Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sarai Reader 06: Taussig, Prakash, Sengupta, Farooqui

The new Sarai Reader is out, and articles are available online in PDF format. It's issue #6, and the theme is somewhat abstract: "turbulence."

I've only read a few articles so far, but I've liked what I've read. Michael Taussig's "Cement and Speed" (PDF) is a typically Taussigian work of experimental ethnography and theory:

Cement is intimately related to water. It needs water to harden. This seems counterintuitive. The 1st century Roman architect and builder Vitruvius understood stone as composed of four elements: air, earth, fire, and water. As a builder, he wanted a substance like stone but malleable. When you stop to think about it, this is like something out of a fairy tale: like stone but malleable. Smashing up limestone into small particles and mixing them with sand was not good enough, for there was neither unification nor hardening. That could only come with intense heat, which left the stone porous...

Gyan Prakash has a contemplative piece on the flooding in Mumbai that took place last July. He went to some of the city's poor neighborhoods five days after the flooding took place:

Driving away from this scene of devastation and decay, we passed by tarpaulin-covered hutments standing along giant water pipes. The electric blue tarpaulin roofs of the shanties shone brightly and defiantly in the rain. When I remaked that it was extraordinary that the poor had bounced back so quickly when they must have borne the brunt of the devastation, the taxi driver shook his head. It did not matter whether you were rich or poor, he said. Water washed away all differences, bringing the whole city to its knees. As it turns out, the flood did not devastate the entire city; South Bombay, the old core of the city, escaped largely unscathed. Nor is it the case that the rich and poor suffered equally. Yet the taxi driver was not alone in his belief that the experience of wreckage was that of the city as a whole This discourse was pervasive.

Mahmood Farooqui has translations of various Urdu writings from the 1857 Mutiny/ Rebellion/ Ghadar. These were referenced in a recent article by Dalrymple I had blogged about earlier in the summer. They are previously unpublished, and so should be of interest to Indian historians.

And Debjani Sengupta, whose essay on Early Bengali Science Fiction I summarized back in May, has an archival piece on the "Direct Action Day" riots that took place in Calcutta in 1946.

If anyone has read other articles from this issue of Sarai and would recommend them, I would love further suggestions.


Space Bar said...

I'd recommend Nancy Adjania's The Sand OF The Coliseum, the Glare of the Television and the Hope of Emancipation; as also Peter Griffin's account of how he came to set up collablogs in the aftermath of the tsunami. Sampurna Chattarji's piece on writing poetry in turbulent times, though not very coherently written, is interesting.

2:28 AM  

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