The two volumes under review are dissimilar books—dissimilar in structure, approaches and style. And yet, in their juxtaposition also emerges many interesting insights on the common theme in the two volumes namely, of the triangular relationship between India, South East Asia and China. Amitav Acharya’s East of India, South of China has China much more upfront as a central factor but Heading East edited by Karen Stoll Farrell and Sumit Ganguly would not stand either without China being the unspoken elephant in the volume.
‘…the gaze forward in time is always in the last analysis an exercise of the imagination.’ It shapes both the realist and speculative forays of this galaxy of acknowledged scholars looking towards 2030, but as Victor Faessel reminds us, each of the chapters of this volume represents a thematization, more or less explicit, of conflict over dominant imaginaries. Also knitting them together is a shared ethical standpoint of struggling to envisage an alternative approach of diverse groups with divergent values living well together. In encouraging these contributors’
Asia, the largest continent with its several civilizations going back to millennia was subjugated and dominated by European powers for over four hundred years since the sixteenth century. A number of countries of Asia which collectively accounted for a very substantive global economic activity and growth as late as the early 19th century were impoverished with resultant underdevelopment, ill health, poor education and social inequality.
The reform processes initiated during the early years of 1990s brought about a major shift in India’s approach to economic development. The old Nehruvian model of mixed economy gave way to a market driven economy. Despite changes in the political regimes, the reform process has, more or less, continued unabated over the last 15 years or so. Though these processes of liberalization and globalization have attracted a good number of serious criticisms,
There is a certain celebratory tone in writings about India today based on the perception that India is breaking through the shackles that restrain it and it will take its rightful place in the world. Increasingly we are told that we are on the path to prosperity and it is only a matter of time before we catch up with the West.
I have to say that Gwilym Beckerlegge continues to astonish me by the frequency with which he produces consistently good scholarly material for the study of the Ramakrishna movement. On the notion of ‘seva’ itself, (usually translated as social service) I recall having read no less than five research papers and a monograph in about as many years.
Growing up in Pennsylvania during the 1960s, my friends and I used to hang out at a drugstore (that is, a combined eating place, general store and pharmacy) in an outer suburb of Philadelphia. Bolted to the lunch-counter of this establishment was an ancient fortune-telling machine.
What could one expect an elderly non- Indian, a specialist in modern European and Mexican art to contribute to the creation of a museum of Indian ancient and medieval art? Not much, one would reasonably predict. But Grace Morley proved her critics wrong. Appointed the first director of the National Museum of Art in Delhi in 1960,
The study of Indian aesthetics came to the forefront following the publication of K.C. Pandey’s work around the mid 20th century but subsequently it suffered from neglect. Several sporadic attempts have been made to revive interest in the subject quite recently. The Journal of Arts and Art Criticism in the mid 1950s had devoted a special issue to Indian aesthetics and had contributed to facilitating a lively debate around Indian aesthetics in comparison with western aesthetics.
This book, with an unusually long title, rounds off the investigation that Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at Chicago, launched in 1998 with The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth (Columbia University Press). The study sought to show how a web of shared meaning is woven by common patterns recurring in differing cultural traditions, leaping “from myth to myth as if they were stepping stones over the gulf that seems to separate cultures”, bridging the religious and the political, the personal and the universal; and how, from the same text, different political meanings can be drawn depending upon the historical context.
In a strange coincidence, I have recently read two books that present a grand narrative across a vast span of human history. There is a similarity in the approach of Christopher Booker in his Seven Basic Plots, and Karen Armstrong in her A Short History of Myth: prose that seduces with its lucidity, persuading one to accept their elision of particularities, and an engagement with concepts of archetypes.
This collection of essays on the devotional element in Indic religions has an interesting history. It arises from an international conference organized by the Dharam Hinduja Institute of Indic Religions, University of Cambridge, which was widely attended by academics, interested lay participants and ‘devotees’.