Science students remember Moebius strips fondly; odd playful creations, a clever twist and a basic rule of space lies broken. Run your finger along the side and you feel a strange frisson of confirmation—you always knew what would happen, but it’s still strange. Similarly, Giti Thadani sets out on a road trip—and it’s been established that road trips have led to many a fascinating book, a la Blue Highways—but it’s an extraordinary feeling to find one that compels you to leave your seat and hit the highway.
Few persons are likely to have done more reading of the books on South India written during the colonial period than Kavita Watsa. Intelligently selecting from that reading, she combines her selections with perceptive observations made on journeys through South India as well as in places she has called home during a young life spent on much moving about.
Twenty-one million people spread over 110 countries with an estimated combined income of US$160 billion. So goes the statistics of the Indian origin people world over. A lot has been written on their success stories in the respective host countries. The book under review is one such, but with a difference.
The famous Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang (more familiar in India in the old transliteration Hiuen Tsang) has left a deep imprint on his own country, on India where his journey led him, and on several lands in between. He was a profoundly significant figure of his time, an elevated spirit of unmatched learning and unbelievable drive. His determination to learn about Buddhism in its original home sent him along the hazardous overland route to India, a hugely dangerous venture across brigand-infested and barely charted deserts and mountains.
There is this charming passage on page 61 of the book where Aurora, recounting the tense and fluid months after the Liberation of Goa, gives us a glimpse into that private world that she and Alban, an IAS officer of the Bihar cadre sent to Goa to help with the transition, had to negotiate. ‘He could sense my personal turmoil and my wistfulness, but to him I was Maria. He has come to know and acknowledge Aurora best perhaps only in the reading of this book. (“Oh no”, he had said when we were engaged to be married, “North India is full of Aroras/Auroras; it is a surname there, and I have a subdivisional officer called Arora. Please, please let me call you Maria. Besides, I cannot even pronounce Aurora the way it should be.”’
American scholarship and policy has traditionally treated India and China as falling within two different geopolitical contexts. In the past decade, US scholarship on China has dealt predominantly with the challenges posed to the US by a rapidly growing Chinese economy and military capability.
Sudarshan Bhutani served as a young officer in the Indian Embassy in Beijing in the years covered in this elegantly written short study of some 215 pages, not including the appendices. It lucidly summarizes the essentials of the India-China border dispute as seen from an Indian perspective, offering a kind of ‘everyman’s guide’ to an issue that must figure as a problem to be resolved, as the two countries move forward in a relationship that has gradually moved beyond that dispute’s legacy of bitterness.
On the evening of May 21st I had gone out for dinner after completing a sequence of poems. The last poem was a first draft. I came back and faired it in long hand. It ran: The Messenger Announces At Pasargadae the Terrible News My Lords, both Persian and Mede, rumour precedes horsemen. So I have ridden twenty hours a day to be here amongst you and beat rumour by a length.
The problem of Jammu and Kashmir and of the Kashmir valley in particular, must be the most explored and the most overworked theme in a variety of studies that range from conflict, to nationality and nation, to federalism, to patriotism, to security, to terrorism, to accounts of the Partition, to communal conflict, and to India-Pakistan relations. Looming large over all these scholarly imaginations is the ‘P’ factor—Pakistan, the ‘T’ factor—terrorism, the ‘S’ factor—security, and in the aftermath of 9/11 the ‘I’ factor—Islamic terrorism.
This volume is an edited collection of the papers presented as part of an advanced seminar at the School of American Research, Santa Fe. Margins are normally discussed in terms of a centre but here the perspective is somewhat reversed: margins are not just where the rationalized administrative forms of the state are less effectively represented, but rather practices and policies outside the mainstream that somehow also play a role in constituting the state as a necessary entailment.
The issue of political obligation has been a central concern of modern political theory. Why should people obey the state? Why should individuals subject themselves to the authority of the sovereign? Early liberal theorists referred to such benefits as, peace, security, freedom, and protection of one’s basic rights, as reasons for abiding by the law promulgated by the sovereign. As the movements for democracy and greater participation gained ground, the nature of sovereign authority and the accountability of the sovereign became the primary concerns.
