Saturday, 29 September 2007
Friday, 28 September 2007
On the island of Waqwaq the 15th-century writer, Ibn al-Wardi tells us, there are “trees that bear women as fruit: shapely, with bodies, eyes, feet,.....they come out of cases like big swords, and when they feel the wind and sun, they shout ‘Waq Waq’ until their hair tears.” Magic realism, clearly, has been around for a long time...
Waqwaq is somewhere in the geographical location of present day Mauritius, where Shawkat Toorawa of the Hassam Toorawa Trust has published the book The Western Indian Ocean: Essays on Islands and Islanders which he has also edited. The book brings together six thought-provoking essays by scholars of Mauritius and other Indian Ocean islands who explore the experiences of islanders past and present, of placement and displacement, of locals and globals.
The volume opens with a Foreword by Megan Vaughan (King's College Cambridge), situating the essays in the broader context of the historical processes in the Indian Ocean. Ned Alpers(University of California, Los Angeles) places the islands of the Western Indian Ocean in the wider African context. Himanshu Prabha Ray (Jawaharlal Nehru University) discusses ancient and medieval seafaring in the Indian Ocean. Shawkat Toorawa (Cornell University) muses on the Indian Ocean location of the medieval Waqwaq islands. Paul van der Velde (International institute for Asian Studies) reflects on Dutch traveller Jacob Haafner's late eighteenth century visit of mariner Joshua Slocum to Rodrigues and Mauritius. Jocelyn Chan Low (University of Mauritius) puts the plight of the Chagos Islanders (Ilois) into the context of Cold war realpolitik and Mauritius independence.
Available from Scholars, at Rs 300. ISBN: 9789994922321, Paperback.
What eSS would like to do is promote rigorous research in the social sciences and humanities in India and South Asia, being inclusive (rather than exclusive) in terms of perspectives and topics. The core of the portal is the peer reviewed "eSS the Journal" which features research papers, reviews, and other sections. eSS also carries working papers as well as commentaries.
Its a great way for scholars to keep up to date with whats happening in this neck of the woods...
Thursday, 27 September 2007
Many books by Romila Thapar feature on the Scholars website, and deservedly. Cultural Pasts, Ancient Indian Social History, Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas, The Past And Prejudice, Historical Beginnings into the Making of the Aryan, and others.... Come explore. In our History section, and also in Gender...
Both in the General section of Scholars. Rs 325 and Rs 150 respectively. Books to make you happy!
Saturday, 22 September 2007
The Rajinder Sachar Committee, appointed by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was a high-level committee for the preparation of a "Report on Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India".
The report, tabled in Parliament on 30 November, has suggestions and solutions to include Indian muslims in the mainstream. The seven members of the committee were Justice Rajinder Sachar, Shri Sayyid Hamid, Dr T. K. Oommen, Shri M.A. Basith, Dr Akhtar Majeed, Dr Abu Saleh Shariff and Dr Rakesh Basant.
The report suggests adoption of suitable mechanisms to ensure equity and equality of opportunity to Muslims in residential, work and educational spaces. According to the Sachar Committee report, "the status of Indian Muslims are below the conditions of Scheduled Castes and Tribes"...
A few copies of the report are available. Paperback, 426 pages or so. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, 19 September 2007
K N Panikkar, erstwhile professor of History at JNU, is among the foremost historians of modern India. Currently engaged in writing the intellectual history of colonial India, he has authored a number of very important books. Two of which we highlight here.
Before the Night falls is a set of essays that urge turning preaching into practice. As Romila Thapar notes, "... a more creative secular response to the contemporary condition – needs to be put into practice. ....there has to be an ethically determined society from the one that is being sought to be imposed on us today. The essays in this collection reflect these concerns and will doubtless contribute to the creation of such a social ethos." From Books for Change, Rs 150.
In An Agenda for Cultural Action and Other Essays, he draws attention, among other things, to a matter that concerns us deeply: the destruction of the educational system through privatization and rabid communalization. From Three Essays Collective, Rs 200.
Among the other books for which he is well known are 'Against Lord and State: Religion and Peasant Uprisings in Malabar'; 'Culture and Consciousness in Modern India'; 'Culture, Ideology and Hegemony – Intellectuals and Social Consciousness in Colonial India'. Write in to check on availability....
Thursday, 13 September 2007
Gangchil, Kolkata, is a small publishing house that mostly brings out books in Bangla. This year, at the Kolkata Book Fair (yes, the strange one that was held around the Salt Lake Stadium...) they brought out their first book in English, The Rights and Wrongs of It. The Right to Information.
Edited by Bhabesh Das and Rajiv K Bhattacharyya, journalists, the book is a collection of essays by, among others, the redoubtable Ashok Mitra, Mahasveta Devi, Aruna Roy, Arvind Kejriwal, and many others. The book also has the actual wording of the RTI Act 2005, the Freedom of Information Act 2002 and a set of other speeches.
Hardback, 552pages, ISBN: 81-89834-09-6. In our Media Studies section.
Many of you will not know, but Gangchil is Bangla for Seagull. Eclecticism seems to be a common feature of the region....
