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

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How to Become a Good Public Intellectual?

This essay is an attempt to ruminate on Romila Thapar’s writings on and as a public intellectual in today’s India. Edward Said’s 1993 Reith Lectures, titled ‘Representations of the Intellectual’ are taken together as a springboard for stimulating a conversation around Romila Thapar’s ideas on syndicated Hinduism, citizenship, nationalism, technocracy, dissent, and democracy. Rabindranath Tagore, D.D. Kosambi, A.K. Ramanujam, Amartya Sen, and Giorgio Agamben enter this conversation too, but on Thapar’s terms and with Said as the interlocutor. This essay asks a series of questions including ‘Who is a public intellectual?’, ‘What is her role in the society?’, ‘Why is Romila Thapar’s voice as a public intellectual so important?’, to argue that the public intellectual is a political being, a societal necessity, and the quintessential ‘anti-national’, all qualities exemplified in the life and works of Romila Thapar.

Vernacular Nations

Postcolonial Asia offers at least seven types of states and nations. In their somewhat uncritical pursuit of total nationalism, territorial Asian states compete with their archipelagic cousins. The sea gypsy nations--spread across the South China Sea and other East Asian states--reject the monopoly of land as the only inhabitable space, discounting territory as an essential constituent of a nation. Ironically, while history kept them outside the fold of the territorial states, the present attempts to co-opt them. Only by challenging, as the Asian sea gypsies do, land's claim to being the sole inhabitable territory within law, and rethinking the sea as a place of danger can we truly vernacularise our statist imaginations.

Calcutta Diary

It is not any extraordinary development that the US government has of late decided to go public with its choice of heads of states and prime ministers of countries located in different continents. The Palestinians have been told in no uncertain terms that, no fooling, should they want a state of their own, they must ditch Yasser Arafat as their leader and choose one more to the liking of the United States.
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