DiscoverNew Books in South Asian Studies
New Books in South Asian Studies
Claim Ownership

New Books in South Asian Studies

Author: Marshall Poe

Subscribed: 2,134Played: 47,098


Interviews with Scholars of South Asia about their New Books

299 Episodes
Loving Stones: Making the Impossible Possible in the Worship of Mount Govardhan (Oxford University Press) explores the worship world of Mount Govardhan: located in the Braj region of India, the mountain is considered an embodied form of the Hindu deity Krishna. Above and beyond providing insight into the fascinating religious practices surrounding worship of Mount Govardhan, Haberman probes the paradox of an infinite god embodied in finite form, In doing so, he offers critical consideration of the pejorative concept of idolatry in the study of religions, in particular its problematic use to when applied to Hindu religiosity. David L. Haberman is Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University. For information about your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In this interview, we have a candid conversation with Dr. Christopher Key Chapple of Loyola Marymount University about his outlook, teaching philosophy, and new developments in the field – his Master of Arts in Yoga Studies in particular. Stay tuned for Part II where we will focus on Chris’ scholarship, in particular his new book Living Landscapes: Meditations on the Five Elements in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain Yogas. Christopher Key Chapple is Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology and director of Master of Arts in Yoga Studies at Loyola Marymount University. For information on your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Classes of Labour: Work and Life in a Central Indian Steel Town (Routledge, 2020) is a classic in the social sciences. The rigour and richness of the ethnographic data of this book and its analysis is matched only by its literary style. This magnum opus of 732 pages, an outcome of fieldwork covering twenty-one years, complete with diagrams and photographs, reads like an epic novel, difficult to put down. Professor Jonathan Parry looks at a context in which the manual workforce is divided into distinct social classes, which have a clear sense of themselves as separate and interests that are sometimes opposed. The relationship between them may even be one of exploitation; and they are associated with different lifestyles and outlooks, kinship and marriage practices, and suicide patterns. A central concern is with the intersection between class, caste, gender and regional ethnicity, with how class trumps caste in most contexts and with how classes have become increasingly structured as the ‘structuration’ of castes has declined. The wider theoretical ambition is to specify the general conditions under which the so-called ‘working class’ has any realistic prospect of unity. Today I talked with the author, Jonathan Parry, emeritus professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics (in collaboration with Ajay TG) and John Harriss, emeritus professor of international studies at Simon Fraser University. Sneha Annavarapu is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In Guest is God: Pilgrimage, Tourism, and Making Paradise in India (Oxford University Press, 2019) Drew Thomases investigates the Indian pilgrimage town of Pushkar. While the town consists of 20,000 residents, it boasts two million visitors annually. Sacred to the creator god, Brahma, Pushkar is understood as heaven on earth – a heaven heavily marked by tourism and globalization. You can learn about the lives of the residents of Pushkar through Thomases fascinating ethnographic fieldwork. Drew Thomases is Assistant Professor in the Religious Studies Department at San Diego State University. His work focuses on the anthropology of religion in North India--more specifically, Hindu pilgrimage and practice--though he is broadly interested in tourism, globalization, environmentalism, and theoretical approaches to the study of religion. For information about your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Over the last couple of decades, a number of books written both by the academics and journalists  have appeared on many dysfunctions of the Pakistani state, a few of them even predicting why and how and when it is going to collapse. Against this grain, Ayesha Siddiqi’s new book, In the Wake of Disaster Islamists, the State and a Social Contract in Pakistan (Cambridge University Press, 2019) is a forceful meditation on a number of key issues around the social contract, citizenship, and state provisions such as disaster relief and social protection. The book helps understand why, despite its many limitations, Pakistani state remains central to the lives of those it seeks to govern. Through an intensive ethnography conducted in the three of the worst hit districts – in the wake of the flooding disasters of 2010-2011 – in the Southern-most region of Pakistan’s Sindh province, Siddiqi demonstrates that the state and citizenship, even when expressed in vernacular idiom which doesn’t lend itself neatly to predominantly Eurocentric and structuralist sensibilities have meaning and resonance for the people. People look up to Sarkar (the “state”) both