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New Books in South Asian Studies
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New Books in South Asian Studies

Author: Marshall Poe

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Interviews with Scholars of South Asia about their New Books
219 Episodes
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The Monastery Rules: Buddhist Monastic Organization in Pre-Modern Tibet (University of California Press, 2018) discusses the position of the monasteries in pre-1950s Tibetan Buddhist societies and how that position was informed by the far-reaching relationship of monastic Buddhism with Tibetan society, economy, law, and culture. Berthe Jansen's study of monastic guidelines is the first study of its kind to examine the genre in detail. The book contains an exploration of its parallels in other Buddhist cultures, its connection to the Vinaya, and its value as socio-historical source-material. The guidelines are witness to certain socio-economic changes, while also containing rules that aim to change the monastery in order to preserve it. Jansen argues that the monastic institutions’ influence on society was maintained not merely due to prevailing power-relations, but also because of certain deep-rooted Buddhist beliefs.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
William Elison's The Neighborhood of Gods: The Sacred and the Visible at the Margins of Mumbai(University of Chicago Press, 2018) explores how slum residents, tribal people, and members of other marginalized groups use religious icons to mark urban spaces in Mumbai. Interestingly, not all of Elison's interview subjects identify as Hindu, which bolsters has argument that sacred space in Mumbai is created by visual and somatic practices performed across religious boundaries. Join as as we discuss Elison's rich fieldwork in the streets, slums, and movie studios of Mumbai.For information on your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see rajbalkaran.com.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The book today is Cultural Landscapes of South Asia : Studies in Heritage Conservation, and Management (Routledge, 2017) edited by Kapila D. Silva and Amita Sinha. It's the Winner of the Environmental Design Research Association's 2018 Achievement Award. South Asian architecture and landscapes are not as well known in the western design schools. This book adds to our body of knowledge about “how to” design spaces with culturally sensitivity for projects in South Asia but also what we can learn from them. It's about how their multi-faceted cultural appreciation of the land that derives from their religion, food, and way of living with ecologies affects their designs and placemaking. It’s a fascinating book to view western cultures in a new light and also our current struggles with sea level rise and ecological challenges.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The Bhagavad Gītā remains to this day a mainstay of Hinduism and Hindu Studies alike, despite the profusion of books written on it over the centuries. While the Gītā’s profundity is evident, its meaning most certainly is not. Is there a unity within the Bhagavad Gītā? Ithamar Theodor’s Exploring the Bhagavad Gītā: Philosophy, Structure and Meaning (Routledge, 2016) proposes a unifying structure which of this seminal Hindu work, identifying multiple layers of meaning at play. Theodor provides a new translation of the full text of the Bhagavad Gita, divided into sections, and accompanied by in-depth commentary, rendering this ancient Indian classic accessible to scholars and aspirants alike.For information on your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see rajbalkaran.com.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
How do you understand mindfulness? Is your understanding limited by your own culture’s definition of what mindfulness is? These are some of the questions you will ask yourself while reading Remembering the Present: Mindfulness in Buddhist Asia (Cornell University Press). In today’s podcast, Prof. Julia Cassaniti takes us on a tour of three Theravada Buddhist countries (Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka) to show us how mindfulness is understood in this region and what this, in turn, can teach the West about its own understanding of the concept. This is an insightful read not only for academics interested in contemporary Buddhist studies in the countries surveyed, but also for anyone interested in broadening their perspective on what the term ‘mindfulness’ means.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Robert Haug’s new book, The Eastern Frontier: Limits of Empire in Late Antique and Early Medieval Central Asia (I. B. Tauris, 2019) is an in-depth look at the frontier zone of the Sassanian, Umayyad, and Abbasid Empires. Employing an impressive array of literary, archaeological, and numismatic sources, combined with a solid theoretical foundation, Haug demonstrates the distinct challenges the border region of the empire posed to these imperial powers, but also tracks the emergence and maintenance of unique regional identities and political trends on this frontier. This is essential reading for scholars and enthusiasts of Islamic, Iranian, and Central Asian History, as well as those with an interest in the study of frontiers and border regions.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Harshita M. Kamath's new book The Artifice of Brahmin Masculinity in South Indian Dance (University of California Press, 2019) features an investigation of men donning a women’s guises to impersonate female characters – most notably Satyabhāmā, the wife of the Hindu deity Krishna –within the insular Brahmin community of the Kuchipudi village in Telugu-speaking South India. Kamath broaches the practice of impersonation across various boundaries – village to urban, Brahmin to non-Brahmin, hegemonic to non-normative – to explore the artifice of Brahmin masculinity in contemporary South Indian dance. This book is available open access here.For information on your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see rajbalkaran.com.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
A recent UNDP report makes the astonishing claim that India has halved its poverty between 2006 and 2016. Moving us past the rosy picture, Alpa Shah and her co-author's  multi-authored, masterful Ground Down by Growth: Tribe, Caste, Class and Inequality in 21st-Century India (Pluto Press, 2017) focuses on those left behind by, and indeed ground down by, India’s much touted growth. Based on intensive fieldwork in multiple locations across India, the book finds that in particular it is India’s ‘untouchables’ (Dalits) and ‘tribals’ (Adivasis) who toil at the bottom of the pyramid in thankless conditions and for little reward. Instead of eradicating inequalities of caste and tribe, the intensification of capitalism has in fact further entrenched them, transforming them into new mechanisms of oppression and accumulation. Analytical rigor paired with lucid prose makes this co-researched and co-authored book indispensable for scholars and citizens concerned with the Global South, inequality, capitalism, economic growth, and social difference.Aparna Gopalan is a Ph.D. student at Harvard University with interests in agrarian capitalism in rural Rajasthan.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Jessica Vantine Birkenholtz's Reciting the Goddess: Narratives of Place and the Making of Hinduism in Nepal (Oxford University, 2018) represents the very first study of a fascinating Hindu phenomenon: the Svasthanivratakatha (SVK), a sixteenth-century narrative textual tradition native to Nepal surrounding the Goddess, Svasthānī. This work explores Himalayan Hindu religious tradition in the making during the very self-conscious creation of Nepal as the 'world's only Hindu kingdom' in the early modern period.  Touching on the pan-Hindu goddess tradition, regional ideals of Hindu womanhood, linguistic culture, identity formation and placemaking, Reciting the Goddess makes for a rich read.For information on your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see rajbalkaran.com.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
What is the relationship between religion and power? With this important overarching theme in mind, Bhakti and Power: Debating India's Religion of the Heart(University of Washington Press, 2019), edited by John Stratton Hawley, Christian Lee Novetzke and Swapna Sharma, combines 17 fascinating studies which explore the ways in which bhakti - “India’s religion of the heart”, loosely translated as devotionalism – tears down power barriers, and also build them up. Bhakti and Power offers important insight on both the power and powerlessness of bhakti at various social and historical junctures.For information about your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see rajbalkaran.com/academia Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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