popular songbooks, theatre transcripts, meanderingly seralized narratives, flimsily published tales, and forgotten poems are as much a part of colonial history as the elite novels and highbrow journals that are more frequently the subject of historical studies.

FRANCESCA ORSINI is Reader in the Literatures of North India at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Her previous books include The Hindi Public Sphere: Language and Literature in the Age of Nationalism (2002) and the edited volume Love in South Asia: A Cultural History (2006). She is currently involved in a project that seeks to rethink North Indian literary culture from a comparative and multilingual perspective. The next book to be edited by her, Before the Divide: Hindi and Urdu Literary Cultures, will appear soon.

‘A sparkling and immensely readable fresh perspective on nineteenth-century popular publishing.’—Graham Shaw, eminent book historian

‘This book represents the first comprehensive attempt to gauge the impact of the popular press in Hindi and Urdu in post-1857 British North India. It charts the existence in text and performance of genres now ascribed to either Hindi or Urdu. Francesca Orsini has discovered and re-created worlds lost to us after the Hindi–Urdu divide. But she has offered us no utopias, for her book also traces the slow crystallization of Hindi as separating itself from Urdu even in popular print, first cemented in the1890s detective novel industry, and in that pleasure of all pleasures—the qissa of Chandrakanta, suitably and subtly Hinduized. Truly, Print and Pleasure is pleasure in print.'—Vasudha Dalmia, Professor of Hindi at the University of California, Berkeley

HARDBACK / 328PP / RS 695.00 / ISBN 81-7824-249-4 / WORLD RIGHTS / 2010

30 September 2009

Eminent American Scholar on Women and Islam in India


Gender, Language, and Learning
Essays in Indo-Muslim Cultural History

Gender, Language and Learning is a collection of articles, published over the last thirty and more years, by a scholar who is among the most eminent Americans ever to have studied the history, life, and culture of Indian Muslims. The essays are made available together in this book for the first time.

The themes that have characterized Gail Minault’s scholarship are all in evidence here: Indian Muslim women’s rights and self-expression, Urdu as a language of cultural politics and identity, and education as a vehicle of social change among Indian Muslims. Also included is her well-known and frequently cited essay (coauthored with David Lelyveld) on the campaign for Aligarh Muslim University.

This volume will be invaluable for anyone interested in the development and trajectories of Islam in South Asia.

GAIL MINAULT is Professor of History and Asian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of The Khilafat Movement: Religious Symbolism and Political Mobilization in India (1982), and Secluded Scholars: Women’s Education and Muslim Social Reform in Colonial India (1998).

HARDBACK / 328PP / Rs 695.00 / WORLD RIGHTS / ISBN 81-7824-266-4 / WINTER 2009



The Unquiet Woods
(Twentieth Anniversary Edition)

Ecological Change and Peasant Resistance in the Himalaya

Popular initiatives to halt deforestation in the Himalaya, such as the Chipko movement, are globally renowned. It is less well known that these movements have a history stretching back more than a hundred years. A proper understanding of this long duration within the forests of submontane North India required the marriage of two scholarly traditions: the sociology of peasant protest and the ecologically oriented study of history.

Twenty years ago there appeared on this subject an unknown author’s first book: The Unquiet Woods (1989) by Ramachandra Guha. Fairly quickly, the book came to be recognized as not just another study of dissenting peasants but as something of a classic which had willy nilly opened up a whole new field— environmental history in South Asia. While the monograph has as a consequence been continuously in print within India and in the West since then, its author has become a biographer and historian of international stature.

In celebration of its twentieth year in print, The Unquiet Woods is now reissued with additional material: a new reflective preface by the author on the genesis and limitations of the book which set him off on the path of writerly success, as well as three freshly commissioned critical essays by major academic specialists (Amita Baviskar, Joan Martinez-Alier, and Paul Sutter). Taken together, this additional material situates the monograph and its influence within environmental history in India, Europe and Latin America, and the USA.