when they make claims for day to day provisions and also in the times of extraordinary distress. Though not always in time and effectively, as instantiated by the universal cash grants given to everyone who might have suffered in three districts of Badin, Thatha and Tharparkar, as a consequence of the floods, Sarkar also responds. Advancing a critical anthropology of the state, the book makes three major contentions: First, as already suggested, contrary to what the ‘master narratives’ claim, state remains very much present in the lives of the people even in the peripheral regions of Pakistan. Even when state remains unable to satisfy people’s demands, the fact that people have high expectations of it testifies to its centrality in their moral and political imaginaries. Second, since the local imaginaries of the state aren’t that of a monolithic entity represented by a coherence of institutional structures and purposes, major political parties and local influentials come to acquire some of the key “state-effects”, hence relations of clientship, to the extent that they remain relevant to the socio-political lives of many, aren’t necessarily an anathema to citizenship, instead they might actually be one of the constituent elements of a postcolonial social contract. Third, the specter of Islamist organizations coming in to occupy the space created by the presumed ‘absence’ of the state has no real grounding. This is so not because the state remains very much ‘present’ but also because the Islamists are afforded visibility only in so far as they are coopted by the state to partake in the relief activities. The book will be an indispensable reading for anyone interested in grasping the socio-political complexities inherent to the postcolonial states, societies, and their mutualities beyond the dominant tropes. Ali Mohsin is a doctoral candidate in Anthropology and Sociology at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), Geneva. His research focuses on the politics of poverty, inequality and social protection in Pakistan. He can be reached at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
What does it mean to be a Brahmin, and what could it mean to become one? The ancient Indian mythological figure Viśvāmitra accomplishes just this, transforming himself from a king into a Brahmin by cultivation of ascetic power. The book, Crossing the Lines of Caste, examines legends of the irascible Viśvāmitra as occurring in Sanskrit and vernacular texts, oral performances, and visual media to show how the "storyworlds" created by these various retellings have adapted and reinforced Brahmin social identity over the millennia. Adheesh Sathaye is Associate Professor, Sanskrit Literature And Folklore, University of British Columbia. You can check out his online class "Narrative Literature in Premodern India" here. For information on your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Why are the myths of the Indian Great Goddess, Durgā, found in the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa framed by myths glorifying the Sun, Sūrya? And why do these glorifications mirror each other in both content and form? In exploring these questions, this book argues for an ideological ecosystem at work in the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa privileging worldly (pravṛtti) values, of which Indian kings, the Goddess (Devī), the Sun (Sūrya) and sage Mārkaṇḍeya himself are paragons. Join us in the “flip interview” as as your New Books Network Hindu Studies host Raj Balkaran (University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies) is interviewed on his new book, The Goddess and the Sun in Indian Myth: Power, Preservation and Mirrored Māhātmyas in the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa (Routledge, 2020) by guest-interviewer Christopher Austen. Christopher Austen is Associate Professor, Religious Studies at Dalhousie University Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Hadimba is a primary village goddess in the Kullu Valley of the West Indian Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, a rural area known as the Land of Gods. As the book shows, Hadimba is a goddess whose vitality reveals itself in her devotees' rapidly changing encounters with local and far from local players, powers, and ideas. These include invading royal forces, colonial forms of knowledge, and more recently the onslaught of modernity, capitalism, tourism, and ecological change. Hadimba has provided her worshipers with discursive, ritual, and ideological arenas within which they reflect on, debate, give meaning to, and sometimes resist these changing realities, and she herself has been transformed in the process. Drawing on diverse ethnographic and textual materials gathered in the region from 2009 to 2017, The Many Faces of a Himalayan Goddess: Hadimba, Her Devotees, and Religion in Rapid Change (Oxford University Press, 2019) is rich with myths and tales, accounts of dramatic rituals and festivals, and descriptions of everyday life in the celebrated but remote Kullu Valley. The book employs an interdisciplinary approach to tell the story of Hadimba from the ground up, or rather, from the center out, portraying the goddess in varying contexts that radiate outward from her temple to