The idea of this book came to the scholars at the Institute of Women’s Studies (IWS) at the University of Ottawa in the fall of 2000 when the World March for Women was energizing the women’s movement and feminist studies globally. A general call was put out for research papers, without setting any boundaries to the authors as to what and how they should write. The response was enormous.
The experience of the women’s movement throughout the world has led to an increasingly critical engagement with legal discourse. In many systems the substance, structure and culture of the law are actively discriminatory to women denying them equal rights. Even in areas where there is de jure equality, the de facto position of women is far from equal because of the way all the actors involved interpret laws.
“The Constitution, it may be mistakenly believed, represents a break with India’s colonial past. What is perhaps true is that it could have been a point of departure from colonial priorities and practice. But the pragmatism that characterized executive decision-making and functioning, and the continuity that dogged the legal and judicial system, turned the Constitution on its head, entrenching distortions that stayed with the system through what should have been an era of change. It should have been plain, we may think, that rights of the people and wrongs of the government ought to be consonant with the expectations that the freedom struggle fostered in us; but when it is the letter of the law interpreted through the lens of precedent set by colonial courts which determines the course that is set for us, there is evidence that the relevant past of the freedom struggle has been wilfully relegated to a zone that is ruled by amnesia. And with that historical background absent from the understanding and interpretation of the Constitution, it is no surprise that “the institutions under the Constitution were looked upon as a continuation of the colonial system of administration”(p. 22).
An easily accessible history of Indian Christianity was much needed, and Fernando and Gispert-Sauch’s work supplies this deficiency. The work describes concisely, but with care and scholarly acumen, the long history of the religion in India: from the legends of the first arrival of the message of Jesus Christ in India with St Thomas in the first century AD to recent debates about the place of Christianity in the modern Indian state.
There are many streams of discussions that are going on within political sociology. Development, democracy and participatory governance is one such stream. The nation-state, civil society and social movements is another stream. The ongoing discourse within the realm of political sociology about nation, civil society and social movements highlight the place and role of the nation, civil society and state in the lives of citizens of a nation and the members of a society.
The entire collection of essays in this volume is a modest reverberation of the debates that one has been trying to tackle over the last four decades in the field of Lesbian and Gay studies, yet, the most striking part of these twenty-six essays, collected in this handbook, is their contemporaneity. The ideas and debates tackled through these essays are indicative of ever new grounds that are being approached by Lesbian and Gay studies as a distinctive field of study in the social sciences today. Whether it be the idea of exploring a “queer cyber space” (pp. 115-145) or talk about the “cultural visibility” of a minority homosexual population vis-à-vis their political freedom as “sexual citizens” of a nation state (p p. 183-199, 231-253, 427-443) or thwart basic stated assumptions of defining one’s identity and status through the norms of heteronormativity (pp.73-83, 253-271). The underlying thematic of almost all these essays, I would say, undertakes a social approach to sexuality, where basic assumptions of what constitutes the social have been challenged and new paradigms have been suggested.
I would like to pose a simple question—what does it mean to study sexuality—before discussing Srivasatava’s edited volume on ‘sexualities’, ‘masculinities’ and culture in South Asia. Is the category of sexuality the same within the theoretical apparatuses of anthropology, history or literature? Does it include only sexual ideologies, practices, patterns and norms, or does it necessarily extend to gender relations, constructions of masculinity and femininity?
The proliferation of men’s studies and the theorizing of masculinities in the western academia could be traced back to R.W. Connell’s seminal contribution on multiple masculinities. Connell argues that masculinities are constructed, performed, experienced and perceived through differences of class and sexual orientations and not tied to male bodies.
Shree Ghatage (born 1957) moved to Canada in the nineteen-eighties; her first book, Awake When All the World is Asleep (1997) is a collection of short stories. Brahma’s Dream (first published in Canada in 2004) is an unusual coming-of-age story, because the heroine grows up in the shadow of a life-threatening disease. The novel raises philosophical questions about man’s fate, but at the same time gives a realistic picture of members of a Chitpavan Brahmin family living in Shivaji Park in suburban Bombay in the nineteen-forties.