Beyond the Commonsense Of Orientalism: Translation As ‘Marvellous Thieving’

The history of circulation in Europe of tales purportedly comprising the Arabian Nights (as the commonest moniker for the collection goes, though literally it should be ‘thousand nights and a night’, if translated ad verbatim from the Arabic title alf layla wa layla) has frequently been read as but a symptom—a symptom of how the Orient was textually constructed for consumption in the West, and how the East often strove hard to cast its imagining of itself in that reflected light. This symptomatic reading so suits the current academic commonsense, aided by an uncritical acceptance as axiomatic of Said’s originally contingently radical view of Orientalism, that this simplistic formulation has percolated most of our understanding of European exercises in translating Eastern texts as attempts in stereotyping the Orient in pejorative, and civilizable, governable terms.

A Multilayered Narrative

Chandrashekhar Kambar’s novel Karimayi dwells on the shifting borders of myth and history, a fashionable location in current ideological debates, but written many years ago by a seasoned novelist with a fine eye for cultural details. Thanks to a commendable new translation by Krishna Manavalli, global access to this iconic Kannada novel has become possible. In the ‘Introduction’, Rajeev Taranath praises Manavalli’s negotiation between folk idiom in Kannada and its English equivalent without her resorting to ‘glib exoticism’ (p. xiii). I too was struck by the fluidity of the text while the cultural counters of orality are preserved.

A Magnificent Compendium

This is a great book, even a magnificent one, that chronicles the story (I’m not using the term ‘history’ deliberately because history of literature has now become a sophisticated genre by itself, generating a plethora of theoretically informed materials around it that deal with different aspects of the genre, addressing the primary question of how much of ‘history’ and how much of ‘literature’ will make the correct combination) of the development of Pakistani writing in English.

Tryst With Special Education

Autobiographies are always a great source of learning and inspiration. In reading about someone else, the reader gets a perspective about things that are often missed in one’s own life. Writing about oneself is cathartic as much for the writer as it is for the reader, as both can connect in disjointed, but similar life experiences. Autobiographies of the great leaders of the world, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Maya Angelou, among others, serve important inspirational purposes by bringing to the fore the low points in their lives, as much as highlight the high points. However, it is not just international celebrities whose autobiographies can be motivational. Stories of learning to live a fulfilling life can be found in autobiographies of people who might otherwise remain in obscurity. Works of Anne Frank and Baby Halder are two such examples.

Across A Spectrum Of Experiences

Ethnography is the study of social interactions and behaviour that occur within communities or organizations. Specifically, school ethnographies can capture a spectrum of experiences that characterize life at school such as play, curiosity, appreciation, joy, love and admiration for people and happenings; more importantly, they can capture the broader social, economic and political aspects of schools. They can also spark off deeper and more instinctual auto ethnographic perspectives.

In Quest Of A Philosophical Frame Of Reference

Marmar Mukhopadhyay’s book is a welcome addition to a still somewhat under-represented segment of educational discourse in India. In his present endeavour, with almost pedantic devotion, Mukhopadhyay focuses on his quest to define and operationalize quality management and quality knowledge creation in higher education. Without any biases or pre-judgements, he delves into the philosophical underpinnings of higher education and analyses its need and purpose. Very refreshingly the book goes beyond the usual clamour for more higher education institutions to ensure access and quality.

Lived Experiences of Institutional Life

The book gives a detailed account of four religion based educational systems, wherein the origin and development of the Gurukul, Monastery, Madrasa and Dera systems are traced. The text is based on extensive data collected by the author, covering the six States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. 49 institutions in total, with at least 11 institutions representing each education system comprise the sample.

Questioning Knowledge Practices

The book under review examines the ways in which science, science education, science praxis and its representation is loud in its absence of women within its narrative. The lack of women in science does not mean they do not exist, or occupy an important space within its disciplinary boundaries. In fact as the book suggests, through its 15 chapters, women are the reason the scientific boundaries are constantly being challenged. The book’s strength lies in the questioning of the knowledge practices embedded in science which follow in excluding women from science in ways that either relegate them to minor positions, or diminish their contributions.

Local Dynamics And Nationalist Ideology

Megha Kumar’s book revolves around three episodes of communal violence based on the fulcrum of local specificities which the book argues manufactures the modality of sexual violence during the preparation and activation time within a communal conflict. Traversing through the timeline reads into the 1969, 1985 and 2002 communal conflicts in Ahmedabad. Though much has been written about these episodes of communal violence yet this book pertinently brings into focus, the local specifications and their interlinkages which subsequently affects the quantum of violence.

Holding A Mirror To A Social Malaise

Two separate incidents within one month, July 2017, rocked the conscience of urban upper class India. Both these incidents are an important indicator of the increasing woes of the domestic workers employed in the urban households of India. In the first incident of July 12th, hundreds of people gathered in front of Noida’s Mahagun Society protesting against the family accused of beating up of a domestic worker who had also gone missing. The protesters were mostly domestic workers themselves and from their aggressive protest, it was evident that they had had enough with their day-to-day exploitation.

Adivasi Anomie

Rarely does one come across a work of serious social science dealing with the phenomenon of inequality which is not ‘overly theoretical’ (to use one scholar’s phrase), and yet accurately describes that elephant in the room. The authors and editor of First Citizens: Studies on Adivasis, Tribals, and Indigenous Peoples in India are none of them blind men or women as in the fable, but clear-eyed economists, historians, and sociologists.

Art Collections As Narrators Of History

National art’ elicits a very different response today than in the 1990s when two leading art historians, Partha Mitter and Tapati Guha Thakurta wrote about it. While both setup a wider frame with a focus on Bengal, Maholay-Jaradi narrows her interest on a specific royal art collection and art institutions associated with Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III of Baroda in Gujarat. As a result, she brings into view an under-studied and under-researched geography of art, making it an important site not only for the region but also of national and ‘global’ cultural politics at the height of the colonial era.