Reviews of the latest books from and on Southasia

The Oxford India Companion to Sociology and Social Anthropology (2 volumes)
Edited by Veena Das
OUP, New Delhi, 2003
pp xvi, viii+1660, INR 3750
ISBN 0 19564582 0

In what is probably the most comprehensive compilation of essays on South Asian social sciences, the Oxford India Companion brings together the work of 62 leading scholars on topics ranging from conceptual frameworks to agrarian practice. Edited by Veena Das, professor of anthropology at Johns Hopkins University, USA, the handsome two-volume set is divided into nine sections on social ecology, social morphology, culture, family and kinship, religion, economy, education and politics. In presenting this work, writes Das in the introduction, "I hope for reflection on the processes through which forms of knowledge about Indian society and culture have been generated, as well as the institutional mechanisms for the consolidation of concerns in social science research in the country".

The nature of underdevelopment and regional structure in Nepal: A Marxist analysis
by Baburam Bhattarai
Adroit, New Delhi, 2003
pp xx+540, INR 600
ISBN 81 87392 39 8

Baburam Bhattarai, architect, student of development, and ideologue of Nepal's Maoist movement, is leader of the five-member Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN-M) negotiating team currently in talks with the Nepali government. This work, material from his mid-1980s doctoral thesis, with an updated preface by Bhattarai and foreword by CPN (M) chairman, Prachanda, presents "an historico-materialist interpretation of the Nepalese society so that it may help to change it for the better" (emphasis in original). With many endnotes, charts, diagrams and maps, this work is a Marxist perspective on the history and political economy of Nepal and presents the guiding thoughts of the Nepali Maoists' leading ideologue.

The Empire of Capital
by Ellen Meiksins Wood
LeftWord, New Delhi, 2003
pp 153, INR 275
ISBN 81 87496 29 0

Drawing on theoretical perspectives and a wide reading of classical and modern history, Ellen Meiksins Wood, scholar of political science and former editor with the New Left Review, analyses the current features of American global power. Noting that neither the US nor any other power bloc constitutes an empire in the colonial sense of direct administration, Wood nonetheless draws attention to the political, economic and military might of the US, arguing that in essence this constitutes a modern-day imperium.

Blood Against the Snows: The Tragic Story of Nepal's Royal Dynasty
By Jonathan Gregson
4th Estate, London, 2002
pp xiii+226, GBP 8.99
ISBN 1 84115 785 6

Nepal's palace massacre of June 2001 sparked interest around the world in the country's history and current affairs. Here, British journalist Jonathan Gregson traces the evolution of the Nepali state from 18th century founder Prithvi Narayan Shah up to the time of the current monarch, King Gyanendra. Drawing on "unique contacts among the surviving courtiers and members of the royal family", Gregson, the only non-Nepali journalist to interview King Birendra in the decade preceding his murder, closely narrates the months leading up to the massacre and its immediate aftermath.

Displaced within homelands: The IDPs of Bangladesh and the Region
edited by Chowdhury R Abrar and Mahendra P Lama
Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, Dhaka, 2003
pp 213, BDT 300/USD 20

During the last two decades, approximately 25 million people have become internally displaced persons (IDPs) in 40 countries, often as a consequence of development projects, conditions of violence, or environmental disasters. A large number of these IDPs live in South Asia, where they are denied special legal status as refugees, despite the fact that they have many special needs arising from migration under duress. With contributions from 15 researchers, this volume, edited by Chowdhury R Abrara of the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit and Mahendra P Lama of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, focuses principally on IDP issues in Bangladesh, though cases studies are also drawn from Burma and Sri Lanka, and several essays explore legal, political and theoretical dimensions of coerced migration.

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