Culture Studies (17)
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    Everyday Nationalism: Women of the Hindu Right in India by: Kalyani Devaki Menon

    Hindu nationalism has been responsible for acts of extreme violence against religious minorities and is a dominant force on the sociopolitical landscape of contemporary India. How does such a violent and exclusionary movement recruit supporters? How do members navigate the tensions between the normative prescriptions of such movements and competing ideologies? To understand the expansionary power of Hindu nationalism, Kalyani Menon argues, it is critical to examine the everyday constructions of politics and ideology through which activists garner support at the grassroots level. Based on fieldwork with women in several Hindu nationalist organizations, Menon explores how these activists use gendered constructions of religion, history, national insecurity, and social responsibility to recruit individuals from a variety of backgrounds. As Hindu nationalism extends its reach to appeal to increasingly diverse groups, she explains, it is forced to acknowledge a multiplicity of positions within the movement. She argues that Hindu nationalism’s willingness to accommodate dissonance is central to understanding the popularity of the movement.

    Everyday Nationalism contends that the Hindu nationalist movement’s power to attract and maintain constituencies with incongruous beliefs and practices is key to its growth. The book reveals that the movement’s success is facilitated by its ability to become meaningful in people’s daily lives, resonating with their constructions of the past, appealing to their fears in the present, presenting itself as the protector of the country’s citizens, and inventing traditions through the use of Hindu texts, symbols, and rituals to unite people in a sense of belonging to a nation.

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    From Popular Movements to Rebellion: The Naxalite Decade by:

    From Popular Movements to Rebellion: The Naxalite Decade argues that without an understanding of the popular sources of the rebellion of that time, the age of the Naxalite revolt will remain beyond our understanding. Many of the chapters of the book bring out for the first time unknown peasant heroes and heroines of that era, analyses the nature of the urban revolt, and shows how the urban revolt of that time anticipated street protests and occupy movements that were to shake the world forty-fifty years later. This is a moving and poignant book. Some of the essays are deeply reflective about why the movement failed and was at the end alienated. Ranabir Samaddar says that, the Naxalite Movement has been denied a history.  The book also carries six powerful short stories written during the Naxalite Decade and which are palpably true to life of the times.  The book has some rare photographs and ends with newspaper clippings from the period.  As a study of rebellious politics in post-Independent India, this volume with its focus on West Bengal and Bihar will stand out as an exceptional history of contemporary times.

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    Gitanjali Reborn: William Radice’s Writings on Rabindranath Tagore by: Martin Kämpchen

    After his path-breaking translation of Tagore’s poems in 1985, Radice evolved into an ambassador of  the poet in the Western world. He also translated Tagore’s short stories and brief poems, and finally translated Gitanjali afresh, restoring Tagore’s original English manuscript. W.B. Yeats had, in his attempt to edit them, seriously tampered with many Gitanjali poems.
    From 2011 to 2013, when the poet’s 150th birth anniversary was celebrated, Radice went from city to city in Asia, Europe and North America to advocate Rabindranath’s importance as a poet and what he means to him.
    Radice, himself a recognised poet and an erudite scholar, delved into the deeper meaning of Tagore’s poems and songs, gauged his emotions and hidden thoughts and discussed his ideas on education and the environment with an insight probably no other Westerner has. This book presents a comprehensive collection of lectures and essays Radice wrote during those festival years.

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    India and China in the Colonial World by: Madhavi Thampi

    India and China in the Colonial World brings together thirteen essays by eminent Indian and Chinese scholars as well as young researchers who look at the multidimensional interaction between the two countries. This interaction was of many kinds and took place at various levels. This volume casts new light on some of the problems that have confronted the relations between India and China as new states and, in doing so, challenges stereotyped images of this relationship.

    The major areas of India-China relationships covered in this book include some aspects of the situation during and after World War II. Some papers, such as those on the importance of Shanghai in Sino-Indian trade, the presence of the Chinese community in India and  Indians in China; Indian fighters in the Taiping Rebellion; Gandhi and the Chinese in South Africa; and ties between south-west China and north-east India during World War II; present the findings of new research.  Others such as those pertaining to India-China relations in the period, such as the opium trade; the controversial visit of Rabindranath Tagore to China; and the complexity of Subhash Chandra Bose’s position with relation to both China and Japan have been put in a new light.

    The essays in this book are particularly relevant as they help to understand the relationship between India and China in the context of a historical perspective.

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    Labour State And Society In Rural India: A Class-Relational Approach by: Jonathan Pattenden

    Behind India’s recent economic growth lies a story of societal conflict that is scarcely talked about. Across its villages and production sites, state institutions and civil society organisations, the better and less well-off sections of society are engaged in antagonistic relations that determine the material conditions of one quarter of the world’s ‘poor’. Increasingly mobile and often with several jobs in multiple locations, India’s ‘classes of labour’ are highly segmented but far from passive in the face of ongoing exploitation and domination.

    Drawing on more than a decade of fieldwork in rural South India, this book uses a ‘class-relational’ approach to analyse continuity and change in processes of accumulation, exploitation and domination. It focuses on the three interrelated arenas of labour relations, the state and civil society to understand how improvements can be made in the conditions of labourers working ‘at the margins’ of global production networks, primarilyas agricultural labourers and construction workers.Elements of social policy can improve the poor’s material conditions and expand their political spacewhere such ends are actively pursued by labouring class organisations. More fundamental change, though, requires stronger organisation of the informal workers who make up the majority of India’s population.

