Making sense of the anarchic reality of India is a daunting task, for which the lay person and specialist alike, need some aides. Most historians, sociologists and others are able to shine light on only a narrow corner of the landscape. Ramachandra Guha, however, has been an astute and lucid guide to Indian history, with an ability to paint both the broad canvas as well fill in the minute details. Most people know him as a columnist – sometimes controversial, but always insightful and engaging. But there is another side to him, that of the scrupulous historian and scholarly path breaker – in the field of environmental history, the social history of Indian cricket, the history of the Indian republic, and in biographies of lesser-known figures like Verrier Elwin and very public figures like Gandhi.
A Functioning Anarchy is a collection of essays by historians, social scientists, ecologists and journalists to honour the scholar in Guha. The conversation will draw on Guha’s contributions in the field, new paths being taken and what remains to be done to chart the intellectual history of India.
Ramachandra Guha was born and raised in the Himalayan foothills. He studied in Delhi and Kolkata, and has lived for many years in Bengaluru. His many books include a pioneering environmental history, The Unquiet Woods, a landmark history of the Republic, India after Gandhi, and an authoritative two-volume biography of Mahatma Gandhi, both of which were chosen by the New York Times as a Notable Book of the Year. Having previously taught at Yale, Stanford and the Indian Institute of Science, he is currently distinguished University Professor at Krea University.
Guha has been a professional historian for some three decades now. He has been a cricket fanatic for three decades longer still. He says he writes on history for a living; and on cricket to live. His awards include the Leopold-Hidy Prize of the American Society of Environmental History, the Daily Telegraph/Cricket Society prize (for A Corner of a Foreign Field), the R.K. Narayan Prize, and the Fukuoka Prize. He is the recipient of an honorary doctorate in the humanities from Yale University.
Amita Baviskar is a sociologist and, since 2017, Professor at the Sociology Unit, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, India. She received the 2005 Malcolm Adiseshiah Award for Distinguished Contributions to Development Studies, the 2008 VKRV Rao Prize for Social Science Research and, in 2010, was awarded the Infosys Prize for Social Sciences – Sociology in recognition of her analysis of social and environmental movements in modern India. Baviskar studies the cultural politics of environment and development in rural and urban India.
Jahnavi Phalkey was appointed Founding Director of Science Gallery Bengaluru in November 2018. Previously Jahnavi was faculty at King’s College London. She started her academic career at the University of Heidelberg, following which she was based at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, France, and Imperial College London.
Jahnavi was Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (the Institute of Advanced Study, Berlin). She was external curator to the Science Museum London, and has been a Scholar-in-Residence at the Deutsches Museum, Munich. Jahnavi is the author of Atomic State: Big Science in Twentieth Century India and has co- edited Science of Giants: China and India in the Twentieth Century.
She is the producer- director of the documentary film Cyclotron. Jahnavi read civics and politics at the University of Bombay and the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. She holds a doctoral degree in history of science and technology from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta.
Suresh Menon is Contributing Editor, The Hindu. He was one of the youngest sports editors in the country before he became one of its youngest editors with the New Indian Express. He has reported from all the cricket-playing countries in a career spanning over three decades. His books include Bishan: Portrait of cricketer, Pataudi: Nawab of Cricket, and Sachin: Genius Unplugged. For The Hindu, he writes a weekly cricket column, Between Wickets, and a general column, About 500 Words.
A R Venkatachalapathy
A.R. Venkatachalapathy is professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai. An accomplished writer, he has published widely on the social, cultural and intellectual history of Tamil Nadu. His publications include In Those Days There Was No Coffee: Writings in Cultural History; The Province of the Book Scholars, Scribes, and Scribblers in Colonial Tamilnadu; and, as editor, Love Stands Alone: Selections from Tamil Sangam Poetry. Venkatachalapathy is the winner of the V.K.R.V. Rao Prize (2007).
Srinath Raghavan is Professor of International Relations and History at Ashoka University. He previously taught at King’s College London and worked at Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi.
Raghavan is author of several books including War and Peace in Modern India: A Strategic History of the Nehru Years (Macmillan & Permanent Black, 2010); 1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh (Harvard University Press & Permanent Black, 2013); India’s War: The Making of Modern South Asia, 1939-1945 (Penguin Allen Lane & Basic Books, 2016); and The Most Dangerous Place: A History of the United States in South Asia (Penguin Allen Lane & Basic Books, 2018). He was a co-author with Sunil Khilnani et al of NonAlignment 2.0: A Foreign Strategic Policy for India in the Twentieth Century (Penguin, 2013). He has edited Imperialism, Nationalism, Democracy: The Collected Essays of Sarvepalli Gopal (Permanent Black, 2013), and (with David Malone & C. Raja Mohan) The Oxford Handbook of Indian Foreign Policy (Oxford University Press, 2015).
Raghavan has served as a member of the National Security Advisory Board. He was the Chief Editor of the Kargil War History for the Ministry of Defence, Government of India. Prior to entering academia, he spent six years as an infantry officer in the Indian Army.
Raghavan took his BSc in Physics from the University of Madras and his MA and PhD in War Studies from King’s College London. He is a recipient of the K. Subrahmanyam Award for Strategic Studies (2011) and the Infosys Prize for Social Sciences (2015).