Ranajit Guha. Edited by Partha Chatterjee

Ranajit Guha has over his long career as the ‘founder and guiding spirit of Subaltern Studies’ (p. 1) and also for his own passionately committed writing, earned great significance worldwide among scholars and students of colonial and post-Independence Indian history and of the nature of historiography in general…

Reviewed by: Michael H. Fisher
Ruby Zaman

Any time partition is mentioned, the mind immediately goes to 1947 and all the carnage that is usually associated with the birth of Pakistan. What many forget is that 1947 marked just one of two partitions Pakistan had to suffer.

Reviewed by: Sharad Raghavan
Aamer Hussein

A part from the title and a semblance of the mood, Aamer Hussein’s The Cloud Messenger shares very little else with Kalidasa’s lyric poem of 111 stanzas, Meghadutam. For instance, Hussein’s narrator-hero, Mehran, is no exiled lover. Hussein’s kunstlerroman borrows the lilting romantic tenor of the poetic conceit used by Kalidasa in his sandesa kavya…

Reviewed by: Debashis Chakraborty
Mirza Waheed

With insurgent and resistant narratives thronging the repertoire of contemporary South Asian fiction, what stands undisputed are the truth-claims of Eric Hobsbawm’s theory regarding the paradox of South Asian nationalisms: new and old. Provocatively flaunting the gauntlet, the historian stakes his claim by stating that (almost) all insurgencies…

Reviewed by: Simran Chadha
Shehryar Fazli

A wander through the fiction section of Delhi’s bookstores reveals rows and rows of colourful dust-jackets and attractive offerings by Indian and Pakistani authors. The volume is staggering, but though there is no shortage of choice, not all of it is good. Sadly, Invitation too promises more than it can deliver…

Reviewed by: Madhav Raghavan
Jamil Ahmed

For the past couple of years, we have been told, often and loudly, that Pakistani fiction has come of age. It is unclear exactly what this means, but apparently a dedicated issue of Granta is an essential marker. In some recent essays, the Indian writers Amit Chaudhuri and Palash Mehrotra among others have argued that plaudits…

Reviewed by: Mihir S. Sharma
Abhishek Majumdar

The bountiful nature of the publishing business in India in recent years has brought tens of new voices writing in Indian English to the bookstores and bedside tables. Not all of this mishmash of themes and writing styles makes for great reading, and almost always the blame lies in for pretentious, uninspiring writing…

Reviewed by: Dhruv Mookerji
Atiya Begum

A slim 47-page booklet forms the kernel of this book; the rest is mere padding in the form of introduction, appendices and notes. However, the 47 pages of Iqbal contain much that is illuminating and useful—not merely about one of the greatest poets of the Urdu language but also about his age and many of his peers…

Reviewed by: Rakshanda Jalil
Guru Gobind Singh

There are documents that survive the strife of history. Who would have known that a missive written by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, to Aurangzeb, the last great Mughal emperor, right after his defeat at the hands of the Mughal army, would survive ironically as Zafarnama, an epistle of victory?…

Reviewed by: Gagan Gill
Suman Gupta

That the US invasion of Iraq informs, indeed haunts, policy-making in the US was illustrated in some speeches and justifications related to the UN-sanctioned but US and NATO-led no-fly-zone over Libya. What seemed to vex policy-makers and military strategists was whether UN Resolution 1973 allowed for ‘regime change’…

Reviewed by: Subarno Chattarji
Debjani Chatterjee

To be able to distill your love for words and art into the work that you do for a living, and that work of a nature that fulfills a niche in society, is to be fortunate. Debjani Chatterjee, well known and much awarded poet from Sheffield, England, was once a community relations officer.

Reviewed by: Kalyani Dutta
Tariq Rahman

Sample this: A headline in a leading Hindi News channel, ‘Tabaahi ki Taaza Tasveerein’ (Hindi?) Another headline in a leading Urdu daily, ‘Cut-Off Ke Doosre Din Honours Courses Ki Demand’ (Urdu?) And yet the Hindi-Urdu divide has played a crucial role in the history of the subcontinent. Any serious attempt to understand identity formation in India…

Reviewed by: Nishat Zaidi
Raghav Bahl

Raghu Rai is one of India’s most celebrated photographers and his 29th book of photographs on Mumbai is yet another visual treat. Aimed at capturing the essence of Mumbai, it is almost a study of contrasts and very evocatively captures slices of what Mumbai as the city really is.It starts off with an introduction of Vir Sanghvi on the origin and evolution of Mumbai. It is fairly well written, except that it starts off sounding like a history lesson and ends like an anti-Shiv sena rant, but that is besides the point…

Reviewed by: Andre J. Fanthome
Neera Adarkar

The Chawls of Mumbai: Galleries of Life edited by Neera Adarkar gazes at the city of Mumbai through the prism of this specific structure—the chawl. The result is an interesting and rather different view of a city that has gathered global notoriety through some recent popular books about it…

Reviewed by: Kalpana Sharma
Jaimini Mehta

This is an intense book but then rarely does a book that indulges in architectural theory make itself so lucid and strong-footed. Setting the stage for declaring the emergence of Post-Rational Architecture, Jaimini Mehta eloquently traces the vocation’s transition over its recent two hundred and fifty year-old history…