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    Literature and Nationalist Ideology by: Hans Harder

    Writing histories of literature means making selections, passing value judgments, and incorporating or rejecting foregoing traditions. The book argues that in many parts of India, literary histories play an important role in creating a cultural ethos. They are closely linked with nationalism in general and various regional ‘sub-nationalisms’ in particular.

    Literary historiography helps to establish a national literature in a way that is not always unproblematic: systematic representation of literary works and authors is as much part of this story as conscious omissions or political spins in the making of a literary heritage.

    The contributors to this volume look at a great variety of aspects of the historiography of modern regional languages of India. The approach excludes classical languages of India from this approach, except Tamil which is considered a modern and a classical language at the same time. It includes the late yet undoubtedly successful arrival of English in the nation’s literary corpus.

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    Lived Islam in South Asia: Adaptation, Accommodation and Conflict by: Imtiaz Ahmad, Helmut Reifeld,

    Lived Islam in South Asia: Adaptation, Accommodation and Conflict explores the everyday religious lives of Muslims in South Asia. The book argues that Islam cannot be understood through the works of theologians alone, for whom it is a formal, uniform and rigid system of beliefs and practices. Popular Islam, or Islam as it is practised by millions of Muslims in South Asia, has an empirical validity and is a dynamic process of adjustment and accommodation as well as conflict with other religions, with which it coexists.

    The book is divided into four parts.

    Part I: Concepts and Interpretations brings coherence and meaning to the confusion of everyday life.

    Part II: Lived Islam and its Historical Context, explores the distinctive developments of Islam in Kashmir and Nepal.

    Part III: Conflict and Accommodation analyses various aspects of both religious conflicts and accommodation. For instance, harmonious relations between Muslims and Hindus united by common worship at Muslim shrines in Karnataka is an empirical fact and common worship unites the marginalized Shia women in Hyderabad with women of other religions.

    Part IV: The Presence of Sufism describes how marginalized Hindus and Muslims find acceptance in Sufism.

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    Marriage, Love, Caste and Kinship Support: Lived Experiences of the Urban Poor in India by: Shalini Grover

    Marriage, Love, Caste and Kinship Support: Lived Experiences of the Urban Poor in India makes use of interesting case studies and photographs to describe the everyday life in a squatter settlement in Delhi.

    The book helps to understand the marital experiences of these people most of whom belong to the Scheduled Caste and live in one identified geographical space. The author describes the shifts within their marriages, remarriages and other kinds of unions and their striking diversities, which have been described with care. Shalini Grover also examines the close ties of married women with their mothers and natal families.

    An important contribution of the book lies in the unfolding of the role of women-led informal courts, Mahila Panchayats, and their influence in conflict resolution. This takes place in a distinctly different mode of community-based arbitration against the backdrop of mainstream legal structures and male-dominated caste associations.

    The book will be of interest to students of sociology and social anthropology, gender studies, development studies, law and psychology. Activists and family counsellors will also find the book useful.

     

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    Nature, Culture and Religion at the Crossroads of Asia by: Marie Lecomte-Tilouine

    Nature, Culture and Religion at the Crossroads of Asia explores how ethnic groups living in the Himalayan regions understand nature and culture. The first part addresses the opposition between nature and culture in Asia’s major religious traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Shamanism. The second part brings together specialists of different representative groups living in the heterogeneous Himalayan region. They examine how these indigenous groups perceive their world. This includes understanding their mythic past, in particular, the place of animals and spirits in the world of humans as they see it and the role of ritual in the everyday lives of these people. The book takes into account how these various perceptions of the Himalayan peoples are shaped by a globalized world. The volume thus provides new ways of viewing the relationship between humans and their environment.

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    Of Colonial Bungalows and Piano Lessons: Memoirs of an Indian Woman by:

    Of Colonial Bungalows and Piano Lessons can be read as a metaphor — as an icon — of the encounter between cultures. The memoir is based on Monica Chanda’s recollections between about 1913 and 1927, of life in Calcutta, districts of undivided Bengal, holidays in Kashmir and in Europe. There is more than a whiff of a Victorian upbringing in the pages. Neither honed in one culture nor fully at home in those practices superimposed by Monica’s father’s professional life as a member of the Indian Civil Service, her dilemma comes through in these writings. While her father, Jnanendra Nath Gupta, was avowedly against formal schooling for girls, he encouraged his daughter to undertake long and at times hazardous journeys by river, rail and road to perfect her skills as a pianist. Though there was an occasional longing for a freer life like that lived by her cousins, yet, Monica also enjoyed the privileges of living in spacious bungalows with a retinue of servants, going on exclusive launch trips down the Ganges, and being invited to parties at Government House and even Buckingham Palace. While there is a tautness palpable in her narration of an encounter with a clearly racist Eurasian sergeant and almost near-encounter with a tiger, Monica’s style avoids hyperbole and dramatic sequences. She presents facts and situations as she saw them — though there are a few times when emotions of love, fear and excitement ripple through the pages of this tightly–woven memoir.