A Book for Our Times
Satyendra Singh
A PANDEMIC AND THE POLITICS OF LIFE by Ranabir Samaddar Women Unlimited, 2021, 208 pp., 450.00
July 2021, volume 45, No 7

Despite the post-positivist and postmodern epistemic shifts that have blurred the boundary between traditional notions of objectivity and subjectivity, it wouldn’t be erroneous to proclaim that the most plausible historical evaluations have emerged in retrospect. The temporality of our subjectivity plays a crucial role in determining our response to events around us—more so when the subjectivity is that of a historian, and the event is as contemporary and calamitous as the Covid-19 pandemic.

Begun during the initial months of the 2020 lockdown in India and finished before the year came to an end, Ranabir Samaddar’s A Pandemic and the Politics of Life  identifies itself as a ‘current history’ of ‘the “long 2020”’, presented in a richly analytical ‘historical frame’. At the risk of ‘[burning] your hands when you attempt to write current history’(p. xi), Samaddar’s ‘current history’ exhibits a fertile (to borrow C Wright Mills’s terminology) ‘sociological imagination’ that will help every reader make better sense of the pandemic-induced angst and, hopefully, participate actively in our collective struggle against ‘bio-politics from above’.

Continue reading this review