This is a book with big ambitions. Aware of the enormity of her task, Kavita Panjabi, its editor, has done her best to squeeze the universe into a ball—in the form of a fifty page introduction. In it she ranges over the history, nature and inter-relationship of Sufism and various types of bhakti. Professor of Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University, she also tends to slip into scholarly jargon, as do a few of the other contributors. If Poetics and Politics of Sufism & Bhakti is soley aimed at academics, there is nothing wrong in this, but if, as I believe, it is a valuable work for a wide readership, then a whole slew of tropes, trajectories and historical problematics could cheerfully have been disposed of. That being said, both the introduction and the main body of the book richly repay careful study. The subjects are diverse, including classical music and dance, and full of insights. From the outset the book is remarkable in the way it encourages us to examine our own attitudes and assumptions and by recognizing them, to free ourselves from their grasp.
September 2012, volume 36, No 9