ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Breaking New Ground in Study of Nuclear India

Atomic Mumbai: Living with the Radiance of a Thousand Suns by Raminder Kaur (London and Delhi: Routledge), 2013; pp xv + 304, Rs 895.

There was very little that came out as positive from the nuclear tests that officially announced that India was a nuclear weapons state in 1998. The unqualified exception is the number of scholarly and journalistic studies and personal accounts that followed the events of May 1998 (the Pokhran tests). Thanks to books that range from insider accounts such as Raj Chengappa’s unwittingly titled Weapons of Peace (2000) and comprehensive scholarly studies, notably, George Perkovich’s India’s Nuclear Bomb (1999) and M V Ramana’s The Power of Promise (2012), to the admission made by scientists such as K Santhanam (of the Defence Research and Development Organisation who directed the test site preparations at Pokhran) that the hydrogen (fusion) bomb test failed, we now know more about the secretive Indian nuclear programme than ever before.

What have still been relatively lacking, however, are studies that look away from the dominant understanding of nuclear power as a matter of the state and which reflect upon the impact of nuclear energy on Indian lives. That gap has now been filled by an outstanding and passionate study written by the British anthropologist, Raminder Kaur. Atomic Mumbai is the first cultural history of Indian nuclear power and, given the book’s ambition and scope, will remain its most important expression for some time to come.

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