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Showing posts from 2020

A foretaste of HARJOT OBEROI's second book, WHEN DOES HISTORY BEGIN?

THERE AREN'T TOO MANY HISTORIANS who write such a fine first book that the recovery time needed to write the second is twenty-five or more years. Harjot Oberoi's The Construction of Religious Boundaries (1993), won the Best First Book Prize of the American Academy of Religion and the Killam Prize, the highest research prize of the University of British Columbia. His book was widely recognised as pathbreaking for Sikh Studies in the way that, a generation earlier, Hew McLeod's pioneering work had been. Thereafter, however, Oberoi was (as is well known) besieged by problems: the orthodox did not merely disagree with the argument of his book -- that modern Sikhism had been constructed from a fluid variety of identities in the Punjab region by the Khalsa Panth over a relatively short period in the eighteenth century -- they also threatened to silence him for marshalling the evidence for such an argument. And they sought actively to terminate his professorship at the Universit

JUST OUT! SHEKHAR PATHAK: THE CHIPKO MOVEMENT

“The definitive history of the Chipko Movement” RAMACHANDRA GUHA   In India, modern environmentalism was inaugurated by the Chipko Movement, which began in 1973. Because it was led by Gandhians, included women participants, occurred in “spiritual” Himalayan regions, and used innovatively non-violent techniques of protest, it attracted international attention. It also led to a major debate on Indian forest policy and the destructive consequences of commercialisation. Because of Chipko, clear-felling was stopped and India began to pay attention to the needs of an ecological balance which sustained forests and the communities within them. In academic and policy-making circles it fuelled a wider debate on sustainable development – on whether India could afford to imitate the West’s resource-intensive and capital-intensive ways of life. Chipko’s historians have hitherto focused on its two major leaders, Chandi Prasad Bhatt and Sunderlal Bahuguna. The voices of “subalterns” – ordinary men

The Arvind Krishna Mehrotra interview: First Post

The Arvind Krishna Mehrotra interview | 'There’s a lack of historicity in way we think, talk, write about Indian literature'  by Aditya Mani Jha In The Book of Indian Essays: Two Hundred Years of Indian Prose , Mehrotra collects some of the best Indian essays of all time — including works by old favourites like GV Desani, RK Narayan, Nissim Ezekiel and Shama Futehally, all the way up to contemporary luminaries like Pankaj Mishra and Amitav Ghosh. Your introductory essay ‘When the Gas Cylinder Comes’ talks about Indian ‘little magazines’ with a great deal of affection, acknowledging the role that they played in nurturing literature. During your teens you published one such magazine, damn you, along with your friends Amit Rai and Alok Rai. In the book Partial Recall, you characterise this phase as one of discovery, wherein you were exploring different literary universes, “trying to inhabit each as my native place”. Could you tell us a bit more about what that line meant to you?

The quiet in which thoughts are born has been snatched away

Arvind Krishna Mehrotra (Photo: Getty Images) Arvind Krishna Mehrotra tells Nandini Nair about India’s changing relationship with English and the essays that will last and those that will not. Let’s start with the dedication of the book. Why Ram Advani, who had a bookshop in Lucknow and was an institution in the city? A lot of people who are in the anthology—Ruskin Bond, for instance—knew him personally and some of the others would have visited the bookshop. Meena Alexander’s husband David Lelyveld sent me a picture which showed him and Ram Advani standing outside it. It was a picture taken to remember an occasion. This is one reason why the book is dedicated to him. The other reason is that booksellers are an unsung part of the book trade. And now with online buying even less so. Ram Advani would know your interests in much the same way that Amazon does, but he’d even know the latest books in your narrow academic field and drop you a line when they arrived. Scholars who lived and work

PRACHI DESHPANDE WINS INFOSYS PRIZE

We are celebrating at Permanent Black today.  Prachi Deshpande, whose first book CREATIVE PASTS we published years ago, has just won the Infosys Prize. As reported by the New Indian Express : "Winners from six diverse fields -- Engineering and Computer Science, Humanities, Life Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Physical Sciences and Social Sciences -- received a pure gold medal, a citation and a purse of USD 100,000. They were picked from among 257 nominations. The lone woman among the winners this year was Prachi Deshpande from the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (CSSS), Kolkata who won the Humanities award for her nuanced and sophisticated treatment of South Asian historiography." You can read our original post on Prachi's book here and an interview with her here . The book is available in paperback.   BUY

Listen: Sumit Guha on History and Collective Memory in South Asia

  In History and Collective Memory in South Asia , Guha brings together sources from a range of languages and regions to provide the first intellectual history of the ways in which socially recognized historical memory has been made across the subcontinent. His thoughtful study contributes to debates beyond the field of history that complicate the understanding of objectivity and documentation in a seemingly post-truth world. You can read more about the book here. In this fine interview Sumit Guha discusses his book with Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D., a Jerusalem-based psychologist, Middle East television commentator, and host of the Van Leer Series on Ideas with Renee Garfinkel. BUY THE BOOK  

The Unfamiliarity of the Past

Joya Chatterji's most recent book is PARTITION’S LEGACIES . It was published by Permanent Black in June 2019.  In this wide-ranging conversation about her books and her career as a teacher, she begins with talking about what drew her to history in the first place. She answers questions put to her by Uttara Shahani (a research scholar at Cambridge University) and Sohini Chattopadhyay (a history researcher at Columbia University) 1. Why did you become a historian? Let’s start at the very beginning . . . . . . A very good place to start. But before I launch into my answer, I want to thank you both for such excellent questions. They all force (or encourage) me to reflect on a lifetime of work. From a personal standpoint, this is a great moment for me to think backwards and ask myself: what did it all add up to? So I am grateful for your critical but generous-spirited questions. Why History? Why indeed. My relationship with the subject is best likened to a love affair. I was introduce

PATRIARCHY AND THE PANGOLIN

 When two young women are hired to carry out conservation research, they discover that India is a large jungle – larger than they ever imagined. Their study of trees reveals a complex world in which the greatest threat to pangolins and imperilled species is Indian men and patriarchy.  Tramping across North India, the women encounter men, man-made obstacles, and bureaucratic corruption, but forge ahead with satire and self-deprecating humour. Their many stories give us the voices of people and species oppressed or marginalised. Several anecdotes show daily battles against research methods and policies that bury lived life in dry data. Environmental research is more about lives and livelihoods than data, says Aditi Patil. She makes us feel the pulse of life hidden by statistics. Women farmers, forest dwellers, rustics, and researchers come exquisitely alive in this entertaining and persuasive book. “a great mix of humour and reflective seriousness.” NAYANJOT LAHIRI “Under the cover of ir

THE BOOK OF INDIAN ESSAYS

Indians have been writing prose for 200 years, and yet when we think of literary prose we think of the novel. The “essay”   brings only the school essay to mind. Those of us who read and write English in India might find it hard to name an essay even by someone like R.K. Narayan as easily as we would one of his novels, say Swami and Friends or The Guide . Our inability to recall essays is largely due to the strange paradox that while the form itself remains invisible, it is everywhere present. The paradox becomes even more strange when we realise that some of our finest writers of English prose  did not write novels at all, they wrote essays. The anthology is an attempt at making what has always been present also permanently visible. Arvind Krishna Mehrotra   • A collection of the finest essays written in English by Indians over the past two hundred years. • The Book of Indian Essays is a wide-ranging historical anthology of the Indian essay in English – the f

SHERALI TAREEN: DEFENDING MUHAMMAD IN MODERNITY

WINNER OF THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PAKISTAN STUDIES BOOKS PRIZE 2020     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 and manuscript sources in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu, his book marks a major intervention in the fie