Wednesday, 12 September 2007
A couple of years ago, Gayatri Reddy published a pathbreaking study of hijras in south India. Yoda Press have brought out a South-Asia edition of this book, With Respect to Sex: Negotiating Hijra identity in South India.
With Respect to Sex offers a provocative account of sexual and social difference in India. Hijras are the "third sex" of India: individuals who occupy a unique, liminal space between male and female, sacred and profane. In brief, Hijras are men who sacrifice their genitalia to a goddess in return for the power to confer fertility on newlyweds and newborn children, a ritual role they are respected for, at the same time as they are stigmatized for their ambiguous sexuality.
This is an important, intimate, rich and eminently readable ethnography in which Gayatri Reddy creates a portrait of a community of hijras in Hyderabad that suggests that one cannot see hijras simply through the lens of gender and sexual difference because that is not how hijras understand themselves. Tracing their presence from an era of Hyderabadi royal patronage to the shifting social and cultural landscapes of modernity and nationalism and finally to contemporary neo-liberalism, Reddy shows the ever-changing, complicated and multi-faceted matrix of class, caste, religious, and regional identities and practices that underlie hijra understandings of both their identity and their difference. At stake, she says, are questions of nationalism, citizenship, identity, religion, class, sex, and economics.
By focusing on the hijra community, Gayatri Reddy sheds new light on Indian society and the intricate negotiations of identity across various domains of everyday life. Further, by reframing hijra identity through the local economy of respect, this ethnography highlights the complex relationships among local and global, sexual and moral, economies.
In our Gender Studies section, Rs 395. Paperback. ISBN: 978-81-903634-6-4. We are particularly pleased with the cover of the book... from scholarswithoutborders.in/design!
Saturday, 8 September 2007
The information available on the Academy website is as follows: This project is part of the Academy initiative to enhance the quality of science education, pursued in collaboration with the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science to spread biodiversity literacy, especially within the high school and college student community, and to involve them in collecting information at first hand on the status and ongoing changes in ecological habitats and a selected set of species of considerable human significance. It also aims to publish illustrated accounts of 1500 Indian species of micro-organisms, plants and animals. These accounts are meant to assist high school, college and postgraduate students and teachers of biology in reliably identifying these taxa. They would also include ancillary information on distribution, ecology and behaviour that would help design field exercises and projects focusing on first-hand observations of living organisms. The information thus generated could feed into a countrywide system of monitoring ongoing changes in India's lifescape to support efforts at conservation of biological diversity, as well as control of invasive, of weeds, pests, vectors and diseases. Hopefully, the accounts would also stimulate popular interest in the broader spectrum of India's biological wealth
The Indian subcontinent is one of the biologically richest regions of the world. Two global biodiversity hot spots, namely the eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats, are in this region. Another biologically rich region, Sri Lanka, is just to the south of the subcontinent. The subcontinent is rich in odonates (damselflies and dragonflies); about 500 species are known. The dragonflies of the region are taxonomically well described thanks to the monumental work of Fraser. However, the natural history and distribution of most of the species is barely known. This lacuna is largely due to the lack of user-friendly field guides for amateur naturalists and students.
As an initiative to generate interest in dragonflies among naturalists and students, Indian Academy of Sciences is publishing a field guide on the odonates of Peninsular India. The book is being published as part of Project Lifescape of the Academy. This project aims at producing user-friendly field guides and other resources to encourage field-based biology research among students.
The project has thus far produced three other books, Butterflies of Peninsular India, Freshwater Fishes of Peninsular India, Amphibians of Peninsular India, all published by Universities Press, Hyderabad. All of these, and a number of other books on Natural History can be ordered on the Scholars website: this one is for free. Enjoy!
Friday, 7 September 2007
But mercifully, Khushwant Singh writes rather well. However, the book "Not a nice man to know" , while it collects what Penguin would term "the best of over three decades of the author’s prose" is really fluff compared to his classic "Train to Pakistan". Brought out again last year by Roli, with Margaret Bourke-White's riveting photographs that so completely capture the moral devastation of the time, this book on the Partition was one of the first to say what it did with so much honesty. The book is compelling reading.
In our Classics section. Paperback, Rs 495, ISBN 81 7436 4447
Another writer who did not care much for niceness, Sa'adat Hasan Manto. Katha has an excellent collection of his short stories in translation, Black Margins. Not one to spare his readers, Manto is candid in this collection: his open letter to Nehru is included here as it offers a glimpse into his mind after partition. This collection, with its variegated themes, can be considered truly representative of Manto’s art.
In our Translation section. Rs 295, Paperback. ISBN 8187649408.
Sunday, 2 September 2007
Greetings from Berlin! The SwB mascot can be seen atop one of the buildings near Gendarmenmarkt, one of the loveliest squares in Berlin. We were pleased to see the Pegasus way up there, but could not get better views than this...
One of the most effective and touching monuments in Berlin is- and this strikes such a chord- at the Opera House, where in 1933, a chanting crowd burnt 22000 books by Jews, communists, and other intellectuals. The monument is simple. Looking through a glass pavement, one can see an empty set of shelves which would have housed the 22000 books... White painted woóden shelves from which the books were ripped out... Shelves that cannot be filled again- there is no way of getting in there- but the ideas that were there are symbolically freed... forever.
No wonder our Pegasus alighted here-