The lack of peace in Sri Lanka is commonly portrayed as a consequence of a violent, ethnonationalist conflict between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. Viewed in this light, resolution could be attained through conflict management. But, as Qadri Ismail reveals, this is too simplistic an understanding and cannot produce lasting peace.
Abiding by Sri Lanka examines how the disciplines of anthropology, history, and literature treat the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict. Anthropology, Ismail contends, approaches Sri Lanka as an object from an “outside” and western point of view. History, addressing the conflict from the “inside,” abides by the place and so promotes change that is nationalist and exclusive. Neither of these fields imagines an inclusive community. Literature, Ismail argues, can.
With close readings of texts that “abide” by Sri Lanka, texts that have a commitment to it, Ismail demonstrates that the problems in Sri Lanka raise fundamental concerns for us all regarding the relationship between democracies and minorities. Recognizing the structural as well as political tendencies of representative democracies to suppress minorities, Ismail rethinks democracy by redefining the concept of the minority perspective, not as a subject-position of numerical insignificance, but as a conceptual space that opens up the possibility for distinction without domination and, ultimately, peace.
Qadri Ismail is associate professor of English at the University of Minnesota. He has also been a journalist in Sri Lanka.
The 1984 explosion of the Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India was undisputedly one of the world's worst industrial disasters. Some have argued that the resulting litigation provided an "innovative model" for dealing with the global distribution of technological risk; others consider the disaster a turning point in environmental legislation; still others argue that Bhopal is what globalization looks like on the ground.
Kim Fortun explores these claims by focusing on the dynamics and paradoxes of advocacy in competing power domains. She moves from hospitals in India to meetings with lawyers, corporate executives, and environmental justice activists in the United States to show how the disaster and its effects remain with us. Spiraling outward from the victims' stories, the innovative narrative sheds light on the way advocacy works within a complex global system, calling into question conventional notions of responsibility and ethical conduct. Revealing the hopes and frustrations of advocacy, this moving work also counters the tendency to think of Bhopal as an isolated incident that "can't happen here."
Faiz Ahmed Harvard University Press, 2017 Library of Congress KNF68.A366 2017 | Dewey Decimal 349.581
Debunking conventional narratives, Faiz Ahmed presents a vibrant account of the first Muslim-majority country to gain independence, codify its own laws, and ratify a constitution after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Afghanistan, he shows, attracted thinkers eager to craft a modern state within the interpretive traditions of Islamic law and ethics.
In Africa in the Indian Imagination Antoinette Burton reframes our understanding of the postcolonial Afro-Asian solidarity that emerged from the 1955 Bandung conference. Afro-Asian solidarity is best understood, Burton contends, by using friction as a lens to expose the racial, class, gender, sexuality, caste, and political tensions throughout the postcolonial global South. Focusing on India's imagined relationship with Africa, Burton historicizes Africa's role in the emergence of a coherent postcolonial Indian identity. She shows how—despite Bandung's rhetoric of equality and brotherhood—Indian identity echoed colonial racial hierarchies in its subordination of Africans and blackness. Underscoring Indian anxiety over Africa and challenging the narratives and dearly held assumptions that presume a sentimentalized, nostalgic, and fraternal history of Afro-Asian solidarity, Burton demonstrates the continued need for anti-heroic, vexed, and fractious postcolonial critique.
After the Humiliating Defeat at Yorktown in 1781, George III Vowed to Keep Fighting the Rebels and Their Allies Around the World, Holding a New Nation in the Balance
Although most people think the American Revolution ended with the British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia, on October 19, 1781, it did not. The war spread around the world, and exhausted men kept fighting—from the Arctic to Arkansas, from India and Ceylon to Schenectady and South America—while others labored to achieve a final diplomatic resolution.
After Cornwallis’s unexpected loss, George III vowed revenge, while Washington planned his next campaign. Spain, which France had lured into the war, insisted there would be no peace without seizing British-held Gibraltar. Yet the war had spun out of control long before Yorktown. Native Americans and Loyalists continued joint operations against land-hungry rebel settlers from New York to the Mississippi Valley. African American slaves sought freedom with the British. Soon, Britain seized the initiative again with a decisive naval victory in the Caribbean against the Comte de Grasse, the French hero of Yorktown.
In After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence, Don Glickstein tells the engrossing story of this uncertain and violent time, from the remarkable American and French success in Virginia to the conclusion of the fighting—in India—and then to the last British soldiers leaving America more than two years after Yorktown. Readers will learn about the people—their humor, frustration, fatigue, incredulity, worries; their shock at the savage terrorism each side inflicted; and their surprise at unexpected grace and generosity. Based on an extraordinary range of primary sources, the story encompasses a fascinating cast of characters: a French captain who destroyed a British trading post, but left supplies for Indians to help them through a harsh winter, an American Loyalist releasing a captured Spanish woman in hopes that his act of kindness will result in a prisoner exchange, a Native American leader caught “between two hells” of a fickle ally and a greedy enemy, and the only general to surrender to both George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte. Finally, the author asks the question we face today: How do you end a war that doesn’t want to end?