local, regional, national, and indeed global spheres. The result is an important contribution to the study of Indian village goddesses, lived Hinduism, Himalayan Hinduism, and the rapidly growing field of religion and ecology. Ehud Halperin lectures in the East Asian Studies Department at Tel Aviv University For information on your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In her new book Inhaling Spirit: Harmonialism, Orientalism, and the Western Roots of Modern Yoga (Oxford University Press, 2020), Anya Foxen traces several disparate yet entangled roots of modern yoga practice to show that much of what we call yoga in the West stems not only from pre-modern Indian yoga traditions, but also from Hellenistic theories of the subtle body, Western esotericism and magic, pre-modern European medicine, and late-nineteenth-century women's wellness programs. As such, this book richly contributes to the discussion of cultural appropriation as pertains to modern Western yoga. Anya Foxen is Assistant Professor, California Polytechnic State University. For information on your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In Salvation in Indian Philosophy: Perfection and Simplicity for Vaiśeṣika (Routledge, 2019), Ionut Moise offers a comprehensive description of the ‘doctrine of salvation’ (niḥśreyasa/ mokṣa) and Vaiśeṣika, one of the oldest philosophical systems of Indian philosophy and provides an overview of theories in other related Indian philosophical systems and classical doctrines of salvation. The book examines liberation, the fourth goal of life and arguably one of the most important topics in Indian philosophy, from a comparative philosophical perspective. Contextualising classical Greek Philosophy which contains the three goals of life (Aristotle’s Ethics), and explains salvation as first understood in the theology of the Hellenistic and Patristics periods, the author analyses six classical philosophical schools of Indian philosophy in which there is a marked emphasis on the ultimate ontological elements of the world and ‘self’. Analysing Vaiśeṣika and the manner in which this lesser known system has put forward its own theory of salvation (niḥśreyasa), the author demonstrates its significance and originality as an old and influential philosophical system. He argues that it is essential for the study of other Indian sciences and for the study of all comparative philosophy. An extensive introduction to Indian soteriology, this book will be an important reference work for academics interested in comparative religion and philosophy, Indian philosophy, Asian religion and South Asian Studies. Ionut Moise is a tutor in Comparative Philosophy at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies (OCHS), University of Oxford, UK. For information on your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In 1883, a young woman named Anandi Joshi set out from her native India to the United States to study medicine. To do so, as Nandini Patwardhan describes in her book Radical Spirits: India’s First Woman Doctor and Her American Champions (Story Artisan Press, 2020) required overcoming numerous hurdles, which she did thanks to the support of family and friends on two continents. One of them, as Patwardhan explains, was her husband Gopal, who often moved with his young wife to various posts throughout India so as to obtain an education for her. The death of their son soon after childbirth fueled Anandi’s desire to study medicine, while the couple’s relationships with American missionaries led to an invitation to stay in America. Though Anandi faced numerous problems adapting to life in America and her husband’s oftentimes antagonistic nature added to her stress, through her hard labors and the aid of her friends Anandi succeeded in obtaining her medical degree, only to die tragically soon after her celebrated return to India in 1886. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In Poetry as Prayer in the Sanskrit Hymns of Kashmir (Oxford University Press, 2019), Hamsa Stainton explores the relationship between 'poetry’ and ‘prayer’ in South Asia through close examination of the history of Sanskrit hymns of praise (stotras) in Kashmir from the eighth century onwards. Beyond charting the history and features of the stotra genre, Hamsa Stainton presents the first sustained study of the Stutikusumāñjali, an important work dedicated to the god Śiva, one bearing witness to the trajectory of Sanskrit literary culture in fourteenth-century Kashmir. Poetry as Prayer illumines how these Śaiva poets integrate poetics, theology and devotion in the production of usage of Sanskrit hymns, and more broadly expands our understanding Hindu bhakti itself. Hamsa Stainton is an Assistant Professor in the School of Religious Studies at McGill University. For information on your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
This book is a translation and study of The Subhedar's Son (Oxford University Press, 2019), an award-winning Marathi biographical novel written in 1895 by Rev. Dinkar Shankar Sawarkar, who writes about his own father, Rev.Shankar Nana (1819-1884). Nana, a Brahmin, was among the early Christian converts of the Church Missionary Society in Western India. The Subhedar's Son provides a fascinating insight into Brahmanical-Christian conversions of the era, along with attitudes surrounding such conversions. In this podcast, we interview Deepra Dandekar – author of this book, and Sawarkar’s own great-grand-daughter–about this text and its important context. For information on your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
