Translating India: The Cultural Politics of English is concerned with the produc- tion of the body of writing referred to as Indian Literature in English Translation or ILET. Rita Kothari offers a concise overview of the political and economic ideologies underlying translation activity in English in India, ‘what goes into feeding it’ and ‘the quarters that gives this industry its present prominence and help sustain its energy.’ She traces the development of ILET as a body ‘that is substantial and distinct’, and suggests that ‘its unprecedented rise from being a marginalized event to a pervasive trend’ over the last two decades is a phenomenon worth close attention (p.2).
I visited Goa shortly after receiving Last Bus to Goa, and sat on the beach under a rain- threatening sky to read: Like a slate of grey The sea stretches To meet the sky. The horizon blurs As the dawn Swollen with rain Douses the sun… (‘Velsao’)
Brian Mendonca’s work occupies the same space in poetry that naïve paintings occupy in art. They are not so much poems as notes with line breaks – yet they have all the charm of naïve paintings. The language and the images are simple, and there is no indication that the poems have been in any way edited since the first draft. In fact, at an early pre-publication reading, I had asked him whether he ever revised any of his works.
In the last three decades Shakespeare studies and postcolonial studies have not only been intimately linked, they have also been mutually constitutive. An important strand of postcolonial studies has investigated how the English literary canon dominated by Shakespeare performed the ideological work of reinforcing the cultural superiority of the British colonizer. It has also mapped the diversity of attitudes ranging from the deferential to the subversive which have marked the postcolonial response to Shakespeare’s plays (and metonymically to colonial culture).
‘To enter the phase of post-colonialism the tribes will first have to become state powers…. If so, then 8.08 per cent share in the total population of India is not a negligible number’ (p. 379). Dhagamwar’s concluding lines in the book under review deflate an otherwise compassionate and edifying work on certain tribes and their tribulations since the colonial era: the Pahadiyas of the Rajmahal Hills, the Santals of the Santal Parganas, both originally in Bihar and now in Jharkhand, and the Bhils of north-western Maharashtra.
In her introduction, Dhagamwar delineates the premises of her study: the geographic and cultural isolation of the tribes from settled society; the law as comprising both specific legal situations and the legal system, i.e., the police, lawyers, the courts and jails; the tribe’s unawareness of its own history resulting in loss of its identity and culminating in Verrier Elwin’s “loss of nerve” and attendant consequences; and the focus on land and criminal matters as “these two areas of law are the only ones that matter to tribes” (pp. 12-13, 16-17).
The book, an empirical account of popular culture and religion in medieval Andhradesa attempts theoretical analysis but does not offer much. The Introduction in the book is rather confusing. In barely four pages the author mentions the importance of studying and applying the methodology of Marxism, Annales, Subaltern, Focault, folk songs and folk tales. However, he fails to relate them to his work or explain how the use of these methodologies has enriched his study of popular culture and religion in medieval Andhra. Chapter 1 entitled ‘Popular Culture in Medieval Context’ is quite a dissatisfying attempt to theorize “popular” and “culture”. It would have been more appropriate had the author introduced the reader to the historiography and characteristics of medieval Andhra before embarking on a discussion of its beliefs, customs and traditions.
The volume under review is an unusual one. It covers a vast sweep of issues and topics – from culture to politics, from patterns of social transformation to contested identities and from myths creation to poetic sensibilities – all related to Northeast India. The purpose of the volume is not to further the boundaries of research on Northeast India but to provide a showcase of the variety of patterns in the socio-economic, cultural and political life of a much ignored region of the country.
With the book being dedicated to all those who love Indian Railways, the reviewer, who dreamt of being a railway man from childhood, was indeed excited. One cannot thus be faulted for looking forward to a series of articles that would take you through the evolution of railways in India breezily and positively. In the event one may be disappointed. Admittedly the editors could have a different opinion in this regard. They may argue that their effort is to address the serious reader/researcher/historian!
This edited volume of ten chapters is an output of a national seminar ‘Colonial and Post-Colonial Experience’ organized by the Department of History, Kolkata University and the Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata with support from the Indian Council of Social Science Research. The contributors are scholars of eminence in the fields of public health and history and this linkage is relevant for the understanding of public health issues and plan for appropriate action. Certain strands of contemporary public health are increasingly divesting themselves of historicity and are looking for quick-fix solutions that are often not in consonance with the contextual situation of the particular problem. This volume not only puts back the strong bonds of history and public health on the forefront but bridges the ‘Continuities and Discontinuities’ (to borrow the title of Qadeer’s chapter) of the colonial and postcolonial era at a time when public health education in India is set for radical changes.
From about the middle of the nineteenth century in Bengal arose fierce debates about our country, our sciences, our arts, indeed our manners, customs and ceremonies. British racism had hardened during this period; to the colonizers it was evident that Indian civilization had nothing to offer, not science, not arts, indeed nothing at all. As Macaulay perhaps typifying this attitude said in his notorious Minute on education, all the learning of the East was not worth one shelf in any library in Europe. The reaction among the colonized was a sense of deep shame and anguish, filled too with nationalistic incomprehension, anger and pride.
It must be admitted at the very outset that going through this book has been quite exasperating. Reviewing necessitated it be read cover to cover, and it was not a pleasant experience. Of course, it is not without its merits, but few will come away entirely satisfied, even if they are persuaded by the arguments. The primary reason for dissatisfaction is that a lot is promised and little delivered. The assertion is that: This is a cross-cultural study of the political economy of warfare in South Asia. Randolf G. S. Cooper combines an overview of Maratha military culture with a battle-by-battle analysis of the 1803 Anglo-Maratha Campaigns.
Allowing for a few exceptions, the dominant thesis now evident in works on Hinduism is that the term itself as well its ideological and material content were determined only under British colonial rule. Some eminent scholars, and I can immediately think of Nicholas Dirks, have even gone to the extent of arguing that caste and ‘culture’ were also, in good measure, products of this colonial encounter (Dirks, The Invention of Caste, Social Analysis, 1989; Colonialism and Culture,1992).
In a social party, or in the circuit of savvy politicians, celebrities, intellectual elites (not to mention what kind of), big corporates, policy makers or whizkids of the new economy, there is one statement making the rounds, when one is running out of conversation: “The Indian economy is doing very well. Consistently registering a growth rate of 7 or 7.5 is amazing and we can even do 10, is what the general feeling among these tribes is all about. Thanks to reforms and emergence of free market.”