The Aga Khan Case
Teena Purohit Harvard University Press, 2012 Library of Congress KNS46.A33P87 2012 | Dewey Decimal 344.547096
An Arab-centric perspective dominates the West’s understanding of Islam. Purohit presses for a view of Islam as a heterogeneous religion that has found a variety of expressions in local contexts. The Ismaili community in colonial India illustrates how much more complex Muslim identity is, and always has been, than the media would have us believe.
Age of Entanglement
Kris Manjapra Harvard University Press, 2014 Library of Congress DS428.M36 2014 | Dewey Decimal 303.48243054
Age of Entanglement explores the patterns of connection linking German and Indian intellectuals from the nineteenth century to the years after the Second World War. Kris Manjapra traces the intersecting ideas and careers of philologists, physicists, poets, economists, and others who shared ideas, formed networks, and studied one another's worlds. Moving beyond well-rehearsed critiques of colonialism, this study recasts modern intellectual history in terms of the knotted intellectual itineraries of seeming strangers.
Collaborations in the sciences, arts, and humanities produced extraordinary meetings of German and Indian minds. Meghnad Saha met Albert Einstein, Stella Kramrisch brought the Bauhaus to Calcutta, and Girindrasekhar Bose began a correspondence with Sigmund Freud. Rabindranath Tagore traveled to Germany to recruit scholars for a new university, and Himanshu Rai worked with Franz Osten to establish movie studios in Bombay. These interactions, Manjapra argues, evinced shared responses to the hegemony of the British empire. Germans and Indians hoped to find in one another the tools needed to disrupt an Anglocentric world order. As Manjapra demonstrates, transnational encounters are not inherently progressive. From Orientalism to Aryanism to scientism, German-Indian entanglements were neither necessarily liberal nor conventionally cosmopolitan, often characterized as much by manipulation as by genuine cooperation.
The Alchemical Body excavates and centers within its Indian context the lost tradition of the medieval Siddhas. Working from previously unexplored alchemical sources, David Gordon White demonstrates for the first time that the medieval disciplines of Hindu alchemy and hatha yoga were practiced by one and the same people, and that they can be understood only when viewed together. White opens the way to a new and more comprehensive understanding of medieval Indian mysticism, within the broader context of south Asian Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Islam.
"White proves a skillful guide in disentangling historical and theoretical complexities that have thus far bedeviled the study of these influential aspects of medieval Indian culture."—Yoga World
"Anyone seriously interested in finding out more about authentic tantra, original hatha yoga, embodied liberation . . . sacred sexuality, paranormal abilities, healing, and of course alchemy will find White's extraordinary book as fascinating as any Tom Clancy thriller."—Georg Feuerstein, Yoga Journal
In Alimentary Tracts Parama Roy argues that who eats and with whom, who starves, and what is rejected as food are questions fundamental to empire, decolonization, and globalization. In crucial ways, she suggests, colonialism reconfigured the sensorium of colonizer and colonized, generating novel experiences of desire, taste, and appetite as well as new technologies of the embodied self. For colonizers, Indian nationalists, diasporic persons, and others in the colonial and postcolonial world orders, the alimentary tract functioned as an important corporeal, psychoaffective, and ethicopolitical contact zone, in which questions of identification, desire, difference, and responsibility were staged.
Interpreting texts that have addressed cooking, dining, taste, hungers, excesses, and aversions in South Asia and its diaspora since the mid-nineteenth century, Roy relates historical events and literary figures to tropes of disgust, abstention, dearth, and appetite. She analyzes the fears of pollution and deprivation conveyed in British accounts of the so-called Mutiny of 1857, complicates understandings of Mohandas K. Gandhi’s vegetarianism, examines the “famine fictions” of the novelist-actor Mahasweta Devi, and reflects on the diasporic cookbooks and screen performances of Madhur Jaffrey. This account of richly visceral global modernity furnishes readers with a new idiom for understanding historical action and cultural transformation.
The 1977 blockbuster Amar Akbar Anthony about the heroics of three Bombay brothers separated in childhood became a classic of Hindi cinema and a touchstone of Indian popular culture. Beyond its comedy and camp is a potent vision of social harmony, but one that invites critique, as the authors show.
Julie E. Hughes Harvard University Press, 2013 Library of Congress SK235.H84 2013 | Dewey Decimal 639.10954
Animal Kingdoms reveals the far-reaching cultural, political, and environmental importance of hunting in colonial India. Julie E. Hughes explores how Indian princes relied on their prowess as hunters of prized game to advance personal status, solidify power, and establish links with the historic battlefields and legendary deeds of their ancestors.
Until well into the twentieth century, pack animals were the primary mode of transport for supplying armies in the field. The British Indian Army was no exception. In the late nineteenth century, for example, it forcibly pressed into service thousands of camels of the Indus River basin to move supplies into and out of contested areas—a system that wreaked havoc on the delicately balanced multispecies environment of humans, animals, plants, and microbes living in this region of Northwest India.
