Guha, Ramachandra 1958–
Guha, Ramachandra 1958–
Born 1958, in Dehradun, India. Education: St. Stephen's College, Delhi, Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, India, Ph.D. Hobbies and other interests: Cricket.
Home—Bangalore, India. Office—Indian Institute of Management, 22-A Brunton Rd., Bangalore-560025, India. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, historian, environmentalist, columnist, and educator. Worked at various academic positions in India, Europe, and North America, 1985-95. University of California, Berkeley, Indo-American Community Chair visiting professor, 1997-98; has also taught at University of Oslo, Yale University, the Indian Institute of Science, and Stanford University; St. Anthony's College, Oxford, senior associate member; Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, India, senior fellow; Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, fellow.
Leopold-Hidy Prize, American Society for Environmental History, 2001, for essay "Prehistory of Community Forestry in India"; Book of the Year prize, Daily Telegraph/U.K. Cricket Society, 2002, for A Corner of a Foreign Field.
Forestry and Social Protest in British Kumaun, c. 1893-1921, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (Calcutta, India), 1985.
(With Madhav Gadgil) State Forestry and Social Conflict in British India: A Study in the Ecological Bases of Agrarian Protest, Indian Institute of Science, Centre for Ecological Sciences (Bangalore, India), 1988.
The Unquiet Woods: Ecological Change and Peasant Resistance in the Himalaya, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1990, expanded edition, 2000.
Sociology and the Dilemmas of Development, Indian Council of Social Science Research (New Delhi, India), 1994.
(With Madhav Gadgil) Ecology and Equity: The Use and Abuse of Nature in Contemporary India (also see below), Routledge (New York, NY), 1995.
(Editor, with David Arnold) Nature, Culture, Imperialism: Essays on the Environmental History of South Asia, Oxford University Press (New Delhi, India), 1995.
(With J. Martinez-Alier) Varieties of Environmentalism: Essays North and South, Earthscan Publications (London, England), 1997, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Savaging the Civilized: Verrier Elwin, His Tribals, and India, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1999.
(Editor, with Jonathan P. Perry) Institutions and Inequalities: Essays in Honor of André Beteille, Oxford University Press (New Delhi, India), 1999.
(Editor) Nature's Spokesman: M. Krishnan and Indian Wildlife, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Madhav Gadgil) The Use and Abuse of Nature (contains This Fissured Land: An Ecological History of India and Ecology and Equity: The Use and Abuse of Nature in Contemporary India), Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Environmentalism: A Global History, Longman (New York, NY), 2000.
An Anthropologist among the Marxists and Other Essays, Permanent Black (Delhi, India), 2001.
(Editor) The Picador Book of Cricket, Picador (London, England), 2001.
A Corner of a Foreign Field: The Indian History of a British Sport, Picador (London, England), 2002.
(Editor and author of introduction) Sujit Mukherjee, An Indian Cricket Century: Selected Writings, Orient Longman (Hyderabad, India), 2002.
The Last Liberal and Other Essays, Permanent Black (Delhi, India), 2004.
The States of Indian Cricket: Anecdotal Histories, Permanent Black (Delhi, India), 2005.
How Much Should a Person Consume? Environmentalism in India and the United States, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2006.
India after Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy, Ecco (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor of biweekly column to the Hindu. Contributor to Eye in the Jungle, compiled by Ashish and Shanthi Chandola with T.N.A. Perumal, Universities Press (Hyderabad, India), 2006. Contributor of articles to periodicals, including Times Literary Supplement, Granta, Times (London, England), Guardian (London, England), and Ecologist.
Guha's works have been translated into many languages, including French, German, Italian, Spanish, Norwegian, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Tamil, Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Assamese, Kannada, and Marathi.
Since penning his first work in the mid-1980s, Indian social historian and author Ramachandra Guha has completed a number of books that deal with the social and environmental concerns of his native India. In a number of titles, including This Fissured Land: An Ecological History of India, Sociology and the Dilemmas of Development, Ecology and Equity: The Use and Abuse of Nature in Contemporary India, Nature, Culture, Imperialism: Essays on the Environmental History of South Asia, Varieties of Environmentalism: Essays North and South, and Environmentalism: A Global History, he focuses on how communities, particularly those that are tribal in nature, deal with modern development practices. For pleasure, Guha has also published several books about his favorite sport: cricket. These include A Corner of a Foreign Field: The Indian History of a British Sport and The Picador Book of Cricket, as well as the anthology An Indian Cricket Century: Selected Writings. Reviewer Geoff Nicholson, writing in the London Independent, named The Picador Book of Cricket a "good and highