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Linking the General to the Particular

Gurpreet Mahajan

By Patricia Jeffrey & Roger Jeffrey
Three Essays Collective, Gurgaon, 2006, pp. 132, Rs. 200.00

By Zaheer Baber
Three Essays Collective, Gurgaon, 2006, pp. 85, Rs. 125.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 9 September 2006

Academic publishing has grown enor- mously in India. Over the last decade a number of new publishing houses have entered the business and the list of books published by each of them has also increased significantly. This is by and large a positive development but it has yielded certain peculiarities and left a mark on the kind of books that are being published. The production of edited volumes, which are often little more than seminar proceedings, is on the rise, and many of the single author books are really collections of individually written and published papers.   This is perhaps a trend that is emerging worldwide but in most cases seminar proceedings are revised substantially before publication. Their form and content is rewritten keeping in mind the shared concerns and orientation of the seminar. Likewise, individually written essays by an author are considered for publication when something new, maybe a more nuanced argument or additional essays, is incorporated. At the very least it is expected that these essays have been revised to include new literature in the field or a response to its critics. Unfortunately, in the changed and more competitive milieu that has emerged these are aspects that are often neglected or set aside. Since the publishers are not attentive to these necessary requirements the responsibility lies much more with the authors, and it is they who are going to be blamed for the end-product.   In the book, Confronting Saffron Demography, Jeffrey and Jeffrey are to some extent sensitive to these issues. They try to link the three previously published essays that constitute the main core of the book through a brief introduction. Continuing with their work on the Bijnor District, Jeffrey and Jeffrey use their field experience to question popular stereotypes and perceptions about the Muslims. To debunk such images as the Muslim population in India is exploding, or that Hindu population is declining, or the women in the Muslim community are more oppressed than their Hindu counterpart, they focus on the existing gender-biases in society and the lack of women’s autonomy. They point out, quite rightly, that attitudes, for example, towards family planning, are determined less by religious dictates and more by the appropriateness of the choices available to the women. Likewise, school drop- out rates are influenced more by the perceptions of the community and its sense of security/insecurity in the region than religious dogma.   ...

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