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


ANANYA JAHANARA KABIR
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