Archive for July, 2011

The nationalism debate

– Prashant jha

One of the first questions that Hindu extremist outfits in India ask in their training camps and propaganda exercises is, ‘Are Muslims Indians first or Muslims first?’ This question is rarely asked about Hindus, for it is assumed that a Hindu is a true Indian while a Muslim has to prove his patriotism and commitment to the ‘nation’.

That one question, and its implicit suggestion, has brainwashed thousands of young Hindus and veered them towards fanaticism. At its kindest, the answer to this question is assessed by whether Muslim-dominated areas are supporting India or Pakistan in a cricket match. If the area does not celebrate enough after an India win, it is seen as proof that the primary allegiance of a Muslim is to his religion, not to the country. At its most brutal, this attitude has resulted in mass killings and communal riots. (more…)

Great Kolkata Scholar interviewed

If you exclude Nobel laureates, India’s most major intellectual export to the West is arguably Partha Chatterjee. Many would say there is no need to exclude the Nobel laureates when maintaining this proposition. Kolkata rejoices in the fact that Partha Chatterjee prefers to remain very much a part-time export: he only spends about 3-4 months being professor at Columbia; the rest of the time he is mainly to be found in dhoti-kurta within his natural habitat. His devotion to Kolkata and his self-location within the city are evident from his speech at the Fukuoka Prize of 2009 ceremony in Japan, during which he speaks partly in Bengali to praise Kolkata as the city which made his kind of scholar possible. It’s worth experiencing the integrity and dignity of his address at this link.

Two incidental details in connection with the Fukuoka Prize: among scholars, this has only been won earlier by two Indians, Romila Thapar and Ashis Nandy (both ordinarily resident in New Delhi). It is awarded to scholars whose influence has been widely recognized as profound and monumental. Second, Partha Chatterjee had asked that the prize be bestowed on him at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, and the awarding body had agreed. Unfortunately, Chatterjee fell very seriously ill and had to be briefly hospitalized over the Kolkata dates, and the ceremony on the youtube video was held in Fukuoka, Japan.

Partha Chatterjee was instrumental in shifting Subaltern Studies from OUP to Permanent Black in 2000. He has, since, quietly and steadfastly supported Permanent Black, both via giving us his own books to publish, and by advising scholars and students to look seriously at Permanent Black. Most recently, Chatterjee was responsible for bringing to fruition the publication of Ranajit Guha’s collected English essays, The Small Voice of History (Permanent Black paperback).

This short interview with Partha Chatterjee reveals some facets of one of contemporary Bengal’s most reputed scholar-intellectuals, whose two new books, THE LINEAGES OF POLITICAL SOCIETY (see blog lower down) and THE BLACK HOLE OF EMPIRE, will be published by Permanent Black, Columbia University Press, and Princeton University Press. (more…)

With an eye on the footpath

Deepak Aryal, From Himal SouthAsian (May 2011)

Publishing in Nepal is generally thought to have begun when Jang Bahadur Rana, the founder of the Rana clan that would rule the country for close to a century, brought back a printer from a visit to Europe in 1850. However, much earlier than that, in 1821, the Mission Press in Serampore, in modern-day West Bengal, had published a Nepali-language translation of the Bible. In Nepal though, several books were printed only in the 1860s, among them the Muluki Ain (the Civil Code), and some translated versions of British military manuals, probably printed on the same press that Prime Minister Jang brought from England. Either way, these three factors would set the tone for Nepali publishing trends for the next two centuries: that the industry started with legal and military documents (implying government control over publishing), that it was in the Nepali language or translations into it, and that an important component of Nepali publishing took place in India. (more…)