John Stratton Hawley's new book Krishna's Playground: Vrindavan in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press, 2020) is about a deeply beloved place-many call it the spiritual capital of India. Located at a dramatic bend in the River Yamuna, a hundred miles from the center of Delhi, Vrindavan is the spot where the god Krishna is believed to have spent his childhood and youth. For Hindus it has always stood for youth writ large-a realm of love and beauty that enables one to retreat from the weight and harshness of world. Now, though, the world is gobbling up Vrindavan. Delhi's megalopolitan sprawl inches closer day by day-half the town is a vast real-estate development-and the waters of the Yamuna are too polluted to drink or even bathe in. Temples now style themselves as theme parks, and the world's tallest religious building is under construction in Krishna's pastoral paradise. What happens when the Anthropocene Age makes everything virtual? What happens when heaven gets plowed under? Like our age as a whole, Vrindavan throbs with feisty energy, but is it the religious canary in our collective coal mine? For information on your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Brian Greene is a Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Columbia University in the City of New York, where he is the Director of the Institute for Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics, and co-founder and chair of the World Science Festival. He is well known for his TV mini-series about string theory and the nature of reality, including the Elegant Universe, which tied in with his best-selling 2000 book of the same name. In this episode, we talk about his latest popular book Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe (Random House, 2020) Until the End of Time gives the reader a theory of everything, both in the sense of a “state of the academic union”, covering cosmology and evolution, consciousness and computation, and art and religion, and in the sense of showing us a way to apprehend the often existentially challenging subject matter. Greene uses evocative autobiographical vignettes in the book to personalize his famously lucid and accessible explanations, and we discuss these episodes further in the interview. Greene also reiterates his arguments for embedding a form of spiritual reverie within the multiple naturalistic descriptions of reality that different areas of human knowledge have so far produced. John Weston is a University Teacher of English in the Language Centre at Aalto University, Finland. His research focuses on academic communication. He can be reached at and @johnwphd. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Challenging the geographical narrative of the history of Islam, Chiara Formichi’s new book Islam and Asia: A History (Cambridge University Press, 2020), helps us to rethink how we tell the story of Islam and the lived expressions of Muslims without privileging certain linguistic, cultural, and geographic realities. Focusing on themes of reform, political Islamism, Sufism, gender, as well as a rich array of material culture (such as sacred spaces and art), the book maps the development of Islam in Asia, such as in Kashmir, Indonesia, Malaysia, and China. It considers both transnational and transregional ebbs and flows that have defined the expansion and institutionalization of Islam in Asia, while attending to factors such as ethnicity, linguistic identity and even food cultures as important realities that have informed the translation of Islam into new regions. It is the “convergence and conversation” between the “local” and “foreign” or better yet between the theoretical notions of “centre” and “periphery” of Islam and Muslim societies that are dismantled in the book, defying any notions of Asian expressions of Islam as a “derivative reality.” The book is accessibly written and will be extremely useful in any undergraduate or graduate courses on Islam, Islam in Asia, or political Islam. The book will also be of interest to those who work on Islamic Studies and Asia Studies. Shobhana Xavier is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Queen’s University. Her research areas are on contemporary Sufism in North America and South Asia. She is the author of Sacred Spaces and Transnational Networks in American Sufism (Bloombsury Press, 2018) and a co-author of Contemporary Sufism: Piety, Politics, and Popular Culture (Routledge, 2017). More details about her research and scholarship may be found here and here. She may be reached at . You can follow her on Twitter via @shobhanaxavier Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In this podcast, we interview Dr. Antonia Ruppel about Sanskrit Studies. Dr. Ruppel is the author the Cambridge Introduction to Sanskrit (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and also teaches online Sanskrit courses at Yogic Studies. Ideal for courses in beginning Sanskrit or self-study, this textbook