This is a preprint of a review whose final and definite form has been published in Contemporary South Asia; see entry in my publication list. The book itself is here


Interrogating communalism: violence, citizenship and minorities in South India by Salah Punathil, London, Routledge, 2019, xiv + 161 pp., 92 GBP (hardback), ISBN 978-1-138-50568-1

In 2009, unrest broke out between Marakayyar Muslims and Mukkuvar Christians in Beemapalli, southern Kerala, culminating in intense police violence. Local media, activists and the state through its apparatus of ‘inquiry commissions’ quickly determined this to be a typical incident of ‘communal riots’, and went on to write their recommendations, few of which have been implemented to date. In ‘interrogating communalism’, Salah Punathil unpacks this speedy categorization to reveal the history and spatiality of violence in coastal Kerala. He challenges preconceived notions on ‘communalism’ that resonate across India, partly by choosing a case study where ‘communal violence’ did not play out between Hindus or Muslims (or, in the form of pogroms, against the latter). Based on ethnographic as well as archival sources from Beemapalli as well as his main fieldsite Vizhinjam, he moves beyond a common dichotomy between ‘exceptional’ versus ‘everyday’ forms of communal violence to look at more structural forms of aggression and discrimination.

This is a preprint of a review whose final and definite form has been published in The Book Review; see entry in my publication list. The book itself is here

Accumulation by Segregation: Muslim localities in Delhi. By Ghazala Jamil. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2017, pp. 244, Rs 750

Tomorrow is my last day with Max Planck - day after, I will join King's College London. This is exciting in many ways - and it will be the first time that I am permanently employed. In academia, this means I won the jackpot, cracked the lottery. How did I do it? That's what today's post is about. Four insights:

The first truth is that I did not do it. Means I did not crack the lottery - I just got lucky. After 68 permutations, resulting in six shortlists and 67 rejections. Consequently, the most important lesson of the last two years is that the faculty job market is completely crazy. Does excellence count? Yes. Do publications count? Oh yes (but not in Germany - see below). Is teaching really irrelevant? Sadly yes, at many places (luckily not at King's). Do you have to network? But of course. Do you need to fit the expected profile? Kind of, but not always.

It's application season again, and I find it hard to keep a sane head with all the self-marketing, tailoring, record keeping, quantifying and showing off citations and alternative metrics of the impact of my work on mankind (and on that subset called academia). I also at times find it hard to swallow my fair share of rejections and the dismal HR practice that seems to flourish in universities.

Luckily, I came across a way to cheer me up: the practice of keeping a "shadow CV", a list of the jobs, grants and prizes one did not get, of the publications and conference papers that were rejected and hence never make it to one's official record. The shadow CV puts things into perspective - and hey, now I can not only add a new line to my CV when I achieve something, but also when I don't!

The idea seems to have originated, befittingly, in the comment thread on a post on desperation, addiction and the CV, but google it and you will find plenty fine specimen. So without further ado, here comes my list of failures, in mildly anonymized form, last updated on June 24, 2019, and of course to be read alongside the official glorious and glamorous list:

Education

2009: did not graduate in my theology minor, despite initial enthusiasm

Employment

2016: Denmark, permanent assoc prof level position in Sociology, voted 'qualified' and interviewed, but came in close second

2016: Germany, fixed term position in South Asian Studies, offer declined

Over recent weeks, I was repeatedly challenged to think through the practical contexts of my research, and how I engage with them. I have been invited to an evaluation of Muslim Indians' socio-economic standing and citizenship rights a decade after the Sachar report. I continue to collaborate with activists, journalists and other academics through Data{Meet}. And I have been applying for faculty jobs, many of which now ask for a statement on "policy relevance" or "impact" (especially in the UK, for obvious reasons). Frankly, these are not exactly the terms in which I usually frame my work - so I decided to write up my discomfort with them, in an attempt to clarify my own stance. Comments welcome...

Once I began to think about it more explicitly, I realized that my discomfort surely does not stem from lack of familiarity. My first work experience was with the local grassroots NGO CARAVAN in Pakistan. There, I was very much on the receiving end of advice, and the experience primarily left quite an impact on me. Next came an internship with Germany's largest donor organization, Misereor, for whom I drafted the policy on religion in conflict. This was very much a collaborative endeavour, though it ultimately led nowhere (it wasn't such a smart idea to let an intern tackle an issue so close to the institution's self-understanding, I guess). Last but not least, I worked for the German embassy in Bangladesh just before the country returned to free elections after two years of technocratic rule. In this position, I was asked to liberally disseminate "advice" to all kinds of stakeholders (close to the point of unduly intervening in domestic affairs).