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The North Indian Epic Dhola in Performance
"... [T]ells a wonderful story, one much loved in northern India.... fills an important lacuna in the work on oral epic." -- Lindsey Harlan
Dhola is an oral epic performed primarily by lower-caste, usually illiterate, men in the Braj region of northern India. The story of Raja Nal, "a king who does not know he is a king," this vast epic portrays a world of complex social relationships involving changing and mistaken identities, goddesses, powerful women, magicians, and humans of many different castes. In this comprehensive study and first extended English translation based on multiple oral versions, Susan Snow Wadley argues that the story explores the nature of humanity while also challenging commonplace assumptions about Hinduism, gender, and caste. She examines the relationship between oral and written texts and the influence of individual performance styles alongside a lyrical translation of the work.
Choices and Decisions in the Madrassas of Pakistan
Islamic schools, or madrasas, have been accused of radicalizing Muslims and participating, either actively or passively, in terrorist networks since the events of 9/11. In Pakistan, the 2007 siege by government forces of Islamabad's Red Mosque and its madrasa complex, whose imam and students staged an armed resistance against the state for its support of the "war on terror," reinforced concerns about madrasas' role in regional and global jihad. By 2006 madrasas registered with Pakistan's five regulatory boards for religious schools enrolled over one million male and 200,000 female students. In The Rational Believer, Masooda Bano draws on rich interview, ethnographic, and survey data, as well as fieldwork conducted in madrasas throughout the country to explore the network of Pakistani madrasas. She maps the choices and decisions confronted by students, teachers, parents, and clerics and explains why available choices make participation in jihad appear at times a viable course of action.
Bano works shows that beliefs are rational and that religious believers look to maximize utility in ways not captured by classical rational choice. She applies analytical tools from the New Institutional Economics to explain apparent contradictions in the madrasa system-for example, how thousands of young Pakistani women now demand the national adoption of traditional sharia law, despite its highly restrictive limits on female agency, and do so from their location in Islamic schools for girls that were founded only a generation ago.
"[W]ill be welcomed by students of comparative slavery.... [It] makes us reconsider the significance of slavery in the subcontinent." -- Edward A. Alpers, UCLA
Despite its pervasive presence in the South Asian past, slavery is largely overlooked in the region's historiography, in part because the forms of bondage in question did not always fit models based on plantation slavery in the Atlantic world. This important volume will contribute to a rethinking of slavery in world history, and even the category of slavery itself. Most slaves in South Asia were not agricultural laborers, but military or domestic workers, and the latter were overwhelmingly women and children. Individuals might become slaves at birth or through capture, sale by relatives, indenture, or as a result of accusations of criminality or inappropriate sexual behavior. For centuries, trade in slaves linked South Asia with Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. The contributors to this collection of original essays describe a wide range of sites and contexts covering more than a thousand years, foregrounding the life stories of individual slaves wherever possible.
Contributors are Daud Ali, Indrani Chatterjee, Richard M. Eaton, Michael H. Fisher, Sumit Guha, Peter Jackson, Sunil Kumar, Avril A. Powell, Ramya Sreenivasan, Sylvia Vatuk, and Timothy Walker.
Atomic Publics and the State in India and Pakistan
Since their founding as independent nations, nuclear issues have been key elements of nationalism and the public sphere in both India and Pakistan. Yet the relationship between nuclear arms and civil society in the region is seldom taken into account in conventional security studies. These original and provocative essays examine the political and ideological components of national drives to possess and test nuclear weapons. Equal coverage for comparable issues in each country frames the volume as a genuine dialogue across this contested boundary.
Community, Culture, and Politics in the Diaspora
Vietnamese diasporic relations affect—and are directly affected by—events in Viet Nam. In Transnationalizing Viet Nam, Kieu-Linh Caroline Valverde explores these connections, providing a nuanced understanding of this globalized community. Valverde draws on 250 interviews and almost two decades of research to show the complex relationship between Vietnamese in the diaspora and those back at the homeland.
Arguing that Vietnamese immigrant lives are inherently transnational, she shows how their acts form virtual communities via the Internet, organize social movements, exchange music and create art, find political representation, and even dissent. Valverde also exposes how generational, gender, class, and political tensions threaten to divide the ethnic community.
Transnationalizing Viet Nam paints a vivid picture of the complex political and personal allegiances that exist within Vietnamese America and shape the relations between this heterogeneous community and its country of origin.
In the series Asian American History and Culture, edited by Sucheng Chan, David Palumbo-Liu, Michael Omi, K. Scott Wong, and Linda Trinh Võ
Female Stardom and Cinema in India, 1930s-1950s
Wanted Cultured Ladies Only! maps out the early culture of cinema stardom in India from its emergence in the silent era to the decade after Indian independence in the mid-twentieth century. Neepa Majumdar combines readings of specific films and stars with an analysis of the historical and cultural configurations that gave rise to distinctly Indian notions of celebrity. She argues that discussions of early cinematic stardom in India must be placed in the context of the general legitimizing discourse of colonial "improvement" that marked other civic and cultural spheres as well, and that "vernacular modernist" anxieties over the New Woman had limited resonance here. Rather, it was through emphatically nationalist discourses that Indian cinema found its model for modern female identities. _x000B__x000B_Considering questions of spectatorship, gossip, popularity, and the dominance of a star-based production system, Majumdar details the rise of film stars such as Sulochana, Fearless Nadia, Lata Mangeshkar, and Nargis.
Life Histories and the Historian of South Asia
Judith M. Brown, one of the leading historians of South Asia, provides an original and thought-provoking strategy for conducting and presenting historical research in her latest book, Windows into the Past. Brown looks at how varieties of “life history” that focus on the lives of institutions and families, as well as individuals, offer a broad and rich means of studying history. Her distinctively creative approach differs from traditional historical biography in that it explores a variety of “life histories” and shows us how they become invaluable windows into the past. Following her introduction, "The Practice of History,” Brown opens windows on the history of South Asia. She begins with the life history of an educational institution, Balliol College, Oxford, and tracks the interrelationship between Britain and India through the lives of the British and Indian men who were educated there. She then demonstrates the significance of family life history, showing that by observing patterns of family life over several generations, it is possible to gain insight into the experiences of groups of people who rarely left historical documents about themselves, particularly South Asian women. Finally, Brown uses the life history of two prominent individuals, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, to examine questions about the nature of Indian nationalism and the emergent Indian state.