17 July 2015

Unifying Hinduism: Statements from the Author and from the Publisher


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I am the author of Unifying Hinduism: Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History (Columbia University Press, 2010, and Permanent Black, 2011), a work that was extensively plagiarised in Rajiv Malhotra’s Indra’s Net. I had planned to stay silent, as I usually avoid comment on heated, politicised issues such as this.

However, when Rajiv Malhotra described me as an “ally” of his on his Twitter feed, I knew that the time had come to speak out to clarify the differences between his views and my own. As upset as I am about his plagiarism of my work, I am even more upset about his distortions.

One of the more puzzling aspects of this whole affair is that Malhotra praises my work effusively while vilifying the work of my mentor and dissertation supervisor, Sheldon Pollock. Pollock is literally the first person I thank in the acknowledgements of Unifying Hinduism, and knowledgeable readers will see that it is chock-full of

Ironically, some of these ideas are the very same ones that Malhotra quotes and praises in his book! I am enormously fortunate and proud to have had one of the world’s preeminent scholars of Indian intellectual history as my supervisor at the University of Chicago.

Rajiv Malhotra does not know Sanskrit, so he has to rely on others who do in order to amass the raw materials he needs for his books.

But he twists the words and arguments of respectable scholars to suit his own ends. He has used my work and the work of the great historian of philosophy Wilhelm Halbfass in such a parasitic way.

It is likely that a careful reading of his books will uncover plagiarised and distorted passages from other scholars as well. Harper Collins should take this into consideration and thoroughly check the book for other instances of plagiarism before it reissues Indra’s Net.

Regarding the substantive mistakes Rajiv Malhotra makes, it is hard to know where to begin, as there are so many. Here I will briefly describe one. Malhotra seems to have missed the part of my book where I say that “‘Unifying Hinduism’ is a process, not an entity,” and then go on to describe the unresolved conflict between Bhedabheda and Advaita Vedanta visions of that unity (p. 202). Malhotra ignores this distinction, as can be seen in his plagiarism of a part of page 14 of my book.

There he steals my words but replaces the name “Vijnanabhikshu” (a 16th century Bhedabhedavadin) with “Vivekananda” (a 19th century Advaitin), as if they were interchangeable. Vijnanabhikshu actually considered Advaita Vedanta to be a perverse Buddhist interpretation of the Vedas. Had they lived at the same time, these two philosophers would have been adversaries, and indeed Vijnanabhikshu would not have even considered Vivekananda a Vedic (vaidika) thinker. Malhotra elides such differences, as his project in Indra’s Net is to homogenise and de-historicise Hindu philosophy.

On page 201 of my book, I actually predict that my words will be taken out of context to support a Hindutva agenda.

Sadly, this prediction has come true. Malhotra even has the gall to suggest that he has not plagiarised my work but rather that he uses my words, often without proper attribution or quotation marks, to “add value” to them.

I invite open-minded people to read the concluding chapter in Unifying Hinduism and compare it to Malhotra’s conclusions in Indra’s Net. Then they can decide for themselves whether he is improving upon my work or merely distorting and dumbing it down to fit his own Hindutva worldview.
“Pollockian” ideas.
-Andrew J. Nicholson

The Publisher Permanent Black adds:

The South Asia edition of Andrew J. Nicholson’s Unifying Hinduism, published in 2011 by Permanent Black and distributed by Orient BlackSwan, very quickly attracted attention in the form of complimentary reviews as well as responses, both favourable and hostile, to our blogpost on the book. Scholars and serious readers recognized it as an unusually thought-provoking and thoroughly researched monograph on the history of Hindu philosophical ideas in the late medieval period. The book has circulated very well and we are honoured to be its South Asian publisher.

The usual trajectory of such a book in the world of scholarship is for it to become the focus of academic exchange, debate, and critique, and for its ideas and arguments to percolate through readers and teachers to students in colleges and universities. Naturally, therefore, it is deeply disturbing for us, as a publisher of the finest international scholarship on South Asia, to find that Unifying Hinduism has been used unethically by Rajiv Malhotra in Indra’s Net (HarperCollins), the nature and varieties of misuse having been exposed in the media. Such exposure is currently the best available redressal mechanism in our context, and Professor Nicholson’s statement, which we endorse, provides weight and specificity to the charges against Rajiv Malhotra.

As for HarperCollins, their willingness to rectify future editions of Rajiv Malhotra’s book would be welcome were it not for the fact that there may be nothing left for them to put in a “corrected” edition: much of the book has been shown up as a patchwork of other people’s work minus attribution. This is usually defined as plagiarism.

