Reconstructing A History of Ideas
Amiya P. Sen
THE HINDUS: AN ALTERNATIVE HISTORY by Wendy Doniger Penguin/Viking, 2010, 692 pp., 999
February 2010, volume 36, No 2

As an individual deeply interested in the religion and culture of early India, I have consistently admired the writings of Wendy Doniger, enjoying every bit of what I have been able to read of her several works, ranging from lengthy monographs to crisp prefatory remarks and editorial interventions. Other than a sparkling, entertaining quality, about the prose itself, her writings have always carried vast erudition and insights that are both engaging and energizing—almost goading one to think afresh even on issues that have acquired academic placidity. The work under review is no exception. It comes with a narrative that is at once racy, witty, evocative and provocative and will, I imagine, occasionally leave the unsuspecting reader gasping!

The Hindus, however, is also a work of a different conception and order. For one, it is difficult to categorize. At least in South Asia, it might not be very successful as a text-book for its choice and arrangement of subjects, argument and chronology is at times strikingly unconventional. Importantly enough, it includes new subjectivities and objects of historical interest that are yet to find a significant presence in our university curriculum.

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