This is a book for anyone interested in the history of India’s environment, forests and their dwellers, the varieties of colonial rule, and the specificities of rural rebellion. And it is a book for anyone interested in the writings of Ramachandra Guha.

RAMACHANDRA GUHA’s most recent book is the monumental India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy. His biography of Verrier Elwin, Savaging the Civilized, fused intellectual biography with history of anthropology. Guha is also known as an essayist, columnist, and India’s supreme authority on cricket history. Now a writer at large, Guha has held the Arne Naess Chair in History in Oslo, and taught at many academic univesities and institutions including at Yale, Stanford, and Bangalore.

Hardback / 280pp / Rs 495 / ISBN 81-7824-277-X / World rights / Winter 2009

09 September 2009



Identity and Creativity from Rammohun Roy to Rabindranath Tagore

Subrata Dasgupta

Scholars have long debated the very idea of a ‘Bengal Renaissance’. Their controversies have dwelt almost entirely over whether there was anything like a ‘renaissance’ at all, and its significance or otherwise from social, political, and cultural perspectives.

This book addresses the issue from a very different framework. Subrata Dasgupta—an eminent scientist and author of a highly regarded intellectual biography of the scientist Jagadis Chandra Bose—approaches the topic from the perspective of philosophy of science and the psychology of creativity. His intention is to show that the phenomenon of the Bengal Renaissance is characterized by a certain collective cognitive identity, which had its roots in the work of the British Orientalists, beginning with William Jones, and which took form amidst a small but remarkable community of highly creative individuals in nineteenth-century Bengal.

The most notable figures in this creative community were the social reformer and savant Rammohun Roy; the poet Henry Derozio; the scholar-poet Michael Madhusudan Datta; the novelist Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay; pioneering scientists and medical men such as Mahendra Lal Sircar, Jagadis Chandra Bose, and Prafulla Chandra Ray; the mystic Sri Ramakrishna, the pedagogue Swami Vivekananda; and the all-encompassing literary figure Rabindranath Tagore. The core work of each of these major figures is outlined for its distinctive style, analysed for its contribution to an intellectual milieu, and assessed for its effect on cultural life.

Written in completely accessible and elegant English, this is a work for general readers. Those unfamiliar with the basics of the Bengal Renaissance will find it an excellent introduction to the area; scholars familiar with the area will find this perspective on cultural history from the perspective of science and psychology quite novel, unusual, and compelling.

SUBRATA DASGUPTA is the Computer Science Trust Fund Endowed Eminent Scholar, and Director of the Institute of Cognitive Science, at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he is also Professor of History. He is the author of several books, including Jagadis Chandra Bose and the Indian Response to Western Science (Permanent Black paperback, 2009), and a boyhood memoir, Salaam Stanley Matthews (Granta Books, 2006).

World rights / ISBN 81-7824-279-6 / 286pp / Rs 295



by Bill Aitken

Away from over-used tourist trails and trekking routes, Bill Aitken wanders through the Himalaya. His inclination is to enter disused colonial dak bungalows and ruined temples, meander in wild glades above the treeline carpeted with wild flowers, filling his water bottle from mountain springs and waterfalls. Having left his native Scotland in his twenties to circumnavigate the world, Aitken reached the Himalaya and stopped, enraptured.

For Aitken, travel in the Himalaya is as much about the spirit as about landscapes, leeches, and aching knees. This sets him on a lively trail of holy men, both saintly and fraudulent, across all the pilgrim centres of the Himalaya. He travels in bulging buses to Rishikesh and Badrinath, Kedarnath and Gangotri. He seeks out tiny disused temples to little-known deities like Anasuiya, and discovers a village with temples dedicated to Duryodhana. He spends seven ascetic years in an ashram at Mirtola. All along he gropes for an answer to the question: what power does the Himalaya possess that has drawn generations of seekers to it?