Rukun Advani 

Read this where is was first published, at Scroll.in

07 July 2015

CAN THE 'REAL' ASHOKA STAND UP, PLEASE? NAYANJOT LAHIRI GETS CLOSER THAN ANYONE TO FINDING THE PULSE OF THE EMPEROR

Nayanjot Lahiri

Ashoka in Ancient India



Ancient rulers regarded him as the iconic Buddhist king. Jawaharlal Nehru considered him the greatest emperor of all time. H.G. Wells portrayed him as the sole shining star of antiquity. But who was the flesh-and-blood Ashoka?

The third emperor of the Maurya dynasty, Ashoka ruled an empire encompassing most of India as well as its western borderlands. He was normal as a ruler of uncommon ambition, but utterly unusual as the pioneer of a model of humane governance.  In fact the candour and emotion of his messages on stone show him less as a political figure than as a self-reflective individual.

Recovering Ashoka’s life and times from legend, Nayanjot Lahiri crafts a wonderful biography of this most extraordinary emperor. She provides him with contextual flesh, teasing out his psychology and personality from his edicts and archaeological data about life in India over the last few centuries BCE.

This is the most historically rich and readable book on Ashoka and his context.


NAYANJOT LAHIRI 
established her reputation as an accessible historian of Indian antiquity with Finding Forgotten Cities: How the Indus Civilization was Discovered (2005). Her books include Marshalling the Past: Ancient India and Its Modern Histories (2012) and The Archaeology of Indian Trade Routes (1993). She won the Infosys Prize 2013 in the Humanities—Archaeology. She is Professor, Department of History, University of Delhi.


Hardback / 410pp + 4pp colour / Rs 895 / ISBN 81-7824-388-1 / South Asia rights /  july 2015 / copublished  by harvard university press


07 June 2015

THE COMMON CAUSE: LEELA GANDHI'S NEW BOOK IS OUT



Europeans and Americans tend to hold the opinion that democracy is a uniquely Western inheritance. In The Common Cause Leela Gandhi recovers stories of an alternative version. Using ethics as a lens, she describes a transnational history of democracy in the first half of the twentieth century.


She identifies a shared culture of perfectionism across imperialism, fascism, and liberalism — an ethic that excluded the ordinary and unexceptional. But she also illuminates an ethic of moral imperfectionism, a set of anticolonial and antifascist practices devoted to ordinariness and abnegation that ranged from doomed mutinies in the Indian military to Mahatma Gandhi’s spiritual discipline.


Reframing the way we think about some of the most consequential political events of the era, Leela Gandhi presents moral imperfectionism as the lost tradition of global democratic thought.


She offers it to us as a key to democracy’s future. In doing so, she defends democracy as a shared art of living on the other side of perfection and mounts a postcolonial appeal for an ethics of becoming common.

LEELA GANDHI is Professor of English and Humanities at Brown University. She is the founding co-editor of the journal Postcolonial Studies. Her publications include Postcolonial Theory: A Critical Introduction and Affective Communities: Anticolonial Thought and the Politics of Friendship. She is John Hawkes Professor of English and Humanities at Brown University. She is the founding co-editor of the journal Postcolonial Studies.



495.00/978-81-7824-457-0/252 pp/Paperback


















22 May 2015

Niraja Gopal Jayal Winner of the A.K.Coomaraswamy Prize 2015

How wonderful that Citizenship and its Discontents, by Niraja Gopal Jayal has won the 2015 A.K. Coomaraswamy Prize. Here's the citation from the Association for Asian Studies. All the praise in the citation is richly deserved.


It's about to come out in paperback with this lovely new cover.

Paperback/ Rs 595

19 May 2015

All Crown, No Hollow


CHANCELLORS, IT SEEMS, ARE NOT BABUS EVERYWHERE. 

some of them even write books.

NICHOLAS B. DIRKS, FAMOUS FOR HIS MONOGRAPH THE HOLLOW CROWN (1988), knows south india intimately because he spent several years there as a child and spoke tamil fluently. 

he is now chancellor, university of california, berkeley. 

he must have written this book (below) before he became the burra sahib. 

in fact, perhaps he got the big babu's job because he wrote it . . .



Nicholas B. Dirks
Autobiography of an Archive:
A Scholar’s Passage to India



The decades between 1970 and the end of the twentieth century saw the disciplines of history and anthropology draw closer together, with historians paying more attention to social and cultural factors and the significance of everyday experience in the study of the past. The people, rather than elite actors, became the focus of their inquiry, and anthropological insights into agriculture, kinship, ritual, and folk customs enabled historians to develop richer and more representative narratives. The intersection of these two disciplines also helped scholars reframe the legacies of empire and the roots of colonial knowledge.

In this collection of essays and lectures, history’s turn from high politics and formal intellectual history toward ordinary lives and cultural rhythms is vividly reflected in a scholar's intellectual journey to India. Nicholas B. Dirks recounts his early study of kingship in India, the rise of the caste system, the emergence of English imperial interest in controlling markets and India's political regimes, and the development of a crisis in sovereignty that led to an extraordinary nationalist struggle.

He shares his personal encounters with archives that provided the sources and boundaries for research on these subjects, ultimately revealing the limits of colonial knowledge and single disciplinary perspectives. Drawing parallels to the way American universities balance the liberal arts and specialized research today, Dirks, who has occupied senior administrative positions and now leads the University of California at Berkeley, encourages scholars to continue to apply multiple approaches to their research and build a more global and ethical archive.

Nicholas B. Dirks is Chancellor, University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a professor of history and anthropology. An internationally renowned historian and anthropologist, he is known for his work on the history of kingship and the institution of caste in India, as well as for his writing on the British empire. His major works include The Hollow Crown: Ethnohistory of an Indian Kingdom; Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India; and The Scandal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britain. He has edited several books, including Colonialism and Culture, Culture/Power/History: A Reader in Contemporary Social Theory, and In Near Ruins: Cultural Theory at the End of the Century.

Hardback / 400pp / Rs 895.00 / ISBN 978-81-7824-458-7 /  South Asia rights / Copublished with Columbia University Press / May 2015
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SARTOR RESARTUS: ENTERTAINING SCHOLARSHIP ON EVERYTHING THAT PERRY ANDERSON KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT

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When the influential Marxist historian Perry Anderson ventured into Indian territory, he did not bargain for this . . .


Partha Chatterjee, Sudipta Kaviraj, Nivedita Menon
The Indian Ideology
Three Responses to Perry Anderson

With an Introduction by Sanjay Ruparelia

When the Marxist historian Perry Anderson published The Indian Ideology—his scathing assessment of India’s democracy, secularism, nationalism, and statehood—it created a furore. Anderson attacked subcontinental unity as a myth, castigated Mahatma Gandhi for infusing Hindu religiosity into nationalism, blamed Congress for Partition, and saw India’s liberal intelligentsia as by and large a feckless lot.

Within the large array of responses to Anderson that appeared, three stand out for the care and comprehensiveness with which they show the levels of ignorance, arrogance, and misconstruction on which the Andersonian variety of political analysis is based. Collectively, these three ripostes represent a systematic critique of the intellectual foundations of The Indian Ideology.

Confronting Anderson’s claim to originality, Nivedita Menon exposes his failure to engage with feminist, Marxist, and Dalit scholarship, arguing that a British colonial ideology is at work in such analyses. Partha Chatterjee studies key historical episodes to counter the “Great Men” view of history, suggesting that misplaced concepts from Western intellectual history can obfuscate political understanding. Tracing their origins to the nineteenth-century worldview of Hegel and James Mill, Sudipta Kaviraj contends that reductive Orientalist tropes such as those deployed by Anderson frequently mar European analyses of non-European contexts.

Vigorous polemic merges with political analysis here, and critique with debate, to create a work that is intellectually sophisticated and unusually entertaining.

partha chatterjee is Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies, Columbia University, New York, and Honorary Professor, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta. His many books include Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World (1986), The Nation and Its Fragments (1993), A Possible India (1997), The Politics of the Governed (2004), Lineages of Political Society (2011), and The Black Hole of Empire (2012).

sudipta kaviraj is Professor of Indian Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University. He taught for many years at SOAS, London University, following a long teaching stint at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He has been a Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford, and a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as at the University of Chicago. His most recent books are The Invention of Private Life (2014), The Trajectories of the Indian State (2012), The Enchantment of Democracy and India (2011), and The Imaginary Institution of India (2010).

nivedita menon is Professor, Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She is the author, most recently, of Seeing like a Feminist (2012) and editor (with Aditya Nigam and Sanjay Palshikar) of Critical Studies in Politics: Exploring Sites, Selves, Power (2013). An active commentator on contemporary issues in newspapers and on the blog kafila.org, she has translated fiction and nonfiction from Hindi and Malayalam into English.

sanjay ruparelia is Assistant Professor of Politics at the New School for Social Research, New York. His publications include Divided We Govern: Coalition Politics in Modern India (2015), and Understanding India’s New Political Economy: A Great Transformation? (2011).

Hardback / 175pp / Rs 495 / World rights / April 2015




24 April 2015

METHOD IN HIS MADNESS: HOW TOM TRAUTMANN ROPED IN ELEPHANTS TO SHOW US THE ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT WORLD


Publishing in April 2015



Thomas R. Trautmann

Elephants and Kings: An Environmental History

Because of their size, elephants have long been irresistible for kings as symbols of eminence. In early civilizations—such as Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus civilization, and China—elephants were used for royal sacrifice, spectacular hunts, public displays, and their ivory—all aspects driving them toward extinction. The kings of India, however, Thomas Trautmann shows, found a use for elephants that actually helped preserve their habitat and numbers in the wild: war.

This book traces the history of the war elephant in India and its spread as an institution from there to the West, where elephants featured within some of the greatest wars of antiquity. Southeast Asia and China are also examined for comparison and contrast within this environmental history spanning 3000 years and covering a vast terrain, from Spain to Java.

Trautmann shows Indian kings capturing wild elephants and training them, one by one, through millennia. He reveals the political compulsions requiring the protection of elephants from hunters and their forests from being cut down. Taking a wide-angle view of human–elephant relations, he throws into relief the structure of India’s environmental history and the reasons for the persistence of wild elephants in its forests.

Written with uncommon flair and elegance, this is a monumental work of environmental history using Indian antiquity as its entry point. It will interest lay readers, historians, and environmentalists.

Thomas R. Trautmann is Emeritus Professor of the University of Michigan, where he taught the history of ancient India and the anthropology of kinship.  Some of his books are Dravidian kinship (1981), Aryans and British India (1997), The Aryan debate (2005), Languages and nations: the Dravidian proof in colonial Madras (2006), The clash of chronologies: ancient India in the modern world (2009), India: brief history of a civilization (2011) and Arthashastra: the science of wealth (2012).

THE MAKING OF THIS BOOK IS DISCUSSED IN THE KOLKATA TELEGRAPH:
http://www.telegraphindia.com/1150430/jsp/opinion/story_17348.jsp#.VU-GwGaR9M0

THIS BOOK IS REVIEWED IN THE KOLKATA TELEGRAPH:
http://www.telegraphindia.com/1150508/jsp/opinion/story_18797.jsp#.VU-IE2aR9M0


Hardback / c. 400pp (+ c. 40 b/w pictures inc. 4 full colour) / ISBN 978-81-7824-391-7 / Rs 995 / South Asia rights / 2015 / Copublished by the University of Chicago Press





09 April 2015

Meera Kosambi: A Tribute by Supriya Guha

(Published in H-Asia, Thursday, March 12, 2015)

Although we had met at Women’s Studies conferences in the early 1990s, Meera Kosambi and I became better acquainted with each other in 1994 when she visited the Research Centre for Women’s Studies at the University of Calcutta. A very large audience had come to hear her speak, at least some of whom were drawn by her famous surname. In typical Meera Kosambi style, she disappointed the adulatory “questioners”, who stood up at the end of her talk and attempted to pay fulsome tributes to her father, by asking how their remarks were relevant to the subject, which was the Age of Consent Bill of 1890. I observed at that time that she had mixed feelings about being known as D.D. Kosambi’s daughter. She told me later that she had been very close to her father but his had been a formidably scholarly reputation to live up to.  Although her introduction to the world of women’s studies was because of her biographical study of Pandita Ramabai, her original research had been in the field of urban planning and she was eager to visit Fort William to study the layout of the Fort. She observed that it was like a mirror image of the plan of the Fort at Bombay.

Some years later, I joined the Research Centre for Women’s Studies at the SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai and worked under Meera. The Centre had been the pioneering Centre and the prototype for the series of University Centres established with state funding across the country. The vexed question of the relative emphasis on academic work and “outreach” activity (in other words, interaction with NGOs) had led to somewhat blurred lines in some centres but Meera was quite categorical that she saw Women’s studies as being deserving of the same rigour and respect as any other discipline. She disapproved of the “happy-clappy” climate of some of the women’s studies workshops and conferences she had attended and declared that the Centre she was in charge of was not to be regarded as a “drop-in centre” and it was not to be regarded as a place for folk singing, craftswomen and political activity. While some of the staff missed the old friendly milieu, the excellent library and documentation centre were more conducive to research.

At that time, Meera was working on a series of letters written by Anandibai Joshi from India to an American correspondent. The American family had preserved these letters and given them to Meera when she visited them in the USA, after visiting Anandibai’s grave in Poughkeepsie, NY.  I remember she showed me one in which Anandibai wrote to thank “Eighmie” (surely the most fanciful spelling of Amy that you could have) for a curl from her head.  I imagined the disgust a tuft of human hair might have caused in a Brahmin woman of the 19th Century, but Meera pointed out that Anandibai had in fact reciprocated and sent back a lock of her own, though with an explanation of what a daring business it was for a married woman to be cutting her hair.

