Navayana's Sixer

Given the World Cup season, the cricket metaphor is entirely appropriate to describe the set of books that Navayana has just launched, in part to celebrate the visit of the celebrated Angela Davis, activist and scholar.

Davis will give the second Annual Navayana Lecture in April 2011 on “Contemporary Quests for Social Justice”. Currently Professor Emerita at the History of Consciousness Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, she is the author of seven books, two of which are being reprinted for South Asia by Navayana.

Women, Race & Class is a powerful study of the women’s movement in the U.S. from abolitionist days to the present demonstrates how it has always been hampered by the racist and classist biases of its leaders. One of the most brilliant and courageous women of our generation, Angela Yvonne Davis shows that both sexism and racism are deeply rooted in class oppression, and that neither can be eradicated without destroying the dominant patriarchal economic system. By analysing both the differences and the similarities between the experiences of black and white women, she casts new light on the past and present struggles for human rights.

In our Womens Studies and Politics sections, in paperback, 284 pages, Rs 295, ISBN: 9788189059422

For some time now, Davis' passion has been the US prison system. In Are Prisons Obsolete? she has put the case for the latest abolition movement in American life: the abolition of the prison. As she notes, American life is replete with abolition movements, and when they were engaged in these struggles, their chances of success seemed almost unthinkable. For generations of Americans, the abolition of slavery was sheerest illusion. Similarly, the entrenched system of racial segregation seemed to last forever, and generations lived in the midst of the practice, with few predicting its passage from custom. The brutal, exploitative (dare one say lucrative?) convict-lease system that succeeded formal slavery reaped millions to southern jurisdictions (and untold miseries for tens of thousands of men, and women). Few predicted its passing from the American penal landscape. Davis expertly argues how social movements transformed these social, political and cultural institutions, and made such practices untenable.

In our Politics and Law sections, in paperback, 128pages, Rs 150. ISBN: 9788189059439

In People Without History:India’s Muslim Ghettos, Jeremy Seabrook and Imran Ahmed write about life in the inner-city areas of Kolkata’s mainly Muslim settlements. It asks a simple question—how do the vast majority of Muslims, especially the poor, live, work, love and die? In the context of the communalisation of urban poverty, People Without History pays attention to the fabric of daily life in Muslim communities—the pursuit of gainful occupation, affective and social affinities, networks of kinship and neighbourhood.

Jeremy Seabrook and Imran Ahmed Siddiqui examine another crucial question. Kolkata’s Muslims live in a city that for 33 years was governed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist). It has been the proudest boast of the Communists that they have been guided by a secular ideology, and that, as a result, Muslims in West Bengal have been spared the excesses of communalists in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Orissa and elsewhere. How far this claim is justified may be judged from the testimonies of the people in this book.

In our Anthropology, Urban Studies and Sociology sections, in paperback, 272 pages, Rs 295, ISBN:

In Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route, Saidiya Hartman journeys along a slave route in Ghana, following the trail of captives from the hinterland to the Atlantic coast. She retraces the history of the Atlantic slave trade from the fifteenth to the twentieth century and reckons with the blank slate of her own genealogy.

Wider and deeper than Alex Haley’s landmark Roots, much less sentimental and incredibly smart. It reads like a cross between Bruce Chatwin and Toni Morrison, top-notch travel-writing and scintillating prose and soul” says Randall Kenan, author of A Visitation of Spirits.

In our Biography section, in paperback, 288 pages, Rs 350. ISBN: 9788189059392

Un/Common Cultures: Racism and the Rearticulation of Cultural Difference by Kamala Visweswaran develops an incisive critique of the idea of culture at the heart of anthropology, describing how it lends itself to culturalist assumptions. She holds that the new culturalism—the idea that cultural differences are definitive, and thus divisive—produces a view of “uncommon cultures” defined by relations of conflict rather than forms of collaboration. The essays in Un/common Cultures straddle the line between an analysis of how racism works to form the idea of “uncommon cultures” and a reaffirmation of the possibilities of “common cultures,” those that enact new forms of solidarity in seeking common cause. Such “cultures in common” or “cultures of the common” also produce new intellectual formations that demand different analytic frames for understanding their emergence. By tracking the emergence and circulation of the culture concept in American anthropology and Indian and French sociology, Visweswaran offers an alternative to strictly disciplinary histories. She uses critical race theory to locate the intersection between ethnic/diaspora studies and area studies as a generative site for addressing the formation of culturalist discourses. In so doing, she interprets the work of social scientists and intellectuals such as Elsie Clews Parsons, Alice Fletcher, Franz Boas, Louis Dumont, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Clifford Geertz, W. E. B. Du Bois, and B. R. Ambedkar.

In our Anthropology and Culture Studies sections, in paperback, 354 pages, Rs 450, ISBN: 9788189059415

Gail Omvedt's Seeking Begumpura: The Social Vision of Anticaste Intellectuals is now in paperback.

The bhakti radical Ravidas (c 1450–1520), calling himself a ‘tanner now set free’, 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. She charts the development of their utopian visions and the socioeconomic characteristics of the societies conceived through this long period.

Reason and ecstasy – dnyan and bhakti/bhav – are the underlying themes in this book. They constitute the two main strands of the utopian vision: the joy taken in the consciousness of a promised land and the analytical power that defines the contours of that land. Together, they make the road that leads to the promised land.

Rejecting Orientalist, nationalist and hindutva impulses to ‘reinvent’ India, Omvedt says all we need to do is take up the India envisioned by its dalit-bahujan intellectuals and leaders—the Begumpura of Ravidas, the Bali Rajya of Phule, the Dravidastan of Periyar, the Buddhist commonwealth of the Sakya Buddhists and Ambedkar’s Prabuddha Bharat. These are contrasted with Gandhi’s village utopia of Ram Rajya, Nehru’s hindutva-laced socialism and Savarkar’s territorialist Hindu Rashtra. Finally, Omvedt emphasizes the continued relevance of the vision of the anticaste intellectuals in the era of globalization.

In our Dalit Studies section, in paperback, Rs 300, 304 pages. ISBN: 9788189059118