If anything distinguishes Aitken from the regular travel writer, it is his inspired craziness. With his wide-ranging, sometimes eccentric, interests, this book is replete with literature, geology, philosophy, and folklore. There are detours into hill gossip, stories of local ghosts, accounts of local customs, and exasperated asides about political ineptitude. Bill Aitken’s intimate knowledge of the Himalaya, absorbed through a lifetime, makes this more a native’s account than a traveller’s.

World rights / ISBN 81-7824-281-8 / 268pp / Rs 295


A Hundred Horizons
The Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire

‘Sugata Bose has given us an excellent historical study, which is both interesting in itself (even for non-historians) and full of contemporary relevance for understanding an important ancestry of present-day globalization.’—Amartya Sen

Written around a set of sea voyages involving Curzon, Tagore, and Gandhi, as well as unknown merchants, labourers, soldiers, and pilgrims, this book asks us to completely rethink the nature of nationalism.

It does so by arguing the importance of interregional arenas for extra-territorial and universalist anti-colonialism. This current of ideas, Bose powerfully demonstrates, coexisted and contended with territorial nationalism. He illuminates the interplay of nationalism and universalism in the thought and politics of a wide range of nationalists and patriots—both exalted and subaltern.

This fascinating history of mobile peoples around the Indian Ocean also retrieves the nuances of patriotism in diasporic public spheres by focusing on the many fragments that trespassed the borders of colonies and would-be nations. The pilgrimage experience of Muslims from India, Malaya, and Java to Mecca and Medina; the overseas voyages of Tagore and Gandhi; and the diaries and epistolary records of ordinary travellers collectively reveal the reality of the Indian Ocean as a cultural ecumene, a distinguishable zone which inspired ideas and aspirations that challenged Europe’s hegemonies.

This pioneering exploration of the oceanic dimension of anti-colonialism and religious universalism frees the study of nationalism from its landlocked state. By elucidating ideas that wafted across the Indian Ocean, Bose makes a rich and persuasive argument, namely that the intellectual history of the age of empire may best be studied in the framework of multiple and competing universalisms rather than mutually exclusive and conflicting cultural relativisms.

‘Sugata Bose has brought together social, culturaland political history to create a superb study of the peoples of the Indian Ocean littoral duringthe age of European imperialism and anti-colonial nationalism. This is a major contribution to the history of India, Southeast and West Asia, and it provides a critical plane of analysis between histories of “globalization” and histories of regions.’—C.A. Bayly

‘Sugata Bose presents a lyrical, subtly contentious blend of poetry, political economy, and accounts of pilgrims, capitalists, writers,workers, imperialists, soldiers, scholars, and revolutionaries, to analyse the modern Indian Ocean as an ever-changing, transregional space and to formulate a judicious historical critique of territorial nationalism, US empire, and popular ideas about globalization.’—David Ludden

SUGATA BOSE is Gardiner Professor of Oceanic History and Affairs at Harvard. Educated at Presidency College, Kolkata, and St Catharine’s College, Cambridge (where he was also a Fellow and Reader in History), his books include Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy (2004, with Ayesha Jalal); Nationalism, Democracy and Development (1997, edited with Ayesha Jalal); Credit, Markets and the Agrarian Economy of Colonial India (1994); Peasant Labour and Colonial Capital (1993); South Asia and World Capitalism (1990, as editor); and Agrarian Bengal: Economy, Social Structure and Politics (1986).

PAPERBACK / 350PP / Rs 395 / SOUTH ASIA RIGHTS / ISBN 81-7824-280-X / winter 2009



From Earliest Times to the Present

Sumit Guha

Over the past millennium old world populations and their new world colonies have expanded enormously. The history of human populations acquires a new interest in an epoch when human beings are aware of the burden they are placing on the ecosystem. Asia has long contained a major fraction of world population, and East and South Asia have accounted for most of that fraction. This book focuses on various aspects of the poulation of South Asia over the past twenty-five centuries.