I noted Meera’s extremely meticulous manner of working and her complete concentration on whichever task she had at hand. She lived at that time as a lodger with a family in South Bombay and she told me that her way of relaxing, after a hard day of academic and administrative labour, was to do fine embroidery. My colleague, Veena Poonacha, pointed out that her scholarly work had precisely the same fineness of detail as her needlework.

She spoke with disappointment of what she saw as the erosion of the academic culture of Maharashtra or of the lack of veneration for scholarly achievement. Her own strength was that she was completely bilingual, having had her primary education in Marathi. Meera told me that because she was a girl her father had encouraged her to enrol as a member of the Rashtriya Sewa Dal, which was affiliated to the socialist, rationalist strand of political activism in her native Poona. (She was distinctly piqued when someone assumed that this was in some way connected with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which was anathema to her.) She spoke with respect and awe of her father and grandfather but with the deepest affection of her mother.

Meera began writing and publishing fairly late in her career. It might almost appear that she lived under that overwhelming shadow of her distinguished father well into her middle age and it took her time to come into her own. She often spoke to me of the importance of self-belief and knowledge of self-worth. And when she did finally discover her niche, she produced a body of work that reflected her own thorough, punctilious personality and her loathing of pretension.

Supriya Guha

01 April 2015

At the University of Stirling I Sat Down and Did not Write

(From the University of Stirling website, slightly modified as a short piece about the coming into being of Permanent Black fifteen years back.)

Rukun Advani

Rukun Advani Charles Wallace FellowRukun Advani is the author of Beethoven Among the Cows (1994) - a novel; E.M. Forster as Critic (1985) - a critical study; Indian History from Above and Below: Two Academic Parodies (1999); and Written From Ever: The Best of 'Civil Lines' (2009) - an edited anthology.

After a BA and MA from St Stephen's College, Delhi University, and a PhD in English from Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he learnt publishing from Ravi Dayal at Oxford University Press, New Delhi.
He now collaborates with his wife, Anuradha Roy, in running Permanent Black, one of India’s most respected academic imprints. He was Writer in Residence at the University of Stirling in 1997.

 

My Time at Stirling

The odd thing about my time in Stirling as writer-in-residence is that my stay was very successful in convincing me I was not cut out to be a writer and that I was at heart a petty merchant who ought to stick firmly to making money as a publisher. The stay may also have been doubly successful in sparking off the creative impulse in my wife Anuradha Roy, who was there with me the whole time in October-November 1997. It was a honeymoon fellowship for us, we were married a few days before we reached Stirling. She has since published a couple of very well-received novels with a third to be published this year (2015). So the Stirling fellowship may have achieved a global first of sorts with me, or rather us: the first successful transfer of a creativity baton from husband non-writer to wife-writer. Odd how things have turned out, and it may not be the kind of advertisement you [the University of Stirling] have in mind for the fellowship programme, but we remember it as entirely successful, in fact as a great and life-changing time of happiness....

... I was employed as history editor by OUP India at the time I got the Stirling fellowship. Having published one novel, which made me feel on top of the world because I’d never imagined I had what it takes to write a novel and because it was accepted by Faber, I thought I should attempt another. I did try quite hard to get something going over the weeks at Stirling, but the only result was the realization that I was forcing myself in a direction leading nowhere. Meanwhile I’d begun missing unfinished projects back in my office, and, specially, the regular feedback on sales and how much money the books in my history list had made. This was how Stirling made me see that I was at heart a member of the trading castes. I was delighted when the two publishing studies people in Stirling suggested a seminar with their students, and that went off really well, I think, even if it wasn’t what the audience expected, because I spoke on the philosophy of good publishing and its cultural and moral importance — a very Leavisite defence of high traditions along with a sniffy view of pulp fiction and lowbrow publishing. This was a bit of a paradox since I was arguing for the kind of publishing that makes less money than the one I was being sniffy about. The money-making meant a lot to me, but only if it went hand in hand with publishing what was culturally and ethically contributing in its own little way to an improved world (or at least to a world that in my opinion had not been de-proved).

Three years later, Anuradha and I had a huge row with a new ruling dispensation at the OUP and left to set up Permanent Black, a small academic press which over the past fifteen years has become widely known as the press for South Asian history, cultural studies, politics, and sociology. We have nearly 300 hardback and 150 paperback titles in our list. At the start of the venture, fifteen years back, we sometimes wondered, when viewing with dismay the expression of gloom and doom on the face of our accountant, if we shouldn't have called ourselves Permanent Red.