Reviewed by: Aftab Jalia
Arley Loewen

It is common fare for books on cultural anthropology to begin with statndard kowtowing to Clifford Geetz and Edward Said. Past the introductory chapter, most often they succumb to the very pitfalls that Said and Geetz warn them about. Images of Afghanistan is cultural anthropology at its finest as it tries throughout to maintain…

Reviewed by: Shamuel Tharu
Harsha V. Dehejia

As befits a book that celebrates form in its myriad manifestations, the book is accompanied by beautiful illustrations that buttress the formulations the author sets out to do. In essence, what is stated by the author in the introductory chapter and then subsequently demonstrated through a delineation of specific forms ranging…

Reviewed by: Lakshmi Subramanian
Sudeshna Guha

As Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India (1902-28) and then Officer on Special Duty (1928-34), John Marshall carved out an extremely important place for himself in the history of Indian archaeology. His tenure is associated with increasingly systematic excavation and conservation activity…

Reviewed by: Upinder Singh
Shaheen Akhtar

A few months ago, I had as my co-passenger Anu Pillay, a doctor working with Medica Mondiale, in Liberia. Medica Mondiale is a world wide organization founded to assist women traumatized by rape, especially in war situations. A South African of Indian origin, Anu spoke of horrifying degrees of sexual abuse that women…

Reviewed by: Mala Pandurang
Alamgir Muhammad Serajuddin

Alamgir Muhammad Serajuddin’s book provides a comprehensive idea of judicial activism that has taken place in south Asian regions especially India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in recent times. The methodological framework explains the concept of judicial activism and creativity and emphasizes the role of the courts as an agent of social change…

Reviewed by: Sabiha Hussain
Sarmistha Dutta Gupta

Identities and Histories is an insightful and passionate book about the emergence of women as political subjects. The book moves away from questions of nationalism, modernity and reform which framed earlier bodies of feminist history-writing in India. This earlier body of work had shown us how the nation and indeed the political itself were historically…

Reviewed by: Prathama Banerjee
Kishan S. Rana

In eloquent and insightful expose of economic diplomacy principles and practices, Kishan S. Rana and Bipul Chatterjee succeed in crafting a book that will stimulate and inform anyone interested in this previously opaque realm of international relations. The economic dimension of diplomacy constitutes an increasingly…

Reviewed by: Sukanya Natarajan
Saman Kelegama

Migration, Remittances and Development in South Asia explores the impact of migration on development in South Asian countries and makes recommendations for benefiting more from out-migration and reducing its ill effects. It recommends policies for each of the eight countries and the region as a whole…

Reviewed by: Nimal Sanderatne
H.N. Thenuwara

The thesis of Thenuwara’s book is ‘good money’ creates wealth and growth while ‘bad money’ would retard this—an observation made by Copernicus in 1529 A.D. The underlying theme of the book is the need for a Central Bank to conduct an independent monetary policy and thereby keep inflation low, which is essential…

Reviewed by: Saman Kelegama
Manas Bhattacharya

Manas Bhattacharya is a Senior Technical Specialist at the ILO. The book under review is the output of the High-Level Tripartite Meeting on the Nexus of Growth, Investment and Decent Work for South Asian Sub-region, organized by the ILO in 2007. The seven papers in the volume have been contributed by economists from across the South Asian Region…

Reviewed by: Shravani Prakash
Shahid Ahmed

The inception of the WTO in 1995 was expected to ensure reduction of trade barriers, thereby causing freer movement of merchandise products and commercial services across international borders. However since the failure of the Seattle Ministerial Meeting of WTO in 1999, it was quite clear that the days of trade frictions are far from over…

Reviewed by: Debashis Chakraborty
Y. Venugopal Reddy

The Great Recession, which began with the financial crisis of 2007-08, though partially addressed, is still with us. Yet the expectation it generated, that given its severity it would trigger the implementation of measures aimed at reining in finance and pre-empting similar crises in the future, remains largely unrealized…

Reviewed by: C.P. Chandrasekhar
Tan Chung

This year marked the 150th birth anniversary of the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore that also coincided with six decades of establishment of diplomatic relations between the two major and rising Asian neighbours India and China and the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Parties in both these countries…

Reviewed by: Srikanth Kondapalli
V.R. Raghavan

One of most serious problems that the ruling elites faced in the ex-colonial and newly independent countries is the integration of ethnic, religious, linguistic and diverse groups living within a territorial state structure created by the colonial masters for their own convenience through their policy of divide and rule…

Reviewed by: Baladas Ghoshal
Muhammad Asif

Few will disagree that the energy crisis is the least of Pakistan’s concerns at the moment. However, Pakistan’s energy access to its population has better figures to that of India (Pakistan has a Energy Development Index ranking ahead of India). Yet the problems plaguing the energy situation there is very different from India…

Reviewed by: Arnab Bose
Humeira Iqtidar

Any organized study on the religious and radical groups of Pakistan is perhaps the most relevant; in this, a study of two entities—the Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaat-ud-dawa is perhaps the most important, for both are extremely organized. Though the critics would argue that despite being the most powerful religious political party…

