Saurabh Dube's 'Handbook of Modernity in South Asia' is a significant contribution to the study of modernity and globalization in South Asia. The book has contributions by well-known historians and anthropologists. Combining a variety of disciplines and perspectives, the handbook interprets modernity as a contradictory process and probes its history.
Some of the essays stand out. Ajay Skaria in his discussion on Gandhi raises important questions on faith and reason, and suggests that one is not necessarily opposed to the other. In another interesting essay, Bodhisattva Kar discusses regional identity and politics of Assam and the larger struggle for India's independence.
Dube recruits an eclectic and bright set of academics to answer these questions. The book sheds light on the historical aspects of modernity during the British colonial times. It also examines the limitations and possibilities of modernity in contemporary contexts, including politics, culture, and the arts.
The book raises interesting questions: is modernity new to India? Or have various groups in the country participated in the processes of modernity over a much longer time period? How can modernity be defined? The contributors discuss the inherited understandings of modernity that are based on archaic projections of the traditional and the modern; the non-West and the West. The contributors cover a galaxy of themes, probing an interplay of the individual and collective, the public and the private, and the impersonal and personal.
With a diverse range of exciting essays, the edition will be of interest to the students of sociology, anthropology, politics, development studies, media and cultural studies.
Handbook of Modernity in South Asia, edited by Saurabh Dube, OUP India, 304 pages, Rs 750