Over the years, we tried to keep overheads low and editorial skills high. We managed to strike copublishing deals with a large number of reputed American university presses. Our distributors in India, Orient Blackswan, became colleagues, supporters, and friends without whom we would not have lasted more than a year or two. And so the name we'd chosen worked. A smile would occasionally suffuse the face of our accountant. He no longer puffed nervously at his cigarette.

We’ve remained small and sniffy: no employees, just the two of us (we use freelance proof-readers). It is not easy to be published by Permanent Black. We take on quite few books and turn down many because the money-making has to go hand in hand with high quality intellectual publishing which academics will value and use, and which via them will trickle through into the minds of their students. I can’t say this is only the result of Stirling, but Stirling helped very fundamentally to settle me in this professional direction.

Permanent Black Turns Fifteen Today

Permanent Black turns 15 today! 

About 280 titles published, of which 150 have appeared in paperback editions, and another 75 in electronic format. Copublications with the university presses of Columbia, Harvard, Duke, Texas; Princeton, Chicago, Rutgers, Indiana, Minnesota, Stanford; Uni of California at Berkeley; Cambridge UP; Oxford UP, NY; Cornell UP; New York UP, Univ of Washington Press, North Carolina UP; plus Palgrave Macmillan, Hurst, Seagull.

This year's highlights:

Nayanjot Lahiri has made quite a name for herself as a historian who can also reach readers outside university enclaves. We will publish her excellent new biography of Ashoka, entitled Ashoka in Ancient India (rights outside South Asia with Harvard University Press). And Thomas Trautmann, the American who knows more about ancient India than any other American, is publishing a fascinating environmental history of the ancient world called Elephants and Kings (copublisher: the University of Chicago Press). 

Both these books will appear within a new series titled ‘Hedgehog and Fox’ (for reasons not difficult to guess) that we have just begun with Ashoka University and in which we have already published Steve Wilkinson's Army and Nation and The Indian Ideology: Three Responses to Perry Anderson, a wonderfully readable denunciation of Perry Anderson’s The Indian Ideology by three eminent thinkers: Nivedita Menon, Partha Chatterjee, and Sudipta Kaviraj.  

The series editor is the new vice chancellor of Ashoka University, Rudrangshu Mukherjee (author of Awadh in Revolt, his revised Oxford PhD). A book by Dipesh Chakrabarty of Chicago (on Sir Jadunath Sarkar), will follow in this series.

Books by two old friends of Permanent Black, Leela Gandhi and Mahesh Rangarajan, are in the works. Watch this space.

17 March 2015

ARMY AND NATION

The Indian Express has called it "perhaps the most important book to come out on India’s armed forces in  recent years." You can read the complete review here.

Army and Nation draws on uniquely comprehensive data to explore how and why India has succeeded in keeping the military out of politics, when so many other countries have failed. It uncovers the command and control strategies, the careful ethnic balancing, and the political, foreign policy, and strategic decisions that have made the army safe for Indian democracy. Wilkinson goes further to ask whether, in a rapidly changing society, these structures will survive the current national conflicts over caste and regional representation in New Delhi, as well as India’s external and strategic challenges. This is the most important book to have appeared on the Indian armed forces in more than four decades.

On 19th March 2015, 6.30 pm, India International Centre, Delhi, the author will give an illustrated lecture on his book, and Srinath Raghavan will chair. The event is open to all, please come.

Steven I. Wilkinson is Nilekani Professor of India and South Asian Studies and Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at Yale University.

Srinath Raghavan is author of the acclaimed books, War and Peace in Modern India and 1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh. He is Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, and Lecturer in Defence Studies at King’s College London.

Hardback| 304 pp| Rs 795

To buy from the distributors, click here.

02 March 2015

MEERA KOSAMBI PASSES AWAY

Over our many years of publishing Meera Kosambi's books, including her brilliant translation of the memoirs of Dharmanand Kosambi, the author became a friend with whom much was shared and exchanged. She will be deeply missed.

A detailed blogpost will follow shortly.

From the Hindu:

A wide-ranging writer and intellectual, she authored numerous essays and books on topics ranging from Marathi theatre to the social ecology of Mumbai.

Noted sociologist Meera Kosambi, the youngest daughter of the great historian and mathematician D.D. Kosambi, passed away at a private hospital in Pune on Thursday after a brief illness aged 75. 

Ms. Kosambi, who did not marry, had an illustrious academic pedigree. Her father, a polymath, was India’s pre-eminent Marxist historian, while her grandfather was the renowned Buddhist scholar and Pali language expert, Acharya Dharmananda Damodar Kosambi. 

