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The Lottery of Birth: On Inherited Social Inequalities Broché – 27 mars 2017
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An egalitarian ethos has not been a prominent feature of Indian civilization, at least since the decline of Buddhism over a thousand years ago. All people, it is believed, are created unequal, born into a hierarchy of status and dignity, and endowed not with universal but particular rights and duties. This has greatly amplified the unfairness of accidents of birth in shaping one’s lot in life. Despite a long history of resistance, such inequalities have thrived and mutated, including under European rule, modernity, and markets.
Starting with the deeply moving stories of three writers, Arora explores the origins, persistence, and textures of inequalities rooted in the lottery of birth in India—of caste, class, gender, language, region, religion, and more—and their intersections in daily life. Blending scholarly rigor with moral intelligence, these essays engage with the Bhagavad Gita; the legacies of Ambedkar and Gandhi; Indian modernity, democracy, and nationalism; linguistic hierarchies; reservations; violence against women; identity politics; and much else that today weighs on Indian minds.
Praise for the book:
“The Lottery of Birth reveals Namit Arora to be one of our finest critics. In a raucous public sphere marked by blame and recrimination, these essays announce a bracing sensibility, as compassionate as it is curious, intelligent and nuanced.” — Pankaj Mishra, Essayist and Novelist.
“A remarkable compendium. The topics Arora tackles here—India’s formidable caste, class, and gender inequalities, and how its leaders, writers, and thinkers have engaged with them—have been tackled before, but mostly in dense academic volumes. What’s unique here is Arora’s seamlessly accessible and personable language, rich with autobiographical context, so we feel that the author has a stake in what he speaks of, above all, as an engaged citizen. From ancient scriptures to Dalit literature, reservations to violence against women, Arundhati Roy’s controversial views on Gandhi and Ambedkar to Perry Anderson’s controversial views on Indian history, these essays are essential reading for anyone who wants to understand contemporary India.” — Arun P. Mukherjee, Professor Emerita, York University.
“Namit Arora writes with envy-inspiring clarity and erudition about the central role in our lives of the many random inequalities we begin life with, such as class, gender, and, especially important in the Indian context, caste. This brilliant book is an immensely useful corrective to the conservative notion that people get more-or-less what they deserve, based on their own ‘merit’ and hard work. Read it. If nothing else, it will surely soften your attitude toward the disadvantaged in our midst, which is never a bad thing.” — S. Abbas Raza, Founding Editor, 3 Quarks Daily.
Description du produit
Biographie de l'auteur
Détails sur le produit
- Éditeur : Three Essays Collective; 1er édition (27 mars 2017)
- Langue : Anglais
- Broché : 300 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9383968192
- ISBN-13 : 978-9383968190
- Poids de l'article : 358 g
- Dimensions : 13.97 x 1.91 x 21.59 cm
- Commentaires client :
À propos de l'auteur
Meilleurs commentaires provenant d’autres pays
The above quotation applies to almost all privileged groups. The privilege can be of race, gender, caste, class, or any other category which gives someone a natural advantage in the world. If such privileges are unearned, then so do inequalities. The lottery of birth is random, but it does make a difference in an individual life. The author has discussed this "lottery of birth" in the Indian context through a collection of 14 essays. The collection of essays is divided into four sections: experience, architecture, intersection and narrative of social inequalities.
The Experience of Inequalities: Author provides a thoughtful review and summary of Dalit (Scheduled Castes/SC) writings by Omprakash Valmiki and Ajay Navaria. The author has genuinely attempted to portray the core lessons hidden in these writings without imposing much of his interpretations (a rare observation these days!). The essay “Beyond Man and Woman—The Life of a Hijra” summarising A.Revathi’s autobiography is a must-read for anyone who would like to learn the realities of the transgender movement in India.
The Architecture of Inequalities: In this collection of essays, the author astutely points out the blind spots of socially privileged Indians, i.e., the so-called upper castes (UC). He provides a lucid account of caste-system, caste-based discrimination, caste-based reservations, caste-privilege and inconsistencies in the teaching of Bhagavad Gita. For the upper strata of Indian society, the biggest problem of Indian democracy is the reservation policy (affirmative action in jobs, admissions) and caste is a thing of past. However, reducing caste-system to only caste-based reservations, not caste-based discrimination is the most common evidence of ignorance among privileged Indians (both caste and class). The author dispels all the surrounding myths and dissects the popular arguments against the reservations expertly. Most of these essays are standalone and can be read independently. Still, one can grasp the content better if one reads them sequentially, i.e., starting from an overview of caste-system, democracy and reservations and caste-privilege. In this way, the historical context plus modern developments provide a better understanding of the issue.
