Looking for the Nation

July 27, 2018

This urgent and compelling book comes at a time when toxic nationalism is causing the violent and systematic exclusion of political, religious, sexual and other minorities. Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee reminds us that the modern nation-state, built on fear and an obsession with territory, is often at odds with democracy, justice and fraternity.
Critically analyzing the ideas of thinkers who laid the political and ethical grounds of India’s modern identity—Nehru, Ambedkar, Gandhi, Tagore, and Aurobindo—Bhattacharjee shows how we have strayed from their inclusive, diverse visions. He effortlessly weaves personal and intellectual histories, navigating through vast swathes of scholarship, to sketch a radically ethical imagination against the sound and fury of nationalism. He dips into fascinating anecdotes, recalling Ashok Kumar’s friendship with Manto against the shadow of Partition, Ali Sardar Jafri’s Jnanpith Award acceptance speech, and his own encounter with the Sufi qawwal, Fareed Ayaz, among others. Concluding with an enlightening genealogy of modern politics in the light of its present crisis, he exhorts us towards a new politics of trust.
Brimming with thought-provoking analyses and commentary, Looking for the Nation is an extraordinary and illuminating account of India’s politics and culture.

The Flavours of Nationalism

June 1, 2018

In this memoir by an unashamed Indian, Haksar writes about how food shaped her awareness of politics, patriarchy, nationalism and socialism, from her childhood during the Nehruvian era onwards. She takes us on a thoughtful journey through India, from her Kashmiri Pandit family settled in Old Delhi and Lucknow, to human-rights activism on behalf of Nagas in Manipur; from grappling with feminist ideals, to considering the impact of a globalized food industry in Goa.

On a wider scale, she explains how our tastes and attitudes to food are shaped by caste, race, gender and class, exposing latent prejudices and bigotry. Haksar explores questions posed by food anthropologists and ecologists, and revisits debates between Babasaheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi on inter-dining. She also addresses the present controversies over beef-eating, vegetarianism and ideas of Hindu vs. Muslim food, in a milieu where debate is silenced.

With wry accounts of sharing meals with Burmese and Iraqi refugees, and arguing about bourgeois vs. proletarian tea in the Naxalite movement, the book also contains memorable recipes from the many people she has eaten with. At heart is her question that if Indians cannot imagine sitting with each other and sharing food with a sense of equality and respect, how then can a national unity be built?

The Division of Heaven and Earth

June 1, 2017

The Division of Heaven and Earth is one of the most influential and important books from Tibet in the modern era—a passionate indictment of Chinese policies and an eloquent analysis of the protests that swept Tibet from March 2008 as a re-awakening of Tibetan national consciousness and solidarity.

Publication of the original Tibetan edition saw Shokdung (a pseudonym), one of Tibet’s leading intellectuals, imprisoned for nearly six months, and the book immediately banned. This English translation is being made available for the first time since copies began to circulate underground in Tibet.

Written in response to an unprecedented wave of bold demonstrations and expressions of Tibetan solidarity and national identity, Shokdung’s book is regarded as one of the most daring and wide-ranging critiques of China’s policies in Tibet since the 10th Panchen Lama’s famous ‘70,000-character Petition’ addressed to Mao Zedong in 1962.

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