Ms. Kosambi, who did her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Stockholm, wrote, co-wrote or edited more than 15 books which reflected a lifelong preoccupation and passion for with the notion of the modern, emancipated Indian woman. 

While all her works are shot through with brilliant and incisive scholarship, Ms. Kosambi’s crowning achievement was to turn the light on Pandita Ramambai, the great 19 century Indian reformer and educationist and early pioneer of women’s emancipation in India. 

Through her splendid translations of Returning the American Gaze: Pandita Ramabai’s the people of the United States (1889) and a volume of Ramabai’s Selected Works, Ms. Kosambi was instrumental in salvaging the great reformer’s reputation from the debris of time and restoring Pandita Ramabai to the pedestal of one of Modern India’s most illustrious figures. 

A wide-ranging writer and intellectual, she authored numerous essays and books on topics ranging from Marathi theatre to the social ecology of Mumbai. 

She retired as a professor and director of the Research Centre for Women’s Studies, a post that she held for a decade, at the SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai. 


Sad news of the death of prominent sociologist, writer, and translator Meera Kosambi, in Pune on February 26, was received as
a double blow in her ancestral Goa. Many friends and admirers did not know she was ailing. The news was a shock.

There was also immediate recognition that an era had passed—76-year-old Meera Kosambi was the last living link to the prodigious intellectual legacy of her father, D D Kosambi, and her grandfather, Dharmanand Kosambi, who set out on foot from Sancoale in Goa in 1899 to found one of the greatest intellectual dynasties of the 20th century.

Every Indian schoolchild learns about the Tagores, but very few are taught about the Kosambis, despite three generations of truly exceptional achievement backed by pioneering work in multiple fields of research and scholarship. This 'recognition gap' can be attributed to the fact that the Kosambis stood alone, usually far ahead of their contemporaries.

Meera's description of her grandfather aptly summarizes the family character: "solitary thinker(s)... refusal to court public adulation, coupled with plain-speaking and unwillingness to compromise."

The combined story of the Kosambis is almost unbelievable.

Dharmanand's powerful thirst for knowledge—first, about Buddhism—led him to leave his wife and infant daughter and walk out from Sancoale across the border of Portuguese India to Pune, then Varanasi, where he learned Sanskrit while subsisting like a mendicant.

He trudged to Nepal to study Pali, then to Sri Lanka where he was ordained a Buddhist monk. By 1910, he was working at Harvard University in the USA. After learning Russian, this intrepid Goan scholar went on to teach at Leningrad University as well.

Dharmanand returned to India to participate in the freedom struggle against the British. He was imprisoned for six years for his key role in the salt satyagraha. But he continued to write and teach about Buddhism—his influence led B R Ambedkar to convert.

When he sought to give up his life through voluntary fasting just before independence, Mahatma Gandhi prevailed upon him to reconsider, but Dharmanand was steadfast. He died at Sevagram in June 1947.

In the introduction to her masterly translations of 'the essential writings' of Dharmanand, Meera acknowledged: "I did not
know my grandfather", but sought to "claim him as an intellectual ancestor".

She did meet him as a child, and her rigorous, sensitive approach to translating his writings from Marathi —especially the spellbinding autobiographical 'Nivedan' —more than demonstrates a powerful connection.

Even stronger ties bound the adamantine scholar D D Kosambi to his devoted daughter.

Her last book 'Unsettling the Past: Unknown Aspects and Scholarly Assessments of D D Kosambi', was released in Goa in December 2013.

Meera's father was a spectacular polymath with major contributions to the study of ancient history, mathematics, Sanskrit literature, numismatics, and energy policy.

He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard in 1929, before returning to India and writing a long series of highly original papers—backed by painstaking, innovative fieldwork—that define the meaning of 'Renaissance Man'.

Just as Meera's terrific translations of her grandfather's work have proven integral to Dharmanand Kosambi's continuing relevance, her collection of D D Kosambi's writings secured her father's place in history.

The three essays on solar energy alone illustrate how far ahead he was of his time. If India had heeded him instead of his some-time nemesis Homi Bhabha, there is no doubt the country would be far ahead today.

The youngest link in the Kosambi intellectual chain was much more than merely the champion of her father and grandfather.

Meera was a strikingly distinctive feminist thinker and writer, as well as one of the most meticulous scholars and translators
of her generation.

