Sociology (33)
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    Middle Class Values in India & Western Europe by: Imtiaz Ahmad, Helmut Reifeld,

    Thirteen extremely interesting essays discuss what constitutes the middle classes, and distinguishes their values and way of life in France, Germany and India.

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    Much Ado Over Coffee – Indian Coffee House Then and Now by: Bhaswati Bhattacharya

    Based on oral history, fiction, interesting intellectual gossip, and records of the Coffee Board of India, Much Ado Over Coffee: Indian Coffee House Then and Now is a many-sited description of the Indian Coffee House, possibly the world’s first coffee house chain.
    The book offers interestingly written accounts of the addas or informal meetings, of the educated middle class in the cities of Calcutta, Allahabad and Delhi. Addas initially flourished in the neighbourhood tea shops, and then switched to the newly created coffee houses.
    Readers will encounter their favourite writers, and other famous people at close quarters here. Bhaswati Battacharya brings to life the lanes and by-lanes of these cities as they were then, through the sheer gift of her ethnographic skills. Some workers, now forgotten but who were once immensely popular with the regular visitors of the coffee houses, live on again on these pages bringing back old memories. In this context one should perhaps mention that in an interesting departure, some footnotes in this book are used to carry video links of luminaries visiting these coffee houses.
    Change has set in here too as everywhere else.

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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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    New Mansions for Music: Performance, Pedagogy and Criticism by: Lakshmi Subramanian

    The essays in New Mansions for Music: Performance, Pedagogy and Criticism look at one of the most ancient and rigorous classical musical traditions of India, the Karnatik music system, and the kind of changes it underwent once it was relocated from traditional spaces of temples and salons to the public domain. Nineteenth-century Madras led the way in the transformation that Karnatik music underwent as it encountered the forces of modernization and standardization. This study also contributes to our understanding of the experience of modernity in India through the prism of music. The role of Madras city as patron and custodian of the performing arts, especially classical music offers an invaluable perspective on the larger processes of modernization in India As the title suggests, the areas of classical music, which were most influenced by these developments were pedagogy or modes of musical transmission, performance conventions and criticism or music appreciation. Once the urban elite demanded the widening of the teaching of classical music, traditional modes of music instruction underwent a major change involving a breakdown of the gurushishya parampara or the tradition wherein the teacher imparted knowledge to a chosen few. Caste and kinship were important determining factors for the selection of these shishyas or students, but in modern institutions like the universities these boundaries had to be demolished. Simultaneously, the public staging of music brought the performer into a new relationship with his audience, especially as the art form became subject to validation and criticism by the newly emerging music critic. In an immensely readable book peppered with anecdotes and conversations with leading musicians and critics of the day, as well as humorous visual representations, part caricature, part satirical, the author describes a rapidly changing society and its new look in early twentieth century Madras.

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    Partners in Development: India and Switzerland by: Richard Gerster

    This abundantly illustrated, accessible and perceptive account of the Indo-Swiss cooperation in India’s development programme is a remarkable book. The cooperation dates back to 1958, and it is not widely known that Switzerland was the first country to enter into a treaty of friendship with the then newly independent India on 14 August 1948.

    Development interests were preceded by business interests and the first Swiss watches reached the subcontinent around 1600. By the end of 2005, Switzerland ranked tenth among foreign investors in India.

    Partners in Development, as the title suggests, brings out the rare quality of a partnership between a donor and a recipient country. Written with a dispassionate assessment of this dynamic relationship which has undergone changes as India has itself become a donor country, the book throws open many important questions relating to development programmes in India today. The book states candidly that however important in specific instances, development cooperation should not be overestimated and that the Indo-Swiss development cooperation has benefited both sides. Nevertheless it comments that India is indeed a world economic power today, and Switzerland, jointly with other foreign agencies, has contributed to this success.

