HT Picks; New Reads - Hindustan Times
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HT Picks; New Reads

ByHT Team
May 24, 2024 10:54 PM IST

This week’s list of interesting reads includes a critical assessment of India-Japan relations, an alternative reading of the Manusmriti, and a book by a mixed race author that’s a cry for an inclusive future

Sharing the goal of a rules-based order

On the reading list this week is an assessment of India-Japan relations, a book that sheds new light on the Manusmriti, and a mixed race author’s cry for an inclusive future. (HT Team)
On the reading list this week is an assessment of India-Japan relations, a book that sheds new light on the Manusmriti, and a mixed race author’s cry for an inclusive future. (HT Team)

304pp, ₹1495; Orient BlackSwan (A critical assessment of India-Japan relations with a focus on the power shift in the Indo-Pacific region.)
304pp, ₹1495; Orient BlackSwan (A critical assessment of India-Japan relations with a focus on the power shift in the Indo-Pacific region.)

The Indo-Pacific has emerged as a new theatre of strategic and economic competition in the twenty-first century. With the rise of China and the decline of US influence in Asia, India-Japan relations and foreign policies have also been undergoing a significant transformation.

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This volume critically assesses India-Japan relations with a particular focus on the growing power shift in the Indo-Pacific region. It brings together a diverse group of scholars and analysts from both countries who examine aspects of bilateral relations, partnerships at the regional level, obstacles in the way of fully cementing these ties, and the concrete policies that both countries can undertake for a comprehensive development of India-Japan relations.

In two distinct parts, the volume presents both Indian and Japanese perspectives. The first part explores how Japan has assumed key importance in India’s Act East Policy, which appears to converge with Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”, as they share the goal of a rules-based order. It studies India and Japan’s strategic engagement with the US, and India’s role as a “resident power” in the Indian Ocean Region. The Japanese perspective explores the geopolitical and geoeconomic forces shaping Indo-Japan relations and the implications of this expanding engagement. It also examines India’s emerging economic partnership with Japan. These contemporary strategic and economic issues are discussed with a focus on not only the bilateral but also the regional aspects.

This book will be indispensable to students and scholars of International Relations, South Asian Studies, strategic and security studies, foreign policy as well as institutions of public policy, advisory bodies and think-tanks

An attempt at social engineering

392pp, ₹599; HarperCollins (An alternative reading of the Manusmriti)
392pp, ₹599; HarperCollins (An alternative reading of the Manusmriti)

In From Fire to Light, academic Arvind Sharma argues that the present understanding of the Manusmriti – regarded as a text designed by the higher castes, especially Brahmanas, to oppress the lower castes and women – only tells one side of the story. As he demonstrates, this perception, when examined against textual, commentarial and historical evidence, is limited to the point of being misleading (and sometimes downright wrong).

Providing an alternative reading of the Manusmriti, From Fire to Light accepts some of the conclusions associated with the existing interpretation but presents them in a new light, mitigating and at times contradicting some of its other features. In taking the plural character of the Hindu tradition and the Manusmriti’s historical context more deeply into account, it brings about a paradigm shift in our understanding of this ancient text. The Manusmriti emerges as an attempt at social engineering, but of a rather different kind than imagined till now.

Caught between two worlds

344pp, ₹499; HarperCollins (A campaign for belonging and a cry for an inclusive future.)
344pp, ₹499; HarperCollins (A campaign for belonging and a cry for an inclusive future.)

For over 25 years, British actor Jassa Ahluwalia described himself as “half Indian, half English”. His fluent Punjabi always prompted bewilderment, medical staff questioned the legitimacy of his name, and the world of casting taught him he wasn’t “the right kind of mixed-race”. Feeling caught between two worlds, Jassa embarked on a call to action: we need to change how we think and talk about mixed identity.

By delving into media and the legacies of empire, Ahluwalia asks: is there anything to be learnt from Rudyard Kipling? Why were movie stars urged to hide their mixed identities? To what extent did colonialism encourage or hinder mixed marriages? Is nationalism outdated? How can the politics of class and queer liberation inform our understanding of mixed identity?

Both Not Half is a rallying cry for a new and inclusive future. It’s a journey of self-discovery that unearths the historical roots of modern mixed identity as we know it, braving to deconstruct the binaries we have inherited and the narratives we passively accept. Part-memoir, part-manifesto, this is a campaign for belonging in a divided world.*

*All copy from book flap.

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