25 December 2014

Letter from a Reader

Gentlemen,

I have just completed reading the  captioned book by Bill Aitken. (Paperback,2011). I just wish to convey to you my pleasure and gratitude for publishing such a nice book, in such a nice manner.  Though termed a paperback, it is so well printed and  and so securely bound, sewn at the section, instead of being glued. This is such a thoughtful  step, as the glue does not hold for long in our climate, and does not even allow us to open the book fully, without fear. This is such a book as one would not like to read  and throw, or even forget. The book in the present binding will easily last 30 years- which is great for the environment! Both the subject and author have been properly honoured by the quality of your publication. And you have honoured us readers, by  both the high quality and low price! It is almost like a gift! The illustrations are very good. ( I have other books of Bill Aitken published by others, including some well-known international names, and know how poor these are.)

The only deficiency I have felt is the absence of a map or even a rough sketch of the area covered, which would have  helped us appreciate the matter better. But please take this as a suggestion, and not as a complaint.
Please permit me to record my heart-felt thanks for such a nice book.

Yours truly,
R.Nanjappa
 
(This letter, about Footloose in the Himalaya, is reproduced with permission)

22 December 2014

Fifteen Years, 275 Great Books

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PERMANENT BLACK
Now Fifteen Years Old
(1 April 2000 -- )


On All Fools’ Day 2015, Permanent Black will be fifteen years old. Tumultuous festivities are likely within the swarming intelligentsia of Ranikhet, the new academic hub of international thought processing in the lower Himalaya, which is where we are based for much of the year. Somewhere between 275 and 280 Permanent Black titles will have been published by then, of which 150 will have also appeared in paperback editions, and another 75 in electronic format.

Over these years our personnel strength has increased by twenty-five per cent: one year into our life we were, in 2001, joined by our first assistant, Biscoot (stray road-Asian); fourteen years on there has been a second retruit, Barauni (stray hill-Bhutia; ‘Barauni’ being the local pronunciation of Brownie), who has also been welcomed in at the level of assistant. His promotion to managerial rank will depend on how invitingly he barks in potential authors.

Animated barking, accompanied by some fairly furious tail-wagging by these two assistants, has greatly reduced our productivity and hugely increased the happiness with which we have published. Other than the publisher Rukun Advani, and the jacket designer and general dogsbody Anuradha Roy, we remain without permanent staff, which helps keep us permanently in the black.

Over the course of our fourteenth year we have published one more clutch of first-class books in history, politics, and related areas. Sumit Sarkar’s Modern Times: India 1880s–1950s deserves most special mention because it shows Professor Sarkar performing something of a Lazarus act—he returned from many weeks in an intensive care unit to provide his huge following of fans and readers this wonderfully synthesizing narrative about the late colonial period.

Two major books to see the light of day over the past months have been Akeel  Bilgrami’s Secularism, Identity and Enchantment (copublished with Harvard University Press), and Sudipta Kaviraj’s The Invention of Private Life (originated by Permanent Black, copublished by Columbia University Press). It is an achievement for us to have become the publishers of four books by Professor Kaviraj, an academic known for his immersion in the oral tradition (conversations and lectures).  Rosalind O’Hanlon’s At the Edges of Empire appeared at the start of the year and is her second with us—a great book equally for people interested in currents of historical thought, caste and religious conflict, and aspects of society in Western India. Vasudha Dalmia’s Hindu Pasts: Women, Religion, Histories will appear soon.

M.S.S. Pandian, author of one of our finest academic bestsellers, Brahmin and Non-Brahmin, passed away with a terrible suddenness. Professor Pandian had been working on a book he had signed on with us, on contemporary Tamil politics and we’re keeping fingers crossed for his JNU colleagues to work out how that nearly finished script might be salvaged.

Nayanjot Lahiri has made quite a name for herself as a historian who can also reach readers outside university enclaves. We will publish her excellent new biography of Ashoka, entitled Ashoka in Ancient India (rights outside South Asia with Harvard University Press). And Thomas Trautmann, the American who knows more about ancient India than any other American, is publishing a fascinating environmental history of the ancient world called Elephants and Kings (copublisher: the University of Chicago Press). Both these books will appear within a new series titled ‘Hedgehog and Fox’ (for reasons not difficult to guess) that we have just begun with Ashoka University. The series editor is the new vice chancellor of Ashoka University, Rudrangshu Mukherjee (author of Awadh in Revolt, his revised Oxford PhD). A book each by Steven Wilkinson of Yale (on the Indian army), and Dipesh Chakrabarty of Chicago (on Sir Jadunath Sarkar), will follow in this series.

Books by two old friends of Permanent Black, Leela Gandhi and Mahesh Rangarajan, are in the works, as is a wonderfully readable denunciation of Perry Anderson’s The Indian Ideology by three eminent thinkers: Nivedita Menon, Partha Chatterjee, and Sudipta Kaviraj.

We wish all friends happiness among books in the new year—among our books, naturally!