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#AsiaNow Speaks with Sara Dickey

Sara Dickey is Professor of Anthropology at Bowdoin College and author of Living Class in Urban India, published by Rutgers University Press and winner of the 2018 AAS Ananda Kent Coomaraswamy Prize Honorable Mention. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. Most broadly, I explore what it is like to “live class” every day, at all levels of the class hierarchy, for Madurai residents as they navigate the inequalities of late capitalism. The book’s analytical frame emphasizes the role that moralized class identities and relations themselves play in producing the politics of class. Drawing from over 30 years of fieldwork, I concentrate on subjective aspects of class, examining both immediate and long-term impacts. My study reveals the material consequences of local class identities while simultaneously highlighting the poignant drive for dignity in the face of moralizing class stereotypes. I examine these processes in a variety of spheres—debt and credit, consumption, the ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with Cynthia Talbot

Cynthia Talbot is Professor of History & Asian Studies at the University Of Texas at Austin and author of The Last Hindu Emperor: Prithviraj Chauhan And The Indian Past, 1200-2000, published by Cambridge University Press and winner of the 2018 AAS Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. My book traces how, and by whom, the Indian ruler Prithviraj Chauhan has been remembered since his death in the late twelfth century. Because he was defeated in battle by an Afghan king whose generals went on to establish the Delhi Sultanate, in modern times Prithviraj Chauhan has often been called “the last Hindu emperor” of North India. Even earlier, Indo-Persian historians regarded the conquest of Prithviraj Chauhan as a milestone in the rise of “Muslim” dynasties—polities led by men of Central Asian or Afghan descent and Islamic faith—in the subcontinent. The majority of the book focuses on a few key texts and critical moments ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with Walter Hakala

Walter Hakala is Associate Professor in the Asian Studies Program and Department of English at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, and author of Negotiating Languages: Urdu, Hindi, and the Definition of Modern South Asia, published by Columbia University Press. He is the recipient of an Honorable Mention for the 2018 AAS Bernard Cohn Book Prize for a first book on South Asia. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. Negotiating Languages explores the role of lexicographers (those who compile dictionaries) in the emergence of Urdu as a language of literature and state in South Asia. Modern Standard Hindi and Urdu are unusual in that they share the same grammar and, in ordinary spoken language, a common vocabulary. I argue that dictionaries were an important means through which elites were able to articulate and, occasionally, resist, the bifurcation of this single language on the basis of script (Arabic and Devanagari), vocabulary (Perso-Arabic and Sanskrit), and, increasingly, religion (Muslim an ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with Nathaniel Roberts

Nate Roberts is Research Fellow at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies, University of Göttingen, and author of To Be Cared For: The Power of Conversion and Foreignness of Belonging in an Indian Slum, published by University of California Press and winner of the 2018 AAS Bernard S. Cohn Prize for a first book on South Asia. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. The book is about a community of women and men living under conditions of profound poverty and exclusion from the dominant national society. They were called Paraiyars (“Pariahs”), but they said this was just a label others had put on them, and that in reality that had no caste. I begin with their experience of rejection by their own countrymen, and the moral sense they try to make of it. For them, caste is the denial of common humanity and the refusal of care; against it they posed an alternative moral vision based on human vulnerability and the obligation to care for those in need. Yet even within the slum communit ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with John Stratton Hawley

John Stratton Hawley (a.k.a., Jack) is Claire Tow Professor of Religion at Barnard College, Columbia University and author of A Storm of Songs: India and the Idea of the Bhakti Movement, published by Harvard University Press and winner of the 2017 AAS Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. India celebrates itself as a nation of unity in diversity, but where does that sense of unity come from? One important source is a widely accepted narrative called the “bhakti movement.” Bhakti is the religion of the heart, of song, of common participation, of inner peace, of anguished protest. The idea known as the bhakti movement asserts that between 600 and 1600 CE, poet-saints sang bhakti from India’s southernmost tip to its northern Himalayan heights, laying the religious bedrock upon which the modern state of India would be built. In A Storm of Songs, I clarify the historical and political contingencies that gave birth to the concept of the b ...

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