The other day, I had a rather heated dispute about the usefulness of "the everyday" as a focus of anthropological enquiry. It felt exactly like a conversation two weeks ago, and quite similar to another one the weeks before that. Anthropologists who don't consider the everyday a particularly useful category (like me) seem to become an exception in the discipline. And I honestly wonder why...

Of course, anthropologists' emphasis on long-term field exposure, on "going native and livin' their life" might have led to this fascination with "the everyday". Increasing attention to ordinary people and their histories, practices and voices rather than merely reinforcing perspectives of the powerful might be another reason (even though I wonder why whe should think that ordinary people somehow live more in "the everyday"). Yet these two factors have been there ever since Malinowski (and the Subaltern Studies Group, respectively). They can not explain why "the everyday" is on the rise now, as evinced in all frequency indicators which I found - be it according to crowd-sourced Mendeley tags or according to the more established Social Science Citation Index (whose results are reflected in the chart to the right, which shows the number anthropological articles with the topic "everyday" over time).

Today ends the pity state of this blog as a convenient dump for preprints of book reviews, since today starts a new bi-weekly series of posts on my PhD project. The series will include empirical vignettes from Lucknow, an introduction to theoretical and methodological aspects of my research, and more general musings about academic life. I begin with a post of the latter type and address the core of what I do as an academic: writing. Writing papers, chapters, articles, reviews, that dreaded book - and now a blog as well...

To be sure: I also "do research", read, and occasionally teach. But I mostly read to ground my writing, I teach topics on which I also write (occasionally, I even teach students how to write), and I spend most of my time during field research locked in a chamber - trying to write. Unfortunately, nobody really taught me three rather important points about (academic) writing: why it is crucial, that it is hard work, and how to get started. This I had to find out on my own. Here is what I discovered:

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

Islamism and democracy in India: the transformation of Jamaat-e-Islami, by Irfan Ahmad, Princeton, Princeton Univ. Press, 2009, xx + 306 pp., ISBN 978-0-691-13920-3

How did the secular and democratic polity in India change the politics and policies of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a party founded to oppose both principles? This question inspired Irfan Ahmad to close the gap between Nasr's 'The vanguard of the Islamic revolution' (on Pakistan; London: IB Tauris, 1994) and Kabir's 'The politics and development of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh' (New Delhi: South Asian Publishers, 2006) with a comprehensive monograph on 'Islamism and democracy in India'. He detects a 'remarkable transformation of Islamism' and highlights 'the conflicts that accompanied that transformation' (p. xi): while the Jamaat itself turned towards secular democracy, the turmoil of mandir, mandal and market (Hindu nationalism, reservation policies and liberalization) later radicalized its split-off, the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). Since he further argues that the former transformation 'is deeply ideological' (p. 2) rather than a tactical guise, his research suggests nothing less than a solid appropriation of secular democracy by India's Islamists (pp. 8-9).

The following book review first appeared in ASIEN / The German Journal on Contemporary Asia 117 (see entry in my publication list) and is reprinted here with permission. The book itself is here.

R. Michael Feener, Terenjit Sevea (Hg.): Islamic Connections: Muslim societies in South and Southeast Asia

Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2009, 245 S., USD 39,90

Seit einigen Jahren wächst das Interesse an subregionalen Vergleichen zwischen Südasien und Südostasien sowie an transnationalen Netzwerken rund um den indischen Ozean. Der vorliegende Sammelband fasst in diesem Kontext erste Ergebnisse des "Islamic Connections Project" zusammen, das seit 2007 am ISEAS in Singapur angesiedelt ist. Die Herausgeber, beide Historiker und Islamwissenschaftler, wollen dabei nicht nur die vermeintliche Dominanz des Nahen Osten als zentralem normativem Bezugspunkt muslimischer Gesellschaften hinterfragen. In 12 Kapiteln versuchen die verschiedenen Autoren darüber hinaus, das noch grundlegendere Narrativ einer Islamisierung von West nach Ost - also von der arabischen Halbinsel nach Indien nach Südostasien - durch ein dezentrales Netzwerk-Modell zu ersetzen.

The following book review first appeared in ASIEN / The German Journal on Contemporary Asia 118 (see entry in my publication list) and is reprinted here with permission. The book itself is here.

T. Benedikter: Language Policy and Linguistic Minorities in India: An appraisal of the linguistic rights of minorities in India

Münster: LIT Verlag, 2009, 232 S., EUR 29,90