An introduction highlights the book’s points of contact with the debates in the population history of Asia, Europe and the Americas. This leads into a major chapter on the population of South Asia from 200 BC to 1900 AD. This offers an unprecedentedly long time-series for South Asia, and it is likely to be the standard reference for some time to come. Its importance may be gauged by the fact that very few scholars have ever discussed the period before 1800 AD, and no one has produced an empirically defensible estimate for the population earlier than 1600.

The later chapters in the volume are more narrowly focused on specific aspects of the interaction between demography, climate, health, medicine and culture. One chapter examines the variation in household structures in western India over 200 years, another offers a novel explanation (climatic fluctutation) for unusual features of South Asian demography in the early modern era.

A rare document on vaccination is translated for the first time and used to illustrate the interaction of cultural codes and medical techniques. Immensely detailed data on military population before 1920 is used to generate important conclusions regarding the efficacy of knowledge and hygiene in improving health. The book includes a compact survey of the evolution of environmental hygiene in India through the twentieth century.

SUMIT GUHA was educated at St Stephen’s College, Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and the University of Cambridge. He has taught at St Stephen’s College, the Centre for Development Studies in Trivandrum, and the Delhi School of Economics. He is currently Professor of History at Rutgers University in the USA.

200pp / ISBN 81-7824-282-6 / Rs 295 / World rights

19 July 2009





“Based on a vast command of the relevant literature, wide-ranging, meticulous research, fine-tuned analysis, and deep critical thinking, Partisans of Allah traces the history of ideas about jihad and its ethical practice from the early days of Islam to the present”
David Ludden, New York University

“It is difficult to imagine a timelier or a more thoughtful book on this subject. Jalal’s subtle reinterpretations sweep away many of the misconceptions fostered both by Western commentators and contemporary Muslim publicists”
C.A. Bayly, Cambridge University

“Jalal restores the much-used concept of jihad to its enabling history of radical self-examination in the pursuit of justice and freedom, treading a fine balance between religious faith and secular belief. This is a courageous and brilliant book for a hopeful future beyond the quagmire of those who believe in the clash of civilizations”
Homi Bhabha, Harvard University

“An erudite and thought-provoking study of the interplay of religion and politics”
Kamila Shamsie, The Guardian

“Ayesha Jalal renders a service by her erudite study of jehad in Islam”
A.G. Noorani

Rs 395 / 400pp / ISBN 81-7824-274-5 / South Asia only / Co-published with Harvard University Press

23 May 2009

Véronique Benei
Schooling India
Hindus, Muslims, and the Forging of Citizens

This book explores an important yet often overlooked aspect of nationalism—its embodied and emotional dimensions. It does so by focusing on a neglected area, that of elementary education in the modern state.

Through an ethnographic study of primary schools in western India, Véronique Benei examines the idioms through which teachers, students, and parents make meaning of their political world. She articulates how urban middle- and lower-class citizens negotiate the processes of self-making through the minutiae of daily life at school and extracurricular activities, ranging from school trips to competitions and parent gatherings.

To document how processes of identity formation are embodied, Benei draws upon historical and cultural repertoires of emotionality and language-use. Her book shifts the normal focus of attention away from apocalyptic communal violence—she looks instead at everyday or ‘banal nationalism’. Attentive to the formulation of ‘senses of belonging’, she explores the sensory production and daily manufacture of nationhood and citizenship, as well as how nationalism is nurtured in a nation’s youth.

Historians, sociologists, students of politics and nationalism as well as educationists will be enriched by this careful and detailed study of the often ignored nuances involved in the making of communities such as Hindus and Muslims within the framework of the Indian nation.

VÉRONIQUE BENEI is Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics, Department of Anthropology where she has taught since 1997, and holds a permanent position as Senior Research Fellow with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (LAIOS/IIAC). She has also taught at Princeton University and Yale University.

