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Striving for Begumpura: Traversing the Intellectual Activism of Gail Omvedt

​Writer, researcher, life-long fellow traveller of the progressive movements and long-time author with the Economic & Political Weekly, Gail Omvedt passed away on 25 August 2021. In this reading list, we present some of the highlights of her scholarship published in EPW.

Gift or Bribe?

What distinguishes the delightful act of gift-bearing from the crime of giving a bribe?

Roars of Dalit Audacity

Moustache , a scathing commentary on Brahminical ritual purity, tells the story of a Dalit protagonist with the “audacity” for bodily grooming.

End of the Postcolonial State

Much of the scholarship on Bangladesh’s founding places it within a narrative of repetition. It either repeats the partitions of 1905 or 1947 or the creation of India and Pakistan as postcolonial states. This paper argues instead for the novelty of Bangladesh’s creation against the postcolonial state, suggesting that it opened up a new history at the global level in which decolonisation was replaced by civil war as the founding narrative for new states.

Beyond the Break with the Past

In the 1940s, Bengali Muslim intellectuals sought to find a new autonomy in a comprehensive break with the texts and language of the Hindu-dominated literature of the “Bengal Renaissance.” But within a few years of Pakistan’s founding, a new generation argued that disavowing the past was not...

Collision amid Collusion and Cooperation

This paper examines the history of largely understudied women’s rights activists in the early years of East Pakistan. While they collided with West Pakistani activists—and the central state—on matters of culture, identity, and political and economic issues, they actively cooperated with West Pakistani counterparts to fight gender discrimination and to demand reform in women’s rights from the state.

Dhaka 1969

A reading of 1969, the momentous year of protests against Ayub Khan’s dictatorship in East Pakistan is offered, going beyond the popular tropes of inevitability and loss. The moments when Bengali nationalism exceeded its own expectations by making michhil or procession its main focus are identified. A rumination on Dhaka, which found its present cultural and political identity through the upheaval of the 1960s is presented.

Independence, Freedom, Liberation

The idea of swadhinata (which translates as both freedom and independence), along with a novel conception of liberation (mukti), animated the founding discourse of Bangladesh in 1971. This paper explores how these ideas, and their longer histories, jostled together to shape the promise of Bangladesh’s founding. It also reflects on how the conflictual promise of 1971 underwrote the political history of post-independence Bangladesh.

The Great Indian Kitchen

The Great Indian Kitchen makes a subtle but important connection between housework, domestic violence, and the denial of women’s autonomy.

Songs of Protest

Dalit musicians offer a radical imagination of music that breaks open the binaries of the sonic while adopting multiple genres, technologies, and emerging soundscapes.

Hindustani Music in Mumbai

Musicophilia in Mumbai: Performing Subjects and the Metropolitan Unconscious by Tejaswini Niranjana, New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2020; pp xii + 225, ` 695.

Restoring Heritage

The artisan community in Chandannagar faces a life of precarity and institutional apathy.

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