The Intersections of Inequalities: Gender and caste are two major ‘vectors of exclusion’ in Indian society. “Delhi: The City of Rape” is a well-researched essay on rape culture and caste patriarchy. The latter essays focus on the effects of colonisation on Indian minds and a summary of Prof. Michael J. Sandel’s writings on distributive justice in the context of India. “Decolonising My Mind” provides an excellent account of effects of English in India and how it has denigrated the use of other native languages (without any tinge of nationalistic fervour). The ramifications are present in literature, reading habits among elites, education system and pervasive inferiority complex entrenched in Indian mind regarding the knowledge of English.
The Narratives of Inequalities: The most ignored person in modern Indian history is undoubtedly Dr B R Ambedkar, especially by upper-caste Indians. Upper caste historians have reduced him to the architect of the Indian Constitution and leader of Dalits. Even the famous public intellectuals such as Amartya Sen, Sunil Khilnani and Ramachandra Guha can be accused of this crime. “Ambedkar in Indian Imagination” addresses the reasons why such a thing has happened without worshipping Ambedkar or demeaning Nehru or Gandhi. “The Rationalist and the Romantic” is a must-read for those who have blindly praised Arundhati Roy’s introduction of “Annihilation of Caste”. If anyone has ready AoC properly, they might be aware that Roy’s essay is marred with romantic ideas (like Gandhi) and a gross misreading of the text. Author not only points out the inconsistencies and exaggerations in Roy’s essay but also gives the credit where it is due.
The essay on identity politics is of topical interest which must be read by anyone who either blindly criticises or embraces it. The last piece in the book explores the ideas given in Perry Anderson’s The Indian Ideology, which is a refreshing take on the dominant narrative of modern political history.
The striking feature of this book is that the tone/language is neither condescending nor full of self-righteousness. The absence can be attributed to the author’s painstaking effort to curate a nuanced, comprehensive and well-researched document on a topic which has been ignored since Independence. I hope more people can appreciate his efforts and read this excellent book!
Best part of book is “The Narratives of Inequalities”, wherein he put forth his views on caste and it’s implication on society, politics and governance irrespective of ideology and perspective differences.
A must read for all serious readers interesting in knowing most unfortunate reality of prevailing caste culture even in today’s so-called modern, secular, democratic India, where it is shamelessly preserved to maintain caste privilege of few and denying dignity to millions of fellow Indians on the basis of birth in lower caste.
Good work Namit , Keep the Good work Going.
There is a truism... you cannot understand a country's history without reading the memoirs of (or otherwise comprehending the experience of) those who were brutalized by that country. For instance, you cannot understand US History by confining yourself to Mark Twain and eliminating Frederick Douglass from your reading list. However, it is difficult to read those memoirs — it is more comfortable to pretend that the life they describe never existed. In that regard, Namit's book does a wonderful job of introducing the memoirs of many individuals who have been brutalized by the Indian society and state. He does so in a non-judgmental manner and without self-righteousness, which, in my opinion, makes it easier to accept.
Namit also does a wonderful job introducing various socio-economic and religious factors that went into the making of this class structure. How did religion influence the caste system? How do various unearned social privileges operate in modern India? He provides insights into these questions, and others like it. Some readers, especially those of a religious or nationalistic bent, may be offended by his take at times. However, when viewed dispassionately, it can be seen that his contentions are often reminiscent of, say, someone like Ambedkar’s (who he quotes quite liberally and admiringly). Furthermore, when viewed dispassionately, critiques like these can benefit the faith being critiqued by reducing its inherent injustices.
This book is sprinkled throughout with on solutions. On the big issue of ensuring that future growth is more egalitarian, Namit presents 3 different models, but none of them are ones that I found to be without disadvantages. Perhaps this is one area that requires substantial work. Of course, a precursor to all such work is a clearer and deeper understanding of the problem itself, which is what this book excels in.
All considered, I think I am substantially better off, having read this book.