Every country that is on the ascendant feels the need for a “coming out” party. In the last half century, that need has been met most often by hosting the Olympic Games. Japan did it in 1964, South Korea followed in 1988, and China in 2008. The Olympic itch seems to come in the wake of economic growth that takes per capita income to the vicinity of $6,000
German Indological scholarship was something of an anomaly given the link between colonial power and colonial knowledge. The German fascination surrounding “ancient Indian wisdom” unfolded in parallel with the rising interest in Germany’s pre-Christian past. What German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel is most known for today—with respect to his appraisal of Indian art, religion, and philosophy—is not how much time and energy he devoted to studying and writing about them, but instead his harsh critiques, unkind representations, his rudeness transgressing into outright racism.
The symbiotic relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and Bombay spanned many decades and only strengthened over time. Their shared story is both unique and informative. In the history of India’s freedom struggle towards Swaraj or self-governance under Gandhi’s leadership, Bombay deserves special mention. A contemporary re-examination of this relationship is both illuminating and enriching as it reveals the journey of this extraordinary leader and this wonderful city to independence through non-violent means.
All simplistic hypothesis about “what drives terrorists” falter when there is suddenly in front of you human faces and complex life stories. The tragedy of contemporary policies designed to handle or rather crush movements who employ terrorist tactics, are prone to embrace a singular explanation of the terrorist motivation, disregarding the fact that people can be in the very same movement for various reasons.
We live in world suffused with offended religious sentiments: depictions of Muhammad in newspaper cartoons and hackneyed films spark violent global protests; courthouse officials in the US South refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses in defiance of the Supreme Court; and in India, authors threatened by thugs on the Hindu Right “die” publicly in order to avoid a less metaphorical demise.
Throughout history and across cultures elephants have amazed and perplexed us, acquiring a plethora of meanings and purposes as our interactions have developed. They have been feared and hunted as wild animals, attacked and killed as dangerous pests, while also laboring for humans as vehicles, engineering devices, and weapons of war. Elephants have also been exploited for the luxury commodity of ivory.
In 2002 I faced a dilemma relating to an editorial project that perhaps only another historian can appreciate. Scrambling to complete the Introduction to Twentieth-Century China: New Approaches, I had to figure out how long to say the eponymous period had lasted.
The past can be very important for those living in the present. My research experiences as an archaeologist have made this very apparent to me. Echoes from the distant past can reverberate and affect the lives of contemporary communities, and interpretations of the past can have important ramifications.
The idea of the middle class is also invoked, positively, to describe the emerging Indian, who, through education and hard work, is trying to move upwards, with his/her own resources, and in turn, is transforming the country into a modern and developed nation.
In recent years, numerous phenomena in Chinese society have worried the informed elites and have angered the common citizens. On the one hand, government power has been expanding, the monopolies of state-owned enterprises, especially central enterprises, have grown, and consumption of public funds and official corruption have become rampant.
Strangely enough, in this contest between sovereignty and piracy, law played a minor role. European sovereigns periodically made ritual invocations of the natural law that held pirates as enemies of all mankind, but in reality, the seas remained an unbounded realm. Thus, in the context of India’s western seaboard, piracy happened more in the littoral than on the high seas.
In September 2013, during a visit to Central and Southeast Asia, Chinese President Xi Jinping first proposed the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. Consequently, the Collaborative Innovation Centre of Silk Road Economic Belt Studies has been established in Xi’an, China, which was the eastern starting point of the ancient road.
For many others, globalization has dangerous repercussions in terms of entry of foreign direct investment, and foreign corporations into national markets, thus eroding and eradicating indigenous business—for example, think of the street protest among small traders of Delhi against the entry of retail giant WalMart in India. My frustration with globalization is that the narratives I discovered were too fragmented.
European countries are now experiencing an unprecedented influx of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Libya. Europeans are trying to find out the causes of population displacement and measures to deal with the crises. Much can be learnt from the South Asian experience in dealing with the refugees. Over the last six decades cross-border displacement in this region has involved a dazzling array of different groups.
Virtually everybody has heard of the filmmaker, writer, graphic artist, and composer Satyajit Ray (1921-1992) but except for Bengalis, few know much about the exploits of his formidable ancestors and their kinsfolk. And yet, over years of versatile creative engagements, Upendrakishore Ray (1863-1915), his father-in-law Dwarakanath Ganguli (1844-1898), his brother-in-law Hemendramohan Bose (1864-1916), his son Sukumar (1887-1923), and daughter-in-law Suprabha (the parents of Satyajit) charted new paths in literature, art, religious reform, nationalism, business, advertising, and printing technology.
After decades of tension over Japan’s failure to address atrocities that it perpetrated before and during World War II, the island nation’s relations with its regional neighbors, China and South Korea, are improving. Six weeks ago, for the first time in years, representatives of Japan’s Upper House resumed exchanges with Chinese parliamentarians.