Almost half a year after my book on Muslim peace activists in Gujarat hit the shelves, a first review appeared. This is what Moinuddin Ahmad had to say in The Statesman, one of India's oldest English newspapers particularly read in West Bengal:

This book is a rare collection of brave accounts of the people, asserting different identities, marked by the author. It may inspire people in various capacity to engage with the society and work for peace. The author tries to elucidate a thin line between the "religious" and the "secular" in many aspects of daily life, and how it gets blurred when people with different confessions work for same cause, as was done in Gujarat. This work by Raphael Susewind definitely opens a window through which Muslim society and peace-builders can be seen with a nuanced perspective.

I find it quite interesting to see how he focusses on my blurring the line between the faith-based and the secular, a way in which I haven't thought about my work so far (perhaps because that line for me was always kind of obviously fake), but which makes obvious sense, particularly in the context of the Indian debate. Read the whole review online...

The following book review first appeared in ASIEN / The German Journal on Contemporary Asia 127 (see entry in my publication list) and is reprinted here with permission. The book itself is here.

P. Ghassem-Fachandi: Pogrom in Gujarat. Hindu nationalim and anti-Muslim violence in India

Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012, 335 S., EUR 25,99

Im Frühjahr 2002 wurde die Heimat Mahatma Gandhis, der indische Bundesstaat Gujarat, Schauplatz der schlimmsten anti-muslimischen Ausschreitungen im Land seit den 1970er Jahren; mit staatlicher Duldung und teils Unterstützung wurden über 2000 Menschen ermordet. In den vergangenen Monaten, zehn Jahre später, fielen auf Drängen des Supreme Courts und gegen großen Widerstand in Gujarat selbst erste Urteile gegen die Täter – zuletzt spektakulär gegen eine ehemalige Ministerin im Kabinett von Narendra Modi (BJP), die wegen Verschwörung zu Mord und anderen Delikten zu lebenslanger Haft verurteilt wurde.

While the servers at Oxford are still processing my electoral roll experiment, and while I prepare the first anniversary of this blog next week, today's post will be very brief - just an alert to two pieces I recently wrote elsewhere:

The first is an interview with yours truly at Watershed, a very interesting resource for connecting intra-BRIC policy debates, calling itself "Brazil's hub for Chinese and Indian affairs" (well, Russia seemed to have dropped out). The interview is on my current and previous research.

The second piece is a guest post comparing book and other kinds of reviews for phd2published. I basically argue that writing book reviews prepares you for grading student work - and vice versa. For those who don't know it yet, P2P is one of these useful grad student support sites which came up lately - check it out, not just for my piece on book reviews!

I am not sure if I will continue guest blogging, but it was a nice experiment to start. Next week will feature a reflection on academic blogging more generally - and in two weeks from now, the electoral roll data should be ready for some follow-up on both elections and the name question posed last week. As a teaser, I can already say that it works far better than expected...

This is a preprint of a review whose final and definite form has been published in Contemporary South Asia © Taylor & Francis; see publisher's version and entry in my publication list. The book itself is here.

Articles of faith: Religion, secularism, and the Indian Supreme Court, by Ronojoy Sen, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2010, xli + 237 pp., ISBN 0-19-806380-6

After independence, India established a ‘principled distance’ between religion and the state as part and parcel of becoming a ‘modern nation’. At the same time, India also saw the rise of Hindu nationalist forces which question this very distance. Both seemingly opposed trends share common roots, argues Ronojoy Sen in his detailed exegesis of Supreme Court judgments on religion: the court ‘significantly narrowed the space for religious freedom’ by ‘homogenizing and rationalizing religion and religious practices’ – which in turn ‘strengthened the hand of Hindu nationalists, whose ideology is based on a monolithic conception of Hinduism and intolerance of minorities’ (xxix, xxx). While identifying the link between exclusivist Hindutva and wider trends towards a more homogeneous and standardized Hinduism ‘as a religion’ is not that new, Sen manages to shift this debate from colonial to post-colonial times, and is the first to highlight the key role of the judiciary. This makes his book an important contribution to the study of religion, law and politics in contemporary India.

The following book review first appeared in 2011 in Internationales Asienforum 42(3-4), p. 378-379 (see entry in my publication list) and is reproduced here with permission. The book itself is here.

Rowena Robinson, Tremors of Violence. Muslim Survivors of Ethnic Strife in Western India

New Delhi: Sage, 2005. 261 pages, 3 maps, € 28.99. ISBN 0-7619-3408-1

The communal riots in Mumbai after the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992, and even more those engulfing central Gujarat in spring 2002, mark turning points in India's recent political and social history. Several thousand people – mostly Muslims – were murdered and even more seriously injured, displaced or economically affected. So far, their plight has, however, mostly been reduced to a building brick for wider arguments about Indian secularism, citizenship rights, or state-society relations. Important as these issues may be, there has rarely been a sensitive study which listens to the survivors themselves. Rowena Robinson's book closes this gap with a carefully crafted ethnographic account of the aftermath of mass violence.