“Benei's compelling ethnography is much more than a book about schooling; it’s about schooling in the service of the nation, how schooling functions to create citizens, and how nationalism is inculcated in our youth. I have seldom read a more powerful, beautifully written book.”—Susan Wadley

“ … a major contribution to the study of nationalism and to the burgeoning field of anthropology of emotions … a rich ethnographic study of mundane educational practices based on a deep understanding of their historical context. She pays meticulous attention to the details of language use, to songs and to the everyday disciplines of schooling … analyses emotions and the corporeal, while also reminding us that language is at the heart of cultural and political passions: what matters is how, when, and in which style, one declares one's love for the nation.” —Thomas Blom Hansen

“ … examines the role played by schooling in the production of nationalist identities … a highly nuanced account of political acculturation. She skilfully illustrates how her ideas mesh with other theoretical work and intersperses her detailed account with reflections on the wider comparative implications of her study … looks beyond the immediate and sometimes superficial changes that accompanied the rise of Hindu Nationalism …”— Craig Jeffrey

Hardback / 368pp with 19 b/w pix / Rs 695 / ISBN 81-7824-263-X / South Asia rights / Copublished with Stanford University Press / June 2009

16 May 2009

Territory of Desire
Representing the Valley of Kashmir

A result of territorial disputes between India and Pakistan since 1947, exacerbated by armed freedom movements since 1989, the ongoing conflict over Kashmir is consistently in the news. Taking a unique multidisciplinary approach, Territory of Desire asks how, and why, Kashmir came to be so intensely desired within Indian, Pakistani, and Kashmiri nationalistic imaginations. Literary historian Ananya Jahanara Kabir finds an answer to this question in the Valley of Kashmir’s repeated portrayal as a ‘special’ place and the missing piece of Pakistan and India.

Analysing the conversion of natural beauty into collective desire—through photography, literature, cinema, art, and souvenir production—Kabir exposes the links between colonialism, modernity, and conflict within the postcolonial nation. Representations of Kashmir as a space of desire emerge in contemporary film, colonial ‘taming’ of the valley through nineteenth-century colonialist travelogues, the fetishization of traditional Kashmiri handicrafts like papier maché, and Pandit and Muslim religious revivalisms in the region.

Linking a violent modernity to the fantasies of nationhood, Kabir proposes nonmilitaristic ways in which such desire may be overcome. In doing so she offers an innovative approach to complex and protracted conflict and, ultimately, its resolution.

ANANYA JAHANARA KABIR is a senior lecturer in postcolonial literature at the School of English, University of Leeds, and research associate at The Centre for History and Economics, jointly established at Cambridge, UK, and Harvard University.

Hardback / 276PP / Rs 695 / ISBN 81-7824-268-2 / South Asia rights
Copublished with the University of Minnesota Press

27 April 2009


The Small Voice of History
Collected Essays

Edited and with an Introduction by


Ranajit Guha is arguably the Indian historian whose writings have had a massive and formative impact on contemporary scholarship in several disciplines throughout the world: on postcolonial studies in literature, in anthropology, in history, in cultural studies, in art history.

Guha first became known as the practitioner of a critical Marxism that ran parallel to the work of British and French Marxist historians of the 1960s and 1970s but which, instead of re-creating a ‘history from below’, sought active political engagement with the present by deploying insights drawn from Gramsci and Mao. More recently, Guha’s writings have drawn attention to the phenomenological and the everyday, and been noticed for their sustained critique of the disciplinary practices of history-writing.

Guha’s reputation rests most famously on his international role as founder and guiding spirit of Subaltern Studies, the series of essays and monographs that have, over the past three decades, critiqued colonialist and nationalist historiographies. While spawning new ways of thinking about history in Europe, Latin America, and the USA, these have created a ferment richer than anything else emerging out of modern South Asia, even as they have unsettled many existing frameworks of thought.

