Three Essays Collective

Recent blog posts

Three Essays at Book Fair

New Delhi World Book Fair 2015
February 14–22 | Pragati Maidan


Three Essays Collective
is present at
IPD Atlternatives
Hall No 1R
Stall Nos. 49 & 50

The Kafkalands Of India

Securing the Nation State as Terrorist

‘It’s important to stay engaged and keep pressing for equality and justice.’

Music, City, Self

‘No justice is possible in a system of impunity and compromise.’

MSS Pandian, 1957-2014

The sudden departure of MSS Pandian, historian, scholar and extraordinary teacher, adds a sense of emptiness to these terrible times. A massive heart attack following a gastro-intestinal complication, of which he wasn’t fully aware, took him away on 10 November 2014 at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. On the way to the hospital in the morning he was worrying about the MA class he was to teach  at 4:00 in the afternoon at the Centre of Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, where he was a professor. He will be missed by his students, friends and colleagues. A radical,  avant garde scholar with deeply egalitarian moorings, his work will remain an example of a prose that is objective, political and moral.

An excerpt:

“For a man born in 1906 and witnessed the most acute battles around caste — whether it be M K Gandhi’s threat to suicide which robbed by means of the Poona Pact the ‘untouchable’ communities of separate electorate, or the nation-wide movement for temple entry by the untouchables, or the rise of the non-Brahmin politics in the Madras Presidency during the early decades of the twentieth century — R K Narayan’s forgetfulness about caste comes through as a bit surprising. But this feeling of surprise fades away when one does a closer reading of his autobiography. All through the autobiography, caste masquerades as something else and makes its muted modern appearance. For instance, writing about his difficulties in getting a proper house to rent in Mysore, he writes, ‘…our requirements were rather complicated — separate room for three brothers, their families, and a mother; also for Sheba, our huge Great Dane, who had to have a place outside the house to have her meat cooked, without the fumes from the meat pot polluting our strictly vegetarian atmosphere; a place for our old servant too, who was the only one who could go out and get the mutton and cook it.’ It does not need much of an effort to understand what ‘strictly vegetarian atmosphere’ or meat, which is specified as mutton (that is, it is not beef) encodes. It is caste by other means.The subtle act of transcoding caste and caste relations into something else — as though to talk about caste as caste would incarcerate one into a pre-modern realm — is a regular feature one finds in most upper caste autobiographies. Caste always belongs to someone else; it is somewhere else; it is of another time. The act of transcoding is an act of acknowledging and disavowing caste at once. In marked contrast to the upper caste autobiographies, the self-definition of one’s identity, as found in the autobiographies of the lower castes, is located explicitly in caste as a relational identity. The autobiographical renditions of Bhama or Viramma, two Dalit women from the Tamil-speaking region, the poignant autobiographical fragments of Dalits from Maharashtra, put together by Arjun Dangle in his edited volume Corpse in the Well, and Vasant Moon’s Growing up Untouchable in India are all suffused with the language of caste — at times mutinous, at times moving. Most often the very act of writing an autobiography for a person belonging to a lower caste is to talk about and engage with the issue of caste.5 In other words, we have here two competing sets of languages dealing with the issue of caste. One talks of caste by other means; and the other talks of caste on its ‘own terms’ ” MSS Pandian(‘One Step Outside Modernity: Caste, Identity Politics and Public Sphere’).

Excerpt from Afthab Ellath’s Wall.

Before the Law

← View older posts

Recently published




Democracy and Power

The Delhi Lectures


Hindustani Music in Colonial Bombay


On Their Watch

Mass violence and State apathy in India, Examining the record



Prejudice, Law and Counterterrorism in India



notes on politics, education and culture


A Life in Three Octaves

The Musical Journey of Gangubai Hangal


Dalits and Adivasis in India's Business Economy

Three Essays and an Atlas

View all titles →

Forthcoming titles

  • Americana

    By Perry Anderson, December 2014

  • Of Gardens and Graves

    Essays on Kashmir, Poems in Translation

    By Suvir Kaul, December 2014

  • Findings Keepings

    Life and Communism and Everything

    By Ralph Russell, January 2015

  • Medicine and the Raj

    By Daya Varma, January 2015

  • original
  • original
  • original
  • original
  • original
  • original
  • original
  • original
  • original