ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles by Anirudh DeshpandeSubscribe to Anirudh Deshpande

Interweaving Violence and Non-violence

Violence and Non-Violence across Time: History, Religion and Culture edited by Sudhir Chandra, South Asia Edition, New York: Routledge, 2018; pp 314, ₹ 1,095 (hardbound).


Histories, Academic and Public

Changes in historiography and historical methods challenged the professional historian’s obsession with the state archive from the late 19th century, but the distance between academic and public histories continued to grow wider in the 20th century. The possibility of bringing public and academic histories together to make history-writing a meaningful activity for both the public and the historian has been done by treating the visual as an archive which no historian can ignore in the age of smartphones, internet and fake news. By imaginatively integrating the visual and literary archives, the historian can reclaim a social relevance denied to him by the very practice of professional academic history.

Tale of the Great Mutiny

Dastan-e-Ghadar: The Tale of the Mutiny by Zahir Dehlvi, translated from Urdu by Rana Safvi, Penguin Random House India, 2017; pp 327, ₹599.

Past, Present, and Oral History

Oral history is an aid to movements for social justice across the world. It is particularly significant in countries like India where literacy levels are low and where memories of the oppressed are routinely erased from public memory. This article questions the presumed superiority of the written over the oral. It presents a critique of “establishment” historiography and suggests that historians should adopt a receptive and balanced approach to different forms of history. Oral history reorients the historian’s craft in interesting ways. The oral history method is crucial for capturing histories that flourish outside the dominant narratives of modern societies.

Recalling Bhagat Singh

Bhagat Singh had a number of political choices before him but the fact that he consciously abjured them in favour of a fiery independence, atheism and internationalism is worthy of introspection, if not emulation. 

Veggie Myths

The myth of India being a largely vegetarian country is shattered by the fact that across the country, the great majority of people consume meat and fish.

A Panegyric for the Brahmans

Hinduism and the Ethics of Warfare in South Asia: From Antiquity to the Present by Kaushik Roy (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press), 2012; pp 288, Rs 995 (hardcover).

Remaking the Indian Historian's Craft

Unlike literature, which results from an imaginative plunder of individual and collective memory, professional history is based on primary and secondary sources which verify the historian's truth. Compared with literature, history's relationship with memory appears complicated, primarily because of its institutionalised modernisation. This paper underlines the need to expand the horizons of history by approaching memory more constructively than Indian historians usually do. In India, this means analysing the memory of the majority who remain excluded from academic constructions of knowledge. Several modes of remembering have flourished in the pre-literate, literate and post-literate contexts of Indian society since the early 20th century outside professional history. This paper suggests that written history and unwritten memory must both be used critically by the historian. The historian must begin by interrogating his vocation to examine why history, once a popular discipline, has steadily lost social importance since 1947. This paper favours histories appropriate to present and future Indian conditions; it tries to offer possible solutions to the "problem" of history with reference to Indian conditions.

Eurocentric versus Indigenous

While sympathising with the general critique of Eurocentrism expressed by Claude Alvares in his critical essay on the social sciences in India (EPW, 28 May 2011), this response finds some of his contentions problematic. It appears that Alvares' overall submission is based on a couple of preconceived conceptual binaries such as European/non-European and Eurocentric/indigenous.

One and a Half Educated Men

Understanding Politics and Society (1910-1997) by Hardwari Lal, edited by Prem Chowdhry (New Delhi: Manak Publications), 2010; pp 423, Rs 700.

Neo-Taliban Insurgency

Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan by Antonio Giustozzi;

Indian Cinema and the Bourgeois Nation State

This critique of Indian cinema concentrates on the bourgeoisie, the presumed harbinger of modernity and executor of modernisation in India. Historically this class was produced by the interaction of colonial rule with the traditional elite of India. The national project of this heterogeneous class, spanning the colonial, post-colonial and neocolonial periods of Indian history, has always been problematic. Indian cinema showcases the nation in varying contexts. Though the nation state ideal continuously changed in India from the early 20th century bourgeois social engineering in the country has upheld patriarchy and caste against the grain of historical change.


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