Guha’s fascinatingly diverse historical and political writings, dating from the 1950s and tucked away in obscure journals and collections, have been virtually inaccessible: they are brought together for the first time in the present volume, which comprises his Collected Essays in English, forty-four in number.

These writings have been put together by Partha Chatterjee, whose long association with Guha as a founder-member of the Subaltern Studies editorial board is complemented by his own international stature as a historian, political theorist, and public intellectual. Chatterjee’s Introduction sketches the professional life and intellectual trajectory of India’s most profoundly influential modern historian.

Every serious student of South Asian history, politics, and anthropology will be enriched by the astonishing diversity of insights and learning within this book.

RANAJIT GUHA, renowned as the founding father of Subaltern Studies, is the author of several pathbreaking works, including A Rule of Property for Bengal (1963), Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India (1983), and Dominance without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India (1997).

PARTHA CHATTERJEE’s many influential books include Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse? (1986), The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (1993), and A Princely Impostor: The Kumar of Bhawal and the Secret History of Indian Nationalism (2002; arguably the most readable and thrilling book ever written by any historian of India).

ISBN 81-7824-255-9 / hardback / 676pp / Rs 895 / May 2009

07 April 2009


Heroic Pasts in India, circa 1500-1900



"This wide-ranging monograph effortlessly traverses regions and genres to study the evolution of a historical memory. The Padmini story of a beautiful queen who is desired by a powerful enemy and who finally immolates herself rather than surrender has been current in South Asian folk and high literary traditions for over five centuries. In the colonial and post-colonial era it has been appropriated by Hindu nationalists as a narrative of purity and virtue. Rather than accept this recent retelling, Sreenivasan analyzes Padmini's story through its entire narrative trajectory, deploying at once the skills of a historian who combines an understanding of religious thought and social history and those of a literary scholar deeply familiar with gendered tropes in narrative and discourse.

The Padmini story featured largely in Tod's early colonial history. Sreenivasan goes beneath that colonial discourse to recover previous (and parallel) indigenous narratives, and she goes into the archive to show how James Tod and others actually worked. She tracks how nationalists -- both religious and secular -- have appropriated the same theme. Sreenivasan is never reductionist. She consistently locates and situates the texts she analyses in the conjunctures in and for which they were produced, whether by North Indian Sufis, Arakanese kings, Jain businessmen and literati, Rajput lords or Bengali bhadralok. She thereby undercuts the recent heroic narratives of the colonial and post-colonial era that have taken the Padmini story out of context in order to sustain the credibility of Hindu fundamentalism and the discourse of Islamic separatism."

"Ramya Sreenivasan’s study of the multiple narrative traditions surrounding Rajasthan’s legendary fourteenth-century queen Padmini is a masterful and admirable scholarly achievement. The tale of Padmini, as it is widely known in Indian popular culture, portrays a fabled beauty around whom a fatal chain of intrigue, plot, counterplot, and battle ultimately leads to massive heroic deaths, including the celebrated jauhar, or collective self-immolation, of Padmini and her female companions. In the end, the deluded sultan of Delhi, Alauddin, who sought to possess Padmini, attains only the ashes of victory when he finally enters Chitor. You can read this sad and dusty saga in the lobby of the Government Tourist Bungalow in Chitor, and—as Sreenivasan notes on her first page—in the Amar Chitra Katha comic book series as well. However, the plot soon thickens.

Sreenivasan’s singular accomplishment in this meticulously researched account is to demonstrate more convincingly and thoroughly than I have ever seen done before the wonderfully complex entanglements of literature and politics, of history and legend. She adroitly tracks the ways in which apparently infinite narrative permutations may both reflect and influence real events. Padmini herself probably never existed, as we learn in passing early on, but that is of little significance. The queen’s story in its “many lives”—as religious allegory, royal selfaggrandizement, colonial confabulation, nationalist inspiration, patriarchal parable—is likely more compelling than any actual historical personage’s ever could be." -- Ann Grodzins Gold, Journal of Asian Studies

Hardback / 286pp / ISBN 81-7824-185-4 / Rs 650 / Published in October 2007 for South Asia / Copublished by the University of Washington Press

26 February 2009



IF YOU THOUGHT that Sanskrit and its canonical texts validate the Hindutva worldview, this book will make you think again. It shows how writers such as Tagore and Gandhi deployed the Indian literary and religious canon to argue broadly liberal positions, and how it is both possible and necessary to view the possibilities of political plenitude within texts misappropriated by the Hindu Right.

