Sunday, March 27, 2011

Books on South Asia

This is a selection of books on South Asia:

Heterotopias: Nationalism and the Possibility of History in South Asia edited by Manu Bhagavan. Laid out as a series of three inter-related conversations, this volume investigates the diverse discourses of identity politics that relate the nationalist movement to current concerns and debates. Focusing upon the peripheries of the modern Indian states of Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, the first section explores the ways in which people living on the margins of homogenizing nation-state critique the centre and carve out different spaces of experiences. It highlights their relationship with the homogenising nationalism of the centre. The next part analyses the works of Mirza Ghalib and epic traditions in South India to delineate the plurality of narrative and consciousness in literary production. The final part explores the works of Mohammed Iqbal and Mohandas Gandhi, while the conclusion provides a post-history of communalism. Taken together, the essays present an account of the multiplicity of historical experiences in India both within and without the discourse of nationalism.

Routledge Handbook of South Asian Politics: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal edited by Paul R. Brass. The Routledge Handbook of South Asian Politics examines key issues in politics of the five independent states of the South Asian region: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Written by experts in their respective areas, this book introduces the reader to the politics of South Asia by presenting the prevailing agreements and disagreements in the literature. In the first two sections, the handbook provides a comprehensive introduction to the modern political history of the states of the region and an overview of the independence movements in the former colonial states. The other sections focus on the political changes that have occurred in the postcolonial states since independence, as well as the successive political changes in Nepal during the same period, and the structure and functioning of the main governmental and non-governmental institutions, including the structure of the state itself (unitary or federal), political parties, the judiciary, and the military. Further, the contributors explore several aspects of the political process and political and economic change, especially issues of pluralism and national integration, political economy, corruption and criminalisation of politics, radical and violent political movements, and the international politics of the region as a whole.

Islam in South Asia in Practice edited by Barbara D. Metcalf. This volume of Princeton Readings in Religions brings together the work of more than 30 scholars of Islam and Muslim societies in South Asia to create a rich anthology of primary texts that contributes to a new appreciation of the lived religious and cultural experiences of the world's largest population of Muslims. The 34 selections - translated from Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, Gujarati, Hindavi, Dakhani, and other languages - highlight a wide variety of genres, many rarely found in standard accounts of Islamic practice, from oral narratives to elite guidance manuals, from devotional songs to secular judicial decisions arbitrating Islamic law, and from political posters to a discussion among college women affiliated with an "Islamist" organisation. Drawn from premodern texts, modern pamphlets, government and organisational archives, new media, and contemporary fieldwork, the selections reflect the rich diversity of Islamic belief and practice in South Asia. Each reading is introduced with a brief contextual note from its scholar-translator, and Barbara Metcalf introduces the whole volume with a substantial historical overview.

Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture by Anita Mannur. For South Asians, food regularly plays a role in how issues of race, class, gender, ethnicity, and national identity are imagined as well as how notions of belonging are affirmed or resisted. Culinary Fictions provides food for thought as it considers the metaphors literature, film, and TV shows use to describe Indians abroad. When an immigrant mother in Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake combines Rice Krispies, Planters peanuts, onions, salt, lemon juice, and green chili peppers to create a dish similar to one found on Calcutta sidewalks, it evokes not only the character's Americanisation, but also her nostalgia for India. Food, Anita Mannur writes, is a central part of the cultural imagination of diasporic populations, and Culinary Fictions maps how it figures in various expressive forms. Mannur examines the cultural production from the Anglo-American reaches of the South Asian diaspora. Using texts from novels - Chitra Divakaruni's Mistress of Spices and Shani Mootoo's Cereus Blooms at Night - and cookbooks such as Madhur Jaffrey's Invitation to Indian Cooking and Padma Lakshmi's Easy Exotic, she illustrates how national identities are consolidated in culinary terms.

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