Permanent's Southern Sixer

Professor of Anthropology and of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University, Partha Chatterjee's The Black Hole of Empire: History of a Global Practice of Power follows the ever-changing representations of this historical event and founding myth of the British Empire in India, from the eighteenth century to the present. Partha Chatterjee explores how a supposed tragedy paved the ideological foundations for the “civilizing” force of British imperial rule and territorial control in India.

When Siraj, the ruler of Bengal, overran the British settlement of Calcutta in 1756, he allegedly jailed 146 European prisoners overnight in a cramped prison. Of the group, 123 died of suffocation. While this episode was never independently confirmed, the story of “the black hole of Calcutta” was widely circulated and seen by the British public as an atrocity committed by savage colonial subjects.

Chatterjee takes a close look at the justifications of modern empire by liberal thinkers, international lawyers, and conservative traditionalists, and examines the intellectual and political responses of the colonized, including those of Bengali nationalists. The two sides of empire's entwined history are brought together in the story of the Black Hole memorial: set up in Calcutta in 1760, demolished in 1821, restored by Lord Curzon in 1902, and removed in 1940 to a neglected churchyard.

Challenging conventional truisms of imperial history, nationalist scholarship, and liberal visions of globalization, Chatterjee argues that empire is a necessary and continuing part of the history of the modern state.

In hardcover,  440 pages,  Rs 795.  ISBN 81-7824-356-3
Assistant Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University, Nico Slate's  Colored Cosmopolitanism: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the  United States and India is the first detailed examination of both ends of this transnational encounter. Nico Slate tells the stories of neglected historical figures, like the “Eurasian” scholar Cedric Dover, and offers a stunning glimpse of people we thought we knew. Prominent figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Swami Vivekananda, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Martin Luther King, Jr., emerge as never before seen. Slate reveals the full gamut of this exchange—from selective appropriations, to blatant misunderstandings, to a profound empathy—as African Americans and South Asians sought a united front against racism, imperialism, and other forms of oppression.

A hidden history connects India and the United States, the world’s two largest democracies. From the late nineteenth century through the 1960s, activists worked across borders of race and nation to push both countries toward achieving their democratic principles. At the heart of this shared struggle, African Americans and Indians forged bonds ranging from statements of sympathy to coordinated acts of solidarity. Within these two groups, certain activists developed a colored cosmopolitanism, a vision of the world that transcended traditional racial distinctions. These men and women agitated for the freedom of the “colored world,” even while challenging the meanings of both color and freedom.

In hardcover,  344 pages, Rs 750.  ISBN 81-7824-353-9

Associate professor of South Asian religions at McGill University Davesh Soneji's  Unfinished Gestures: Devadasis, Memory, and Modernity in South India presents the social and cultural history of courtesans in South India who are generally called devadasis, focusing on their encounters with colonial modernity in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Following a hundred years of vociferous social reform, including a 1947 law that criminalized their lifestyles, the women in devadasi communities contend with severe social stigma and economic and cultural disenfranchisement. Adroitly combining ethnographic fieldwork with historical research, Davesh Soneji provides a comprehensive portrait of these marginalized women and unsettles received ideas about relations among them, the aesthetic roots of their performances, and the political efficacy of social reform in their communities.

In hardcover, Rs 750, 328 pages.  ISBN 81-7824-354-7

D.R. Nagaraj (1954–1998) has been widely recognized as among India’s most important thinkers in the broad area of cultural politics.
His Listening to the Loom: Essays on Literature, Politics, and Violence has been edited by Prithvi Datta Shobhi.
For the first time, a largely unknown and unavailable corpus of Nagaraj’s ideas and essays, amplifying and supplementing those in The Flaming Feet, are published in Listening to the Loom. This book provides Nagaraj’s most important writings on literature, politics, and violence. Some of the thirteen pieces here are translated from Kannada into English for the first time, while others long unavailable have been hunted out from scattered sources.

The title of this book, Listening to the Loom, derives from a story recounted by the novelist U. R. Ananthamurthy. Walking in Kathmandu with Nagaraj, once, his companion asked him to stop and listen to the sound of a weaver’s loom that only he had heard. Ananthamurthy recalls saying to Nagaraj that so long as he, Nagaraj, retained this ability to hear the sound of a loom, he would never become a ‘Non-Resident Indian’ intellectual. In the present volume, Nagaraj’s ear for the sound and sense of things quintessentially Indian is everywhere apparent.

Part I comprises essays on Kannada’s cultural experiences, Part II contains essays on politics and violence. All of them were mostly written between 1993 and 1998, the period when Nagaraj emerged as a mature thinker and produced some of his most important insights.

For anyone interested in vernacular cultures, subaltern histories, hinterland political discourses, metropolis-periphery relations, and D.R. Nagaraj’s distinctive insights into all these, the present book is essential.

In  hardcover,  388 pages, Rs 750. ISBN 81-7824-330-X 

Meera Kosambi's translations comprise Women Writing Gender: Marathi Fiction Before Independence, a volume that she also edited.  Most modern literatures were initially dominated by men who claimed, at times, to speak for women. But when given an opportunity, women spoke differently.

This book tells the several stories of how Maharashtrian women found a ‘voice’ in the late nineteenth century. It shows how they created a literary space for themselves, deploying fiction to depict worlds other than those available in male writing, as well as dreams and aspirations unseen in society before they were articulated by their fiction. Having been excluded from mainstream prose, women also created a parallel reform discourse which displayed various shades of feminism.

After an introductory overview of men and women writers of Marathi fiction before Independence, this book presents in translation the work of six iconic women writers: Kashibai Kanitkar, Indirabai Sahasrabuddhe, Vibhavari Shirurkar, Geeta Sane, Shakuntala Paranjpye, and Prema Kantak. Their novels and short stories unfold the journeys of articulate women towards new paradigms, and ultimately towards a demand for gender equality—which is women’s gift to Marathi literature.

In  hardback, 386 pages,  Rs 795, ISBN 81-7824-336-9

Assistant Professor of History at the University of Delaware Ramnarayan S. Rawat's  Reconsidering Untouchability:  Chamars and Dalit History in North India undertakes a comprehensive reconsideration of the history, identity, and politics of this important Dalit group. Using Dalit vernacular literature, local-level archival sources, and interviews in Dalit neighborhoods, he reveals a previously unrecognized Dalit movement which has flourished in North India from the earliest decades of the twentieth century and which has recently achieved major political successes.
Often identified as leatherworkers or characterized as a criminal caste, the Chamars of North India have long been stigmatized as untouchables. In this pathbreaking study, Ramnarayan S. Rawat shows that in fact the majority of Chamars have always been agriculturalists, and their association with the ritually impure occupation of leatherworking has largely been constructed through Hindu, colonial, and postcolonial representations of untouchability.

In  hardcover, 292 pages,  Rs 695. ISBN 81-7824-355-5