“A passionate plea, made with erudition and conviction, for taking new stock of the modern engagement with Sanskrit, not only in Hindi lyric, drama, and essay, but also in the new political readings of texts as safely ‘classical’ as the Bhagavadgita.” —Vasudha Dalmia, Professor of Hindi, University of California, Berkeley

“Three predictions come to mind upon reading The Modernity of Sanskrit. First, it will blow the current field of Sanskrit Studies apart. Second, it will wake up practitioners of various literary studies disciplines — particularly the one that is conventionally and comfortably called Comparative Literature — to the existence of literature written in the Sanskrit language and a genetically linked literature, that written in Hindi. Third, it will show just how salient, sensible, and stimulating scholarly discourse on South Asia can be.” —Clinton B. Seely, University of Chicago

“The Modernity of Sanskrit
is a brilliant and beautiful study of canonical works in the Sanskrit tradition. The prose is consistently engaging, moving, and convincing, and Sawhney’s close readings are a delight.”—Henry Schwartz, Georgetown University

ISBN 81-7824-253-2 / Hardback / 226pp / For sale in South Asia only / Rs 495 / April 09 / Copublished by the University of Minnesota Press


The Crisis of Secularism in India
edited by Anuradha Dingwaney Needham and Rajeswari Sunder Rajan

“Philosophical, historical, and contemporary at the same time, these essays add a new dimension to global discussions of liberalism and the politics of the religious Right.”—Dipesh Chakrabarty

Essays by Flavia Agnes, Upendra Baxi, Shyam Benegal, Akeel Bilgrami, Partha Chatterjee, V. Geetha, Sunil Khilnani, Nivedita Menon, Ashis Nandy, Gyanendra Pandey, Gyan Prakash, Arvind Rajagopal, Paula Richman, Sumit Sarkar, Dwaipayan Sen, Shabnum Tejani, Romila Thapar, Ravi S. Vasudevan, and Gauri Viswanathan.

Collectively, the essays consider the history of secularism in India; the relationship between secularism and democracy; and shortcomings in the categories “majority” and “minority.” They examine how debates about secularism play out in schools, the media, and in popular cinema. And they address two of the most politically charged sites of crisis: personal law and the right to practice and encourage religious conversion.

ISBN 81-7824-256-7 / paperback / Rs 450 / 410 pages / For sale in South Asia only / April 09 / Copublished by Duke University Press

08 January 2009


by Mukul Kesavan

A dazzling collection of Mukul Kesavan’s essays on cinema, writing, travel, the media, politics.

‘Whatever [Kesavan] writes about carries within it the germ of his political beliefs which include, of course, the notion that it is right and proper for writers to express their opinions vigorously and fearlessly; that this has not yet ceased to be a nation where it is possible to do so without being fearful about the consequences.’ Manjula Padmanabhan, Outlook

‘Kesavan’s knowledge of the Hindi film is deep, and deeply felt....The essay on the Urdu connection with the Hindi film is fascinating. His travel writing and political commentary is acute and compelling.’ Keshav Desiraju, The Hindu

‘... whether its Salman Rushdie’s latest novel, or Konkana Sen’s latest role, there is an unmasking of a false cosmopolitanism and an improving upon of the public notions of secularism and pluralism.’ Rehan Ansari, DNA

ISBN 81-7824-252-4 / 312pp / Rs 295/ BLACK KITE / Paperback / Published February 2009