Edited by Madhusree Dutta, Kaushik Bhaumik, Rohan Shivkumar
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Project Cinema City is an anthology of text and image essays, documentation transcripts, maps, graphics, annotated artworks and films on various configurations of the cinema and the city of Bombay/Mumbai. This volume has evolved out of and is the culmination, in a sense, of Project Cinema City: Research Art and Documentary Practices – an expansive project initiated by Majlis, a centre for multi-disciplinary art initiatives in Mumbai, and developed over five years, from 2008 to 2012.
Project Cinema City is primarily a set of enquiries into the labour, imagination, desire, access, spaces, locations, iconization, materiality, languages, moving peoples, viewing conventions and hidden processes that inform the cinemas the city makes, and also the cities its cinema produces. The enquiries are based on the hypothesis that cinema in the terrain of cinema city is as much everyday practice as it is a part of a speculative desirescape. Hence this volume presents cinema as a manufacturing enterprise that alters through shifts in materials, technologies, labour inflow, distribution territories, demographic patterns and development policies, and the city as a phenomenon that continuously evolves through the interface between lived reality and the reality perceived in cinema.
The main aim of this volume is to convey the richness of documentation made through the parent project – a richness that, hopefully, will also convey to the reader the scale and diversity, and the crisis and creativity of the relationship between cinema and city in Bombay. In its free mixing of images, graphics, field notes, information and commentary, the book, quite like the parent project, maintains a work-in-progress status. This temperamentality, we would like to believe, mirrors the vacillating characteristics of the medium of mass imaginations: cinema.
The book is divided into three sections. The first, Mapping Imaginations: Terrains, Locations, deals with the spatiality, materiality and habitability of the cinema city. The basic argument put forth by the essays included here is that cinema is essentially a spatial system that functions through an entanglement of forms of production and representation of/in cinema. This section addresses the spatial system of cinema as it is incorporated within the broader genres of urbanity, modernity, vocationality and desirability of the city.
The second section, Performing Labour: Bodies, Network, is about the act of producing and the labour that produces – skill, work, character, aspiration, dissent, transgression, duplication, ancillaries – and the myriad ways in which they populate the cinema city. With the death of manufacturing industries in Bombay, the service and entertainment sectors have become the mainstay of aspiration-induced migration to the city. This section deals with the organized and unorganized accumulation of labour, performing bodies, and aspirational talent at the altar of cinema.
The third section, titled Viewing Limits: Narratives, Technologies, deals with the multiple niches and varied strategies through which cinema is arranged and rearranged in the everyday life of the city and its citizens. Every alteration in genre, narrative, technology, economy, infrastructure, etc., influences the way cinema multiplies its effect on the lived realities of the city and its citizens. While some of these effects are physically related to the cinema, others are remote and merely provisional.
The contributors to the book include filmmakers, visual artists, designers, architects, photographers, historians and other social scientists.
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This book describes the changing landscape of women’s politics for equality and liberation during the rise of neoliberalism in India. Between 1991 and 2006, the doctrine of liberalization guided Indian politics and economic policy. These neoliberal measures vastly reduced poverty alleviation schemes, price supports for poor farmers, and opened India’s economy to the unpredictability of global financial fluctuations. During this same period, the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), which directly opposed the ascendance of neoliberal economics and policies, as well as the simultaneous rise of violent casteism and anti-Muslim communalism, grew from roughly three million members to over ten million. Beginning in the late 1980s, AIDWA turned its attention to women’s lives in rural India. Using a method that began with activist research, the organization developed a sectoral analysis of groups of women who were hardest hit in the new neoliberal order, including Muslim women and Dalit women. AIDWA developed what its leaders called inter-sectoral organizing, that centred the demands of the most vulnerable women in the heart of its campaigns and its ideology for social change. Through long-term ethnographic research, predominantly in the country’s northern state of Haryana and southern state of Tamil Nadu, this book shows how a socialist women’s organization built its oppositional strength by organizing the women who are most marginalized by neoliberal policies and economics.
Elisabeth Armstrong is an Associate Professor in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, USA. She is the author of The Retreat from Organization: U.S. Feminism Reconceptualized(2002).
Cover photo: AIDWA leading a march protesting the ‘twin tumbler’ system for Dalits, in Kullathunayakanpatti village, Pudukottai, Tamil Nadu, 10 May 1999. (Photograph courtesy Kalpana Karunakaran)
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Social Scientist completed forty years of publication in the year 2012. To mark the occasion, collections of essays on specific topics, culled from past issues of the journal, are being published –under a series titled ‘From the Pages of Social Scientist’. The present book, Tributes, is a collection of obituary articles published in the journal from 1983 to 2013.
For reasons that are not very clear, Social Scientist published no obituaries until 1983, that is, for the first eleven years of its existence. And even after it started publishing obituaries, it was not systematic in payingtribute to all those who deserved homage. Sometimes, those entrusted with the task of writing the obituary could not produce it in time; sometimes the lags in publication were such that an obituary seemed pointless as it would appear too long after the death of the person being remembered; sometimes there simply was nobody who could be successfully approached to write an obituary; and sometimes the person being remembered was too important a figure on the Left for a potential obituary writer to feel equal to the task.
The list of omissions is striking. There are, for instance, no obituaries on intellectual stalwarts of the Left political movement like B.T. Ranadive, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, P. Sundarayya and M. Basavapunnaiah. And the coverage of the lives of artists and creative writers has been generally very poor. The former set of omissions could be because potential authors thought that the task itself was quite daunting; the latter set of omissions could be because the number of persons capable of writing insightfully about such creative personalities was limited. The tributes collected in this book are also of very uneven lengths, scope and quality. Some, as in the case of Susobhan Sarkar, Ravinder Kumar and Kitty Menon, are long and wide-ranging, while others, even for persons of great importance for the Left, are extremely brief.