Reviewed by: D. Suba Chandran
Annette Gordon-Reed

As images of Benazir Bhutto sinking into her SUV, on that fateful date of December 2007, flashed all over the world, Amir Mir let a silent prayer in his mind. He found out in a matter of few hours, along with millions across his country, that even the most heartfelt prayer could not save Bhutto from her demise…

Reviewed by: Shatam Ray
Luv Puri

In the early 1970s,’ wrote the political activist—and, in his youth, would-be insurgent—Nasir Gilani, ‘the crossing of (the) LoC was as mystical for a Kashmiri youth as the Eve St. Agnes to a virgin.’ His contemporaries, Gilani noted, ‘seemed mesmerized by a belief that a solution to all their ills on the Indian side of Kashmir lay on the Pakistani side of Kashmir.’..

Reviewed by: Praveen Swami
Ravi Kalia

At Independence in 1947, Pakistan was a nation, full of hope, aiming to become a progressive homeland for South Asia’s Muslims. That dream remains unfulfilled. Despite roughly comparable socio-economic and political conditions as in India, democracy has consistently failed to take root in Pakistan and the country remains…

Reviewed by: Jabin T. Jacob
Bruce Riedel

The nature of the US-Pakistan relationship has been very difficult for many analysts to fathom. Is it a relationship based on some broad principles and common objectives or is it an opportunistic alliance—from which neither is able to disengage? That there is little trust between the two countries has been obvious over the years…

Reviewed by: Ajay Darshan Behera
Abdul Salam Zaeef

Ten years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the countdown for the American withdrawal has formally begun. The United States President, Barack Obama, has announced that 10,000 American troops will leave Afghanistan by the end of this year and another 23,000 by the summer of 2012. Over the next two years,…

Reviewed by: Srinath Raghavan
S. Akbar Zaidi

Akbar Zaidi’s book on the relationship between the military, civil society and political parties in Pakistan is primarily a compilation of what he has written in the past on the impact of militarization on his country’s national life.

Reviewed by: G. Parthasarathy
Anatol Lieven

Are the Pakistani people faced with a devil-and-the-deep-sea choice: condemned to live forever in backwardness and anti-democratic mould, of remaining permanently in a feudal set-up or going the Taliban way?

Reviewed by: T.C.A. Rangachari
Maleeha Lodhi

Maleeha Lodhi’s edited volume is one of the few books that Pakistan military’s Inter-Services Public Relations’ head Maj. General Athar Abbas recommends to his visitors. The value of this book for Pakistan’s armed forces and establishment is that it presents Pakistan as ‘beyond a crisis state’. The basic thesis of the volume…

Reviewed by: Ayesha Siddiqa
David Malone

The elephant has become an obvious, even if cliched, symbol of modern India but the imagery of the dancing elephant has been used in other contexts as well. Thus Louis V. Gerstner in his Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? recounts the dramatic turnround in the fortunes of IBM that was once considered too big and not nimble enough to survive…

Reviewed by: N. Ravi
David J. Kilcullen

Despite being consciously underestimated’ and described in anodyne terms as ‘unconventional’ or ‘irregular’ conflict’ the fact is that ‘insurgency’ has been the most common form of warfare in history. Conventional or regular conflict’ in brief’ ‘wars’ as commonly understood’ is the exception’ rather than the rule’ if past conflicts were to be reviewed…

Reviewed by: P.R. Chari
Jonathan Shapiro Anjaria

The study of urban sociology has fast gained ground in India in the preceding decade. This is concomitant with the rapid pace of urbanization taking place across the country. The city has always been the focal point of aspirations. Almost as soon as India realized its aspiration of integrating with the world in a fuller manner, its populations,…

Reviewed by: Sucharita Sengupta

It is commonly argued today that the greatest threats to world order and security come not from strong and well-organized sovereign states, but the world’s most fragile states, alternatively called ‘failing’, ‘quasi’, ‘faltering’ or ‘weak’ states. While the first murmurs about these so-designated ‘failed states’ began to be heard around the time of the Clinton adminis-tration…

Reviewed by: Sonali Huria
Smruti S. Pattanaik

With increasing globalization, economic integration is an important part of development efforts in any region. Despite a lack of cohesive economic unit in South Asia, there has been growing interest in South Asia as a destination for trade and investment. Also politically South Asian countries are in a state of flux given…

Reviewed by: Pallavi Kalita
Jivanta Schotti

The book under review is a refreshing volume rich with brilliant theoretical insights, first-rate empirical analysis and bold academic arguments which would not only be useful for students of South Asian international politics but also policy makers of the region. However, the book also suffers from a number of shortcomings…

Reviewed by: Happymon Jacob
Anand Pandian

Good books often get their timing wrong. In the current context in India, where morality and ethics are both at a discount, this book is both timely and excellent. It comprises a collection of papers, of somewhat uneven quality, presented at a workshop in 2007 in Vancouver on South Asian ethical practices.

Reviewed by: T.C.A. Srinivasa Raghavan