Eclectic excellence

Navayana, the publishers based in Pondicherry, have always had something very fresh to offer. Chosen as the International Young Publisher of the year 2007 by the British Council- the books that they had showcased then were Turning the Pot, Tilling the Land (Kancha Ilaiah), Namdeo Dhasal's Poet of the Underworld, and Dilip Menon's The Blindness of Insight- their publications are, to say the least unusual.

And this year, they bring at least four new books. Gail Omvedt's Seeking Begumpura (which we feature multiply in our Dalit Studies, Religion and Sociology sections!) is on the "bhakti radical Ravidas (c 1450–1520), who was the first to envision an Indian utopia in his song “Begumpura”—a modern casteless, classless, tax-free city without sorrow! This was in contrast to the dystopia of the brahmanical kaliyuga. Anticaste intellectuals in India posited utopias much before Thomas More, in 1516, articulated a Renaissance humanist version. Gail Omvedt, in this study, focuses on the worldviews of subaltern visionaries spanning five centuries— Chokhamela, Janabai, Kabir, Ravidas, Tukaram, the Kartabhajas, Phule, Iyothee Thass, Pandita Ramabai, Periyar and Ambedkar. Omvedt the development of their utopian visions and the socioeconomic characteristics of the societies conceived through this long period in this book, the result of her research and writing as Senior Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi over the past five years.

Three other books add to their series Other Headings. Slavoj Zizek's The Sublime object of Ideology, and Dan Hind's The Threat to Reason, and Jean Baudrillard's The System of Objects, one of the most important books on cultural criticism. Baudrillard, who died last year, was progenitor of seminal ideas such as hyperreality and the simulacrum (famously, he said "What I am I don't know. I am the simulacrum of myself.") that are crucial in describing contemporary culture...


As Navayana state in their manifesto, "In the tradition of Siddharth Gautama, perhaps the first to introduce the culture of dialogue and debate with people who held diverse views in the subcontinent, these books will encourage dialogue and debate on issues the mainstream does not wish to address."

We agree.

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