    The book begins with an excellent introduction of the country’s brief history from independence to the present day, and concludes that India’s ‘economic miracle’, however important, is not as impressive as the survival and vitality of the country’s democratic institutions. This idea has been echoed by Gerster and other contributors to this volume. It then moves on to dwell on areas where the cooperation has been successful as well as where it has not. The important areas of success have been in vocational training, animal husbandry and dairy farming, biotechnology and microfinance and methodology.  The book brings in a note of uncertainty about the future of development programmes in India.  It ends by pointing out that there are many issues that can be resolved only through international cooperation.

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    Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World by: Hent de Vries, Lawrence E. Sullivan,

    In a globalized world, how can one bridge the private lives of individuals and public cultures or ways of life? In what ways does religion, with regard to words, gestures, and things, exert a pressure on structures of governance? Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-secular World opens an inquiry concerning the engagement of religion with politics.

    The seventeen papers in this volume examine interrelationships between the political, economic and cultural characteristics of the ‘age of globalization’ on the one hand and the vision of society and structures of governance developed over millennia by religious traditions on the other.  It examines if contemporary political theologies have practical relevance in aspects of policies and decision-making by individuals and governments. It explores the possibility that religion might give people a chance to lead better lives in the modern milieu. The volume will be of great interest to students of religion, politics, sociology and philosophy, as well as the interested general reader.

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    Rebuilding Buddhism: The Theravada Movement in Twentieth-Century Nepal by: Sarah LeVine, David N. Gellner,

    Rebuilding Buddhism describes in evocative detail the experiences and achievements of Nepalis who have adopted Theravada Buddhism. This form of Buddhism was introduced into Nepal from Burma and Sri Lanka in the 1930s, and its adherents have struggled for recognition and acceptance ever since. With its focus on the austere figure of the monk and the biography of the historical Buddha, and more recently with its emphasis on individualizing meditation and on gender equality, Theravada Buddhism contrasts sharply with the highly ritualized Tantric Buddhism traditionally practiced in the Kathmandu Valley.

    Based on extensive fieldwork, interviews, and historical reconstruction, the book provides a rich portrait of the different ways of being a Nepali Buddhist over the past seventy years. At the same time it explores the impact of the Theravada movement and what its gradual success has meant for Buddhism, for society, and for men and women in Nepal.

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    Reflections on Cambridge by: Alan Macfarlane

    The traditions and creativity of Cambridge University have survived 800 years. In celebration, this first-ever combined historical and anthropological account explores the culture, the customs, the colleges and the politics of this famous institution. As professor there for nearly forty years, the author sets forth on a personal but also dispassionate attempt to understand how this ancient university developed and changed, and how it continues to influence those who pass through it. This book delves into the history and architecture as well as the charm and the ghosts of Cambridge presenting a valuable resource for anyone who studies, teaches, visits, or is intrigued by this great intellectual centre

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    Reforming India’s Social Sector: Poverty, Nutrition, Health And Education by: K. Seeta Prabhu, R. Sudarshan,

    It is widely believed that economic reforms widen inequalities in societies which are already highly unequal and the impact of economic reforms on social sectors, particularly in developing economies like India, has therefore been a subject of great concern These economies, it is argued, face the double problem of poverty, deprivation and inequality on the one hand and cutbacks in fiscal expenditures (to prune budgetary expenditures) on the other. This book addresses this problem, drawing out the debates in each of the themes of poverty alleviation, nutrition, health and education with the use of theoretical and empirical analysis.

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    Religion and Personal Law in Secular India: A Call to Judgement by: Gerald James Larson

    This book provides a comprehensive look into the issues and challenges that India faces as it tries to put a uniform civil code into practice. Scholars representing a wide range of disciplines, from both North America and India, provide perspective on complex issues of multiculturalism that characterizes Indian society and identities. Readers seeking a deeper understanding of Indian history and culture will find a sensitive handling of the tensions between religious law and the claims of a modern, secular state in this timely volume.