Tuesday Links

Posted by sepoy on September 23, 2008 · 3 mins read

First, a profile of Montgomery McFate, the anthropologist who launched the Human Terrain Program, by Noah Shachtman. Michael Bhatia, who died in Afghanistan in May, was one of the casualties of the HTP.

Next, via Daku come some linkage:
- Larki pay hath utatha hay, madarchod! - I cannot even quantify the laugh/cringe ratio of that clip.
- Skatesitan:Afghanistan's first dedicated skateboarding school.

& switching gears:

Upinder Singh, Changing interpretations of early Indian history. I hadn't seen this - and I will read it soon. However, a sentence like, "the 18th and 19th centuries were dominated by the writings of scholars, referred to as Orientalists or Indologists" can only be plausible, if English were the sole language of India during those afore-mentioned centuries. They weren't. It isn't. The rest has some good points.

Since, this is an earlier essay, I googled for her book, A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century (2008). Yes, it is out. And yes, Irfan Habib has some issues, in his review, History Is One Blind Turn From Mohenjo Daro, Outlook, India 09/08/2008:

This work, issued by a leading Western publisher of textbooks, marks a landmark of sorts: its release has been accompanied by perhaps the most vigorous PR campaign on behalf of any textbook on history in India. The first two pages of the volume contain laudatory opinions from 17 scholars, ten of which appear on the back cover. Of these ten, as many as eight are from the pens of scholars holding posts in foreign universities. These authoritative experts have deemed the work to be "exciting", a "long-overdue introduction", giving us a history that "all groups of Indian people can identify with" (presumably those, at any rate, who can afford to fork out Rs 3,500), and a book destined to "supersede previous surveys of ancient Indian history".


Rather surprisingly, Islam, despite its widespread implantation in the Indus basin from the early eighth century onwards, and the arrival of Sufism, with Hujwiri's text on it composed in Lahore in the 11th century, is not covered in her detailed account of the religious scene in the early medieval period, except for a seven-line paragraph on p604. The flourishing urban economy of Sind, with Mansura as a great archaeological site, is also overlooked; so also the Arab accounts of India of the 10th century, and the transmission of Indian learning to the classic Islamic world. This is all the more strange, when we find her recording in her preface an unfulfilled ambition to go on further and rather illogically include the Delhi Sultanate also in her account of the early medieval period.


Jonathan Dresner | September 23, 2008

Upinder Singh's argument is fundamentally sound -- actually, I'd call it cliched: historians need to take good account of archeological evidence, read texts critically and contextually, and include more regional diversity in their studies. It's good to see these arguments laid out for a wider audience, but -- from my experience in Japanese and Chinese history -- it doesn't look radical at all, but more like a straw man attack on mostly outdated historiography. There's still more work to do, goodness knows, and Indian historiography may be at a different place in terms of these issues.