employs modern, tried-and-tested pedagogical methods and tools, but requires no prior knowledge of ancient languages or linguistics. Devanāgarī script is introduced over several chapters and used in parallel with transliteration for several chapters more, allowing students to progress in learning Sanskrit itself while still mastering the script. Students are exposed to annotated original texts in addition to practise sentences very early on, and structures and systems underlying the wealth of forms are clearly explained to facilitate memorisation. All grammar is covered in detail, with chapters dedicated to compounding and nominal derivation, and sections explaining relevant historical phenomena. The introduction also includes a variety of online resources that students may use to reinforce and expand their knowledge: flash cards; video tutorials for all chapters; and up-to-date links to writing, declension and conjugation exercises and online dictionaries, grammars, and textual databases. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Automobiles and their associated infrastructures, deeply embedded in Western cities, have become a rapidly growing presence in the mega-cities of the Global South. Streets, once crowded with pedestrians, pushcarts, vendors, and bicyclists, are now choked with motor vehicles, many of them private automobiles. In Installing Automobility: Emerging Politics of Mobility and Streets in Indian Cities (MIT Press, 2020), Govind Gopakumar examines this shift, analyzing the phenomenon of automobility in Bengaluru (formerly known as Bangalore), a rapidly growing city of about ten million people in southern India. He finds that the advent of automobility in Bengaluru has privileged the mobility needs of the elite while marginalizing those of the rest of the population. Gopakumar connects Bengaluru's burgeoning automobility to the city's history and to the spatial, technological, and social interventions of a variety of urban actors. Automobility becomes a juggernaut, threatening to reorder the city to enhance automotive travel. He discusses the evolution of congestion and urban change in Bengaluru; the “regimes of congestion” that emerge to address the issue; an “infrastructurescape” that shapes the mobile behavior of all residents but is largely governed by the privileged; and the enfranchisement of an “automotive citizenship” (and the disenfranchisement of non-automobile-using publics). Gopakumar also finds that automobility in Bengaluru faces ongoing challenges from such diverse sources as waste flows, popular religiosity, and political leadership. These challenges, however, introduce messiness without upsetting automobility. He therefore calls for efforts to displace automobility that are grounded in reordering the mobility regime, relandscaping the city and its infrastructures, and reclaiming streets for other uses. Sneha Annavarapu is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In his book Devotional Sovereignty: Kingship and Religion in India (Oxford University Press, 2020), Caleb Simmons examines the reigns of Tipu Sultan (r. 1782-1799) and Krishnaraja Wodeyar III (r. 1799-1868) in the South Indian kingdom of Mysore to demonstrate the extent to which both rulers--one Muslim and one Hindu--turned to religion to fortify the royal identity of kings during precarious political times.  Both courts revived pre-modern notions of Indian kingship in reaction to the British, drawing on devotion to Hindu gods, goddesses, and gurus to conceptualize and fortify their reigns. We made mention of images in the interview, and they can be found here. For information on your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Few places are as politically precarious as Bangladesh, even fewer as crowded. Its 57,000 or so square miles are some of the world's most inhabited. Often described as a definitive case of the bankruptcy of postcolonial governance, it is also one of the poorest among the most densely populated nations. In spite of an overriding anxiety of exhaustion, there are a few important caveats to the familiar feelings of despair—a growing economy, and an uneven, yet robust, nationalist sentiment—which, together, generate revealing paradoxes. In her new book Paradoxes of the Popular: Crowd Politics in Bangladesh (Stanford University Press, 2019), Nusrat Sabina Chowdhury offers insight into what she calls "the paradoxes of the popular," or the constitutive contradictions of popular politics. The focus here is on mass protests, long considered the primary medium of meaningful change in this part of the world. Chowdhury writes provocatively about political life in Bangladesh in a rich ethnography that studies some of the most consequential protests of the last decade, spanning both rural and urban Bangladesh. By making the crowd its starting point and analytical locus, this book tacks between multiple sites of public political gatherings and pays attention to the ephemeral and often accidental configurations of the crowd. Ultimately, Chowdhury makes an original case for the crowd as a defining feature and a foundational force of democratic practices in South Asia and beyond. Sneha Annavarapu is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Download from Google Play
Download from App Store