Nonetheless, the volume, for all its omissions and oddities, celebrates the contributions of some of the most remarkable men and women who have shaped the life of this nation, or helped the formation of the Left intellectual tradition.
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The story of the fall of Hyderabad State has been told a good many times. Told mostly by the court historians’ of Indian nationalism, this study seeks to revise the official historical account of the ‘police action’ (1948) led by the Indian army against the forces and government of the Nizam of Hyderabad. The Destruction of Hyderabad provides a detailed record of the diplomatic exchanges between the Government of India and the Government of Hyderabad during the British Raj, and after partition and independence in 1947, based on archival sources in Hyderabad which remain largely unexplored by scholars. The author has unearthed contemporary diplomatic correspondence, the Sunderlal Committee report on the massacre of Hyderabad’s Muslim population during and after the ‘police action’ (since suppressed by the Indian state), and a wealth of memoirs and first-hand accounts of the clandestine workings of territorial nationalism in its bleakest and most shameful hour. The author brings to light the largely ignored and fateful intervention of M.A. Jinnah in the destruction of Hyderabad, both while he was President of the Muslim League and after he became Governor General of Pakistan. He also addresses the communal leanings of Sardar Patel and his hand-picked Agent-General K.M. Munshi in shaping Hyderabad’s fate. The book is dedicated to the ‘other’ Hyderabad: a culturally syncretic state, a tolerant society, and a rich composite culture which communal forces in India found alien. A.G. Noorani is an Advocate, Supreme Court of India, and a leading constitutional expert and political commentator. He is a regular columnist for Frontline and the author of numerous books, including The Kashmir Dispute 1947–2012, in two volumes (2013); Islam, South Asia and the Cold War (2012); Article 370: A Constitutional History of Jammu and Kashmir (2011); Jinnah and Tilak: Comrades in the Freedom Struggle (2010); India–China Boundary Problem 1846–1947: History and Diplomacy (2010); Indian Political Trials 1775–1947 (2006); Constitutional Questions and Citizens’ Rights (2006); The Muslims of India: A Documentary Record (editor, 2003); Islam and Jihad: Prejudice versus Reality (2003); and The Babri Masjid Question 1528–2003: ‘A Matter of National Honour’, in two volumes (2003). A third volume of The Babri Masjid Question is forthcoming from Tulika Books.
Edited by Ravi Ahuja
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In contemporary India, work for wages expands substantially as a mode of subsistence, while ‘labour’, at the same time, suffers a dramatic depreciation as a political force and as a target of state policy. This is a reversal of an earlier, little understood process that originated in the late colonial period but fully unfolded only in the years of Nehruvian rule. The six essays of this volume reconstruct this now marginalized political history of an ‘age of labour’ from various angles using previously inaccessible police records, rare autobiographical documents and other neglected material. They examine how political conflict, militancy and trade union activism were rooted in the everyday lives of construction workers and artisans, of ‘untouchable’ tanners and sweepers, of seafarers, railway staff and factory labourers, throughout the late colonial period. They analyse how transformed politics of caste intersected with the late colonial upsurge of labour politics. They reassess the complex relationships of nationalist mobilizations and labour movements, of elite politicians and an emergent group of ‘organic’ worker-intellectuals and proletarian militants. They provide meticulous reconstructions of how incidents of labour protest unfolded in India’s varied industrial spaces. They argue, in sum, for a reappraisal of Indian labour history as an eventful political history. The volume is rounded off by the political memoirs of Bashir Ahmed Bakhtiar tracing his metamorphosis from militant worker to trade union leader. The memoirs, originally published in Urdu, are made available in English translation for the first time and provided with a detailed introduction.
Ravi Ahuja is Professor of Modern Indian History at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies, University of Göttingen, Germany. He works on various problems of social history, including labour, urbanism, infrastructure and war.
Table of Contents
Aditya Sarkar: The City, Its Streets, and Its Workers: The Plague Crisis in Bombay, 1896–98
Shahana Bhattacharya: Rotting Hides and Runaway Labour: Labour Control and Workers’ Resistance in the Indian Leather Industry, c. 1860–1960
Ravi Ahuja: A Freedom Still Enmeshed in Servitude: The Unruly ‘Lascars’ of the SS City of Manila or, a Micro-History of the ‘Free Labour’ Problem
Ahmad Azhar: The Rowlatt Satyagraha and the Railway Strike of 1920: Radical Developments in the Language of Plebeian Protest in Colonial Punjab
Tanika Sarkar: ‘Dirty Work, Filthy Caste’: Calcutta Scavengers in the 1920s
Anna Sailer: ‘Various Paths Are Today Opened’: The Bengal Jute Mill Strike of 1929 as a Historical Event
Ahmad Azhar: The Making of a ‘Genuine Trade Unionist’: An Introduction to Bashir Ahmed Bakhtiar’s Memoirs
Bashir Ahmed Bakhtiar: The Labour Movement and Me
Cover photograph by Margaret Bourke-White. © Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images.
The picture was taken during a meeting of the Tannery Workers’ Union of Tiruchirappalli between 1946 and 1948, and was first published in Halfway to Freedom: A Report on the New India in the Words and Photographs of Margaret Bourke-White (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1949). Most tannery workers in this region were Adidravidas and children comprised a considerable proportion. The union was supported and influenced by communists. Demands included a minimum wage, extra pay for overtime, a weekly day off and a dearness allowance. However, more far-reaching issues such as health insurance were also discussed at the meeting. (See also the essay by Shahana Bhattacharya in this volume.)