In Animal Labor and Colonial Warfare, James Hevia examines the use of camels, mules, and donkeys in colonial campaigns of conquest and pacification, starting with the Second Afghan War—during which an astonishing 50,000 to 60,000 camels perished—and ending in the early twentieth century. Hevia explains how during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries a new set of human-animal relations were created as European powers and the United States expanded their colonial possessions and attempted to put both local economies and ecologies in the service of resource extraction. The results were devastating to animals and human communities alike, disrupting centuries-old ecological and economic relationships. And those effects were lasting: Hevia shows how a number of the key issues faced by the postcolonial nation-state of Pakistan—such as shortages of clean water for agriculture, humans, and animals, and limited resources for dealing with infectious diseases—can be directly traced to decisions made in the colonial past. An innovative study of an underexplored historical moment, Animal Labor and Colonial Warfare opens up the animal studies to non-Western contexts and provides an empirically rich contribution to the emerging field of multispecies historical ecology.
Benjamin Cohen tells the dramatic story of Mehdi Hasan and Ellen Donnelly, whose marriage convulsed high society in nineteenth-century India and whose notorious trial reverberated throughout the British Empire, setting the benchmark for Victorian scandals. In the struggle of one couple, he exposes the fault lines that would soon tear a world apart.
Appropriately Indian is an ethnographic analysis of the class of information technology professionals at the symbolic helm of globalizing India. Comprising a small but prestigious segment of India’s labor force, these transnational knowledge workers dominate the country’s economic and cultural scene, as do their notions of what it means to be Indian. Drawing on the stories of Indian professionals in Mumbai, Bangalore, Silicon Valley, and South Africa, Smitha Radhakrishnan explains how these high-tech workers create a “global Indianness” by transforming the diversity of Indian cultural practices into a generic, mobile set of “Indian” norms. Female information technology professionals are particularly influential. By reconfiguring notions of respectable femininity and the “good” Indian family, they are reshaping ideas about what it means to be Indian.
Radhakrishnan explains how this transnational class creates an Indian culture that is self-consciously distinct from Western culture, yet compatible with Western cosmopolitan lifestyles. She describes the material and symbolic privileges that accrue to India’s high-tech workers, who often claim ordinary middle-class backgrounds, but are overwhelmingly urban and upper caste. They are also distinctly apolitical and individualistic. Members of this elite class practice a decontextualized version of Hinduism, and they absorb the ideas and values that circulate through both Indian and non-Indian multinational corporations. Ultimately, though, global Indianness is rooted and configured in the gendered sphere of home and family.
Mumbai's textile industry is commonly but incorrectly understood to be an extinct relic of the past. In The Archive of Loss Maura Finkelstein examines what it means for textile mill workers—who are assumed not to exist—to live and work during a period of deindustrialization. Finkelstein shows how mills are ethnographic archives of the city where documents, artifacts, and stories exist in the buildings and in the bodies of workers. Workers' pain, illnesses, injuries, and exhaustion narrate industrial decline; the ways in which they live in tenements exist outside and resist the values expounded by modernity; and the rumors and untruths they share about textile worker strikes and a mill fire help them make sense of the industry's survival. In outlining this archive's contents, Finkelstein shows how mills, which she conceptualizes as lively ruins, become a lens through which to challenge, reimagine, and alter ways of thinking about the past, present, and future in Mumbai and beyond.
The Army and Democracy
Aqil Shah Harvard University Press, 2014 Library of Congress UA853.P18S53 2014 | Dewey Decimal 322.5095491
In sharp contrast to neighboring India, the Muslim nation of Pakistan has been ruled by its military for over three decades. The Army and Democracy identifies steps for reforming Pakistan's armed forces and reducing its interference in politics, and sees lessons for fragile democracies striving to bring the military under civilian control.
"At last, she arrives at the fatal end of the plank . . . and, with her hands crossed over her chest, falls straight downward, suspended for a moment in the air before being devoured by the burning pit that awaits her. . . ." This grisly 1829 account by Pierre Dubois demonstrates the usual European response to the Hindu custom of satis sacrificing themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands—horror and revulsion. Yet to those of the Hindu faith, not least the satis themselves, this act signals the sati's sacredness and spiritual power.
Ashes of Immortality attempts to see the satis through Hindu eyes, providing an extensive experiential and psychoanalytic account of ritual self-sacrifice and self-mutilation in South Asia. Based on fifteen years of fieldwork in northern India, where the state-banned practice of sati reemerged in the 1970s, as well as extensive textual analysis, Weinberger-Thomas constructs a radically new interpretation of satis. She shows that their self-immolation transcends gender, caste and class, region and history, representing for the Hindus a path to immortality.
Ashoka in Ancient India
Nayanjot Lahiri Harvard University Press, 2015 Library of Congress DS451.5.L35 2015 | Dewey Decimal 934.045092
In the third century BCE Ashoka ruled in South Asia and Afghanistan, and came to be seen as the ideal Buddhist king. Disentangling the threads of Ashoka’s life from the knot of legend that surrounds it, Nayanjot Lahiri presents a vivid biography of an emperor whose legacy extends far beyond the bounds of his lifetime and dominion.