Reviews of the latest books from and on Southasia

Dynamics and Development of Highland Ecosystems
by Ek Raj Ojha
Walden Book House, Kathmandu, 1999 (first edition)
pp xxxv, 279 + 28(unnumbered), price not mentioned

In recent years, the study of hill ecologies has acquired great importance. In this study Ek Raj Ojha focuses on the highland ecosystem in the hills of far-western Nepal, more particularly in analysing the dynamics of ecosystems moulded by terrace farming. The book aims to determine the ways and means of improving the socioeconomic as well as environmental conditions of people living in this region, as well as providing a model for similar areas. Emphasising the need for modern technology to supplement the revival of traditional indigenous knowledge, he Ojha underlines the need to fully understand particular ecosystems before any 'improvement' of the concerned ecosystem is undertaken.

The Reality of Aid 2002
Edited by Judith Randel, Tony German and Deborah Ewing
IBON Foundation Inc, Manila, 2002
pp xii + 262, price not mentioned
ISBN 971 8707 71 9

The annual report of The Reality of Aid, a not-for-profit initiative involving non-governmental organisations from the North and South, constitutes a 'progress report' on what the international community has been able to do, needs to do and needs to refrain from doing to ensure sustainable development in the less well off countries. With in-depth studies of NGOs and NGO coalitions in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the OECD countries, it presents a nuanced range of perspectives on donor policies and practices and evaluates their success in terms what they have been able to deliver vis a vis their promises.

Culture, Gender and Ecology: Beyond Workerism
by M Nadarajah
Rawat Publications, Jaipur, 1999
pp xviii + 341, INR 650
ISBN 81-7033-515-8

The book takes a critical look at the Marxist notion of historical materialism and attempts to rework the concept at the level of theory and ideas by re-examining the notion of communism. He provides well researched insights into the "impossibility of overcoming strife" and shows that it is difficult to sustain the claim that relations of production constitute the total social space. The book, subtly guided by Mao's critical notions, is about the strengthening and consolidation of the gains of the working class movement – something, the author, feels has not been articulated at the level of theory.

Resistance and the State: Nepalese Experiences
Edited  by David Gellner
Social Science Press, New Delhi
pp xv + 383, INR 525
ISBN 81 87358 08 4

Nepal has witnessed protracted civil conflict that has affected different that has only recently begun attracting attention in scholarly circles. While most of monographs and edited volumes deal directly with the question of Maoist insurrection, this volumes attempts to conceptualise the conflict by bringing to bear a more explicit sociological and anthropological focus on the question of state and resistance. The contributors to this volume attempt to bring out the complex relationship between the modernising, developmentalist state, and the people it represents. Using ethnographic case studies to explore health-care programmes, forestry, national parks, political parties and ethnic revivalism – the book gives a graphic description of conflicts over the interpretation of history and also provides various perspectives on the Maoist insurgency that has affected Nepal since 1996. Useful resource for political scientists, historians, sociologists, anthropologists as well as the general reader.

A Kingdom Under Siege
Nepal's Maoist Insurgency, 1996 to 2003
by Deepak Thapa with Bandita Sijapati
the printhouse, Kathmandu
pp xv + 234, price not mentioned
ISBN 99933 59 07 6

The latest account of the Maoist insurgency in Nepal, this book provides an overview of the movement and the political and socio-economic context within which the conflict arose and continues to play itself out. It describes the state's neglect of many of its citizens, the instabilities of the polity and the rise of radical left politics in the mid-western region of Nepal which is the heartland of the Maoists. Published during the second ceasefire in the eight-year old conflict, the author concludes that the only way to bring about a lasting peace is to build a state that is equally attentive to the interests of Nepal's diverse population groups.

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Himal Southasian