Works that challenge university discourse
This package includes:
B.R. Ambedkar and M.K. Gandhi are two figures who have had the most enduring impact on India. Their well-documented divergence and combativeness is met with either facile attempts at synthesis, or the forbidding of any attempt to study them in proximity. Resisting both these positions, Aishwary Kumar’s Radical Equality: Ambedkar, Gandhi, and the Risk of Democracy offers an archeology of the interminable tension between two visions of democracy, two ways of grasping at sovereignty, in the colonial world. With close readings of texts, statements and political stances, Kumar identifies the sites where the two thinkers come closest to each other, while also revealing their irreconcilable distance in thought. Their shared grammar of struggle becomes the ground of their absolute incommensurability. Radical Equality challenges us to think afresh the ideas of equality, justice, freedom and dissent.
Slavoj Žižek’s first book is a provocative and original work looking at the question of human agency in a postmodern world.
From the sinking of the Titanic to Hitchcock’s Rear Window, from the operas of Wagner to science fiction, from Ridley Scott’s Alien to the Jewish joke, Žižek’s acute analyses explore the ideological fantasies of wholeness and exclusion that make up human society. Linking key psychoanalytical and philosophical concepts to social phenomena such as totalitarianism and racism, the book explores the political significance of these fantasies of control.
With Ambedkar and Other Immortals, Soumyabrata Choudhury produces urgent interpretive realignments which provoke in us the capacity to receive a new, vital wound of thinking: the wound of Ambedkar-thought. Like Althusser marked a philosophical return to Marx, and Lacan to Freud, Choudhury ‘returns’ to Ambedkar guided by Alain Badiou’s philosophical system.
Ambedkar, the activist and politician, is upheld as a thinker with supreme fidelity to the “norm of equality”, a figure in a long line of immortals from Pericles and Abbé Sieyès to Toussaint L’Ouverture. This wager on equality is undeterred by its absence on the ground. Recognising the universal logic of subjugation then opens up the space for a universal articulation for emancipation.
In Un/Common Cultures, Kamala Visweswaran develops an incisive critique of the idea of culture at the heart of anthropology, describing how it lends itself to culturalist assumptions. She holds that the new culturalism—the idea that cultural differences are definitive, and thus divisive—produces a view of “uncommon cultures” defined by relations of conflict rather than forms of collaboration. The essays in Un/common Cultures straddle the line between an analysis of how racism works to form the idea of “uncommon cultures” and a reaffirmation of the possibilities of “common cultures,” those that enact new forms of solidarity in seeking common cause. Such “cultures in common” or “cultures of the common” also produce new intellectual formations that demand different analytic frames for understanding their emergence. By tracking the emergence and circulation of the culture concept in American anthropology and Indian and French sociology, Visweswaran offers an alternative to strictly disciplinary histories. She uses critical race theory to locate the intersection between ethnic/diaspora studies and area studies as a generative site for addressing the formation of culturalist discourses. In so doing, she interprets the work of social scientists and intellectuals such as Elsie Clews Parsons, Alice Fletcher, Franz Boas, Louis Dumont, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Clifford Geertz, W. E. B. Du Bois, and B. R. Ambedkar.
Aryans, Jews, Brahmins unmasks fictions about race, caste and origins and tells us how our fractured present consists of competing pasts.
Comparatist scholar Dorothy Figueira examines the works of European (Voltaire, Schlegel, Max Müller, Nietzsche) and Indian (Rammohan Roy, Dayananda Saraswati, Tilak, Vivekananda) thinkers who built an ideology of the Aryan out of mis-readings of “Aryan” texts, starting with the Veda. In both the East and the West, the search for “original” India became bound up with a search for a superior race living in an unchanging utopian past. Figueira then looks with hope to Phule and Ambedkar who subverted this ‘nationalist’ script in their portrait of the anti-Aryan.
As the Aryan myth is resuscitated today in the service of Hindu revival, this work of impeccable scholarship assumes urgency.
Anbu Nagar is a Dalit slum in the industrial sprawl of north Chennai. Attempting to grasp the connections between religion and everyday life in Anbu Nagar, Nathaniel Roberts shows us how what goes on in the street and at home gives meaning to religion—and not just the reverse, as commonly supposed. To Be Cared For contests nationalist narratives of Christianity as a “foreign” ideology that disrupts local communities. Far from being a divisive force, conversion integrates the slum community—Christians and Hindus alike—by mending moral fault lines that subtly pit women against one another, and by fortifying slum dwellers in their shared struggle for humanity in a national context that denies it.
To Be Cared For was awarded the Bernard Cohn Book Prize by the Association for Asian Studies for ‘outstanding and innovative scholarship across discipline and country of specialization for a first single-authored monograph on South Asia.’
‘Kumar is a writer in whose company Ambedkar’s specters make forceful utterances’—Kalyan Kumar Das, on Radical Equality
‘Discussing Hegel and Lacan is like breathing for Slavoj’—Judith Butler, on The Sublime Object of Ideology
‘I cannot praise this project enough… it breaks out of the confines of the ‘East–West’ dichotomy by placing Ambedkar in series with Pericles, Aristotle, Abbé Sieyès and others, as an exemplar of radical egalitarian logic’—Slavoj Žižek, on Ambedkar and Other Immortals
‘Un/common Cultures is a profound and important book, a major intervention in cultural studies, anthropology, and feminist and South Asian studies'—R. Radhakrishnan, on Un/common Cultures
‘The book is pertinent both to the continuing historical debate about the Aryans, and to current politics in India’—Romila Thapar, on Aryans, Jews, Brahmins
‘Roberts makes us rethink our conceptions of religion, spirituality, poverty, caste, love, and crucially, their interplay with gender. There are times when the stories will make you cry, unless your humanity is completely dead’—Kancha Ilaiah, on To Be Cared For