PERSONAL: Female. Education: University of Oxford, Ph.D., 1994. Religion: Hindu.
ADDRESSES: Office—Department of Anthropology, University College, London, Gower St., London WC1E 6BT, England. E-mail—[email protected] ucl.ac.uk.
CAREER: Anthropologist, educator, and author. University College, London, London, England, lecturer in anthropology.
The Pathan Unarmed: Opposition and Memory in the North West Frontier, School of American Research Press (Santa Fe, NM), 2000.
(With Daniel Miller) The Sari, Roli Books (New Delhi, India), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: British writer and educator Mukulika Banerjee is a social anthropologist by trade, as reflected in her writing and career focus. As a lecturer in anthropology at University College, London, Banerjee mentors graduate and doctoral candidates. Her academic interests include political anthropology, Muslim societies of South Asia, and the relationship between fashion and public culture. Her first two books deal with a conglomeration of these subjects.
Banerjee's 2000 work, The Pathan Unarmed: Opposition and Memory in the North West Frontier, focuses on the Khudai Khidmatgar (KK), a little-known Muslim group that used nonviolent civil disobedience to aid Pakistan in its efforts to gain independence from the British. In order to tell its story, Banerjee interviewed seventy-five elderly KK members, and these interviews are woven throughout the book. She also outlines the fundamentals of Pathan culture, describes Pathans from a British perspective, traces the beginning of the nonviolent KK movement, and gives details of the movement's structure and organization.
The Pathan Unarmed was met with interest and praise by most critics. Reviewers cited Banerjee's use of indepth interviews as well as her insightful analysis as two reasons the book succeeds. Leonard Bartlotti, writing in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, commented that "Banerjee's analysis of this important chapter in the history of the Frontier may serve as a useful resource, not only for further scholarship on the Pashtuns but for policy-makers concerned about the possibilities for change and development along the fractious Pakistan-Afghanistan border."
The Sari is a collaboration between Banerjee and University College colleague Daniel Miller. In this book the authors draw on interviews and personal accounts from a wide range of Indian women to tell the story of the sari, the traditional women's garment worn throughout India. By telling the story of the sari, they also tell the story of modern Indian women. Each chapter focuses on a different kind of sari, including the 'youthful' sari, marriage sari, working sari, and 'power' sari, all of which are particular styles that relate to a unique stage of a woman's life. The book also constructs a history of the garment's varied styles and designs. Detailed illustrations and photographs accompany each chapter.
Overall, The Sari was lauded by book reviewers. Most critics praised the authors' reliance on interviews as well as research to relate the garmentapos;s history. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly dubbed the book an "enthralling celebration, exploration, and analysis—through women's voices—of India's most symbolic garment." Similarly, a reviewer for RedHotCurry.com recommended the book, commenting that The Sari is "a joy to peruse" for "anyone with an interest in South Asian fashion."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, June, 2004, Leonard N. Bartlotti, review of The Pathan Unarmed: Opposition and Memory in the North West Frontier, p. 472.
Library Journal, November 1, 2003, Karen Ellis, review of The Sari, p. 89.
Publishers Weekly, August 25, 2003, review of The Sari, p. 48.
Women's Review of Books, April, 2004, Ritu Menon, review of The Sari, p. 11.
Quaker Books Web site, http://www.quakerbooks.org/ (December 10, 2004), review of The Pathan Unarmed.
RedHotCurry.com, http://www.redhotcurry.com/ (December 10, 2004), review of The Sari.
University College, London Department of Anthropology Web site, http://www.ucl.ac.uk/anthropology/ (December 10, 2004), "Mukulika Banerjee."