Caste-based quotas, whether in education, jobs, or electoral positions, are routinely vilified for lowering the quality of the space they are applied to, because of the belief that those chosen through quotas are inherently inferior to those selected on open, or non-quota, positions. This widespread belief transcends the boundaries between academic arguments and popular perceptions.
Purulia is a town in Bengal’s western periphery. Under British rule, it was the headquarters of the sprawling Manbhum district. At Independence, the entire district was allocated to Bihar. But its substantial Bengali population actively resisted what they perceived to be Hindi imposition. Demonstrations soon became a daily occur-rence as the State administration strove to contain the language agitation.
The recently concluded Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh had a very interesting moment when a 101 years old voter pushed the button at his polling booth in the remote Kalpa village in Kinnaur district of the State. Shyam Saran Negi, would have been passed on for any aware and conscious senior citizen who believes in exercising his duty of citizenship by voting, had he not been India’s first voter.
Arecent revival in the unearthing culinary histories of India has brought forth some marvellous writing. The study of food has been serious business in certain parts of the world for quite some time, with university departments dedicated to the subject. However, India has lagged behind in this respect. This gap is slowly being filled, both through academic and popular writing.
Making tea is an art and making a perfect cup—hold on, is there a universally accepted way of brewing tea? There is, if we believe, the International Standard Organization; but who cares! George Orwell liked it without sugar, Maulana Azad liked it without milk —he thought adding milk is a British innovation. Hamid Dabashi likes it only in transparent cups. Gandhi didn’t like it all. Kashmiris prefer it with salt and Tibetans like it with Yak butter.
This masterly new work by Delhi University historian Anshu Malhotra enlivens the study of religion, gender, and caste in late colonial Punjab, with compelling explorations of post-Partition religious and cultural forms. The centre of her study is Piro (d. 1872), a female devotee of a nineteenth century guru named Gulabdas (1809-1873), who led a sect that came to be known by his name: the Gulabdasis. The work which will be accessible to and valued by scholars in colonial history, postcolonial studies, religious studies, and gender studies, as well as far beyond these.
Muslim life in urban India has attracted fresh attention since the publication of the Sachar Report a good decade ago. The subsequent debate has gone through three distinct stages.
Initial scholarship, including the report itself, outlined and quantified the extent of Muslim disadvantage with a broad brush. It demonstrated violent exclusion over decades; the associated deprivation in health, employment, housing, and other material indicators of development; and the symbolic marginalization of Muslims in the emerging middle-class narrative of ‘Shining India’.
Akhil Katyal deals with a subject that has been researched upon recently. Bringing socio-psychological identi-ties and religious identities together in the same research needs courage, especially in the contemporary political ambience in the country. The blurb hints at certain exciting debates, Katyal unveils much more than that.
Performance and the Political uses five critical modes—vision, voice, ges-tural, machinic and animality to address questions that are intimately linked to our present such as: what is the political? How do we engage with performative practices in which transgression is not mapped through the paradigms of agency and individualized resistance? Spanning the time period from Emergency to neoliberalism, Ameet Parameswaran’s book focuses on a wide range of performance practices such as theatre, poetry, and other popular forms such as Kathaprasangam (this form usually involves a single storyteller narrating a story interwoven with songs and is performed at public gatherings and events) and ‘Mimics Parade’ (a performance form that uses humour and parody as its base and emerged as one of the most popular forms of entertainment in Kerala in the 1980s) to delineate the complex intertwining of the performative, the political and the affective.
The historian Ronald Hutton, an acknowledged expert in British folk-lore, and pre-Christian religions and paganism in Early Modern Britain, author of The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (1999) and The Druids: A History (2007), offers yet another treat to his readers. The book under review The Witch: A History of Fear, From Ancient Times to the Present offers a detailed and well researched account of a wide and divergent variety of beliefs about witches and engages with studies on witchcraft from ancient times to early modern period, and for that reason ‘the present’ in the subtitle of the book by Hutton is somewhat misleading.
Honour as the bedrock of family life and values is a familiar and well-researched idea in the literature on gender, family and kinship in South Asia. Honour Unmasked, while locating itself within this terrain makes a significant contribution to the field for the following three reasons. First, it is valuable for the site and context of study, as ethnographic work on gender and power in Pakistani society is relatively limited.
Enclosures and boundaries have a conflicted meaning for women. Enclosures are often not safe spaces for them and women have to constantly resist boundaries in order to live their lives. The book under review looks at how ‘conventional Tamil symbols—unbroken enclosures like bangles, pots, wedding halls, the kolam or doorstep design—signifying auspiciousness’ (p. 104), are reinterpreted in the songs of Tamil Paraiyar women as signs of deprivation and restriction.