The Great & Beautiful Lost Kingdoms by William Dalrymple | The New York Review of Books

Buddhism Along the Silk Road, 5th–8th Century an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, June 2, 2012–February 10, 2013 Online catalog available at http://www.metmuseum.

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Kosambi on The Gita (Makrand Paranjape)

Kosambi
Makarand Paranjpe analyzes Kosambi’s writings on the Gita in his book Myth and Reality.

D. D. Kosambi attempted precisely such a reading of one of India’s most enduring literary texts, the Bhagawad Gita. In an essay called “Social and Economic Aspects of the Bhagawad-Gita,” published as the inaugural essay in Myth and Reality: Studies in the Formation of Indian Culture (1962), he argues at great length that the Gita is a text of “slippery opportunism” whose utility “derives from its peculiar fundamental defect, namely dexterity in seeming to reconcile the irreconcilable.” Composed between 150-350 A.D. and inserted into the Mahabharata corpus later, the Gita, according to Kosambi, served a peculiar class function which made so many leading exponents of Indian culture, including Sankara, Ramanuja, Jnanesvar, Gandhi, Tilak, Aurobindo, and others, return to it again and again. Kosambi believes that:

THE GITA FURNISHED THE ONE SCRIPTURAL SOURCE WHICH COULD BE USED WITHOUT VIOLENCE TO ACCEPTED BRAHMIN METHODOLOGY, TO DRAW INSPIRATION AND JUSTIFICATION FOR SOCIAL ACTIONS IN SOME WAY DISAGREEABLE TO A BRANCH OF THE RULING CLASS UPON WHOSE MERCY THE BRAHMINS DEPENDED AT THE MOMENT. (Emphasis in the Original)

In other words, the Gita is a synthetic text that manages to incorporate a wide diversity of complex and, often, contradictory doctrines. Kosambi believes that such a text could only be written at a certain period during which the competition over the surpluses produced wasn’t so intolerable as to result in class conflict:

FUSION AND TOLERANCE BECOME IMPOSSIBLE WHEN THE CRISIS DEEPENS, WHEN THERE IS NOT ENOUGH OF THE SURPLUS PRODUCT TO GO AROUND, AND THE SYNTHETIC METHOD DOES NOT LEAD TO INCREASED PRODUCTION. (Emphasis in the Original)

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Herald exclusive: In conversation with Gayatri Spivak (NAZISH BROHI, DAWN, DEC 23, 2014)

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is an academic giant. A literary theorist and philosopher, she is the first woman of colour to have become a professor at Columbia University. In addition to founding Columbia University’s Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, she has taught at Brown University, Stanford University, University of Texas at Austin, University of California, Santa Cruz and Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

She has authored 11 academic books and several literary publications. Spivak has the distinction of having developed and captured complex theories into short phrases that have entered the global academic vernacular and spawned countless dissertations.

But Spivak defies the stereotype of an ivory tower-bound professor. She has established schools for children in West Bengal where she regularly teaches herself. She has translated books, ranging from the works of French philosopher Jacques Derrida – founder of deconstruction theory whom she introduced to the English-speaking world through her book On Grammatology – to those of Mahasweta Devi, an activist and Bengali writer.

Spivak’s first degree was in music. “I ran away from dance because the instructor used to hit me with the tabla hammer,” she reveals, “but I am a trained singer.”

Spivak’s reception in the academic world is equally varied. She is called the “rock star goddess of postcolonial studies”, is regularly introduced as the “celebrity Marxist feminist scholar” and “the world’s pre-eminent thinker”. Her critics, on the other hand, say she is hard to understand, even “pretentiously opaque” and, in instances, “authoritarian”.

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Why empires fall: from ancient Rome to Putin’s Russia (Tom Holland, New Statesman, 23 May 2014)

When did the Roman empire end? It is still possible to find history books that give a very precise answer to this question. The curtain came down on the Roman empire, so it is usually claimed, on 4 September 476, when a young man by the name of Romulus Augustulus was formally stripped of the imperial purple by a Gothic chieftain and packed off to retirement near Naples. The accident of his name, in this particular version of Rome’s fall, provides the perfect bookend to a thousand years and more of the Roman story. Romulus, after all, had been the founder of the Eternal City, Augustus her first emperor. Now, with the deposition of Augustulus – “the little Augustus” – the line of emperors had come to an end. The light-switch had been turned off. Antiquity was over; the Dark Ages had begun.

In fact, in almost every way that it can be, dating the fall of the Roman empire to a particular day in 476 is wrong. On the most pedantic level, the title “last Roman emperor of the west” should properly belong not to Romulus Augustulus at all, but to a Balkan warlord, named Julius Nepos, who was murdered in 480. Meanwhile, in Rome itself, life carried on pretty much as normal. Consuls continued to be elected, the senate to sit, chariot races to be held in the Circus Maximus. Most saliently of all, in the eastern half of the Mediterranean, the Roman empire was still strong. Ruled from a city pointedly christened the Second Rome, it remained the greatest power of its day. Constantinople had many centuries of life in it yet as a Roman capital.

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The political emotions of Martha Nussbaum (MICHAEL EDWARDS, Open Democracy, 15 December 2014)


Martha C. Nussbaum is Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago. She has made landmark contributions across a wide range of issues including democracy, sexuality, justice, human development and religion, but it was her book Political Emotions that caught my attention when it was published in October 2013—probably because I was launching a new section of openDemocracy at the time that seemed to build on the same philosophy.

Nussbaum’s book explores how “public emotions rooted in love—in intense attachments to things outside our control—can foster commitment to shared goals and keep at bay the forces of disgust and envy.” But what kind of love does she mean, and will it be strong enough to counter the rising influence of individualism, greed and division across the world? To find out more, I asked her some questions.

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