Beyond National Boundaries

This book is a good example of the growing strengths and persistent weak¬nesses of South Asian thoughts on South Asia.
To take the strengths first, the book adds one more to the growing list of titles of books about South Asia as a region. This list and its growth have been quite a remarkable phenomenon of the South Asian intellectual scene since the start of the 1980s. One can be certain that more—many more—books have been pub¬lished, more papers have been written, and more seminars held in the 80’s with the phrase South Asia incorporated in them in one’ way or another than had been produced in all the preceding years.

The Subalterns Speak

‘Angaliyat’ in Gujarati means the child of the former husband, or more precisely, the child of the former husband who follows the mother, holding her finger (‘Angali’), when she weds another man. The title of the novel is suggestive of the love that unites the two main characters of the novel—Tiho, a weaver of a small village, Ratnapur, and Methi, a woman-of the same community from another village, Shilapur. Though Tiho and Methi never marry, Gokal, Methi’s son, is known as an ‘angaliyat’. Gokal not only uses Tiho’s name as his father but also begins to acquire, towards the end of the novel, the strength of Tiho’s character and thus becomes in a way his true heir. But what is more important perhaps is the social and political backdrop against which the story of Tiho and Methi unfolds.

Academia to Cultural Politics

This is an engaging book, and it only narrowly misses being an important one. By widening the scope of traditional ‘lit. crit’. concerns to include analyses of non-Western, non-literary, and even oral narrative forms, the contributors demonstrate how academic critics may engage in cultural politics through a process that the editors have described, simply thus: ‘(A) paper starts with theory, and spills over into life….’

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There has been a rather curious reluc¬tance among Indian scholars, especially among those involved with English studies, to engage in critical discussion of British fiction about India. Professor Bhupal Singh of Dayal Singh College, then in Lahore, wrote his pioneering book on the subject more than fifty years ago. Since then sahibs and mems such as Allen Greenberger, Kai Nicholson, Benita Parry, Stephen Hemenway and, most recently, David Rubin (in a book entitled After the Raj published last year) have enlarged the scope of discussion of these novels.

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It is widely believed that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi is dissatisfied with the functioning of the Ministry of External Affairs. It is also well known that many members of the Indian Foreign Service are discontented and dispirited these days, and have been so for some years. Why?

Notwithstanding India’s recently comple¬ted chairmanship of the Nonaligned Movement and the amply demonstrated charm of the Prime Minister, India’s voice cannot be considered objectively to be one of influence in world politics today.

In Search Of Identity

The two books under review tackle similar questions but reach their answers through somewhat different routes. Kumari Jayawardena examines the role played by women in the anti-colonial struggles in several third world countries and the changes in the perceptions of women that emerged as a consequence, Liddle and Joshi study the position of urban, professional women in India today and attempt to , assess their status through the parameters of gender, caste and class. Both books address them¬selves to the vexed question of whether or not feminism is a western phenomenon transplanted to India or an; indigenously generated movement. Both books decide in favour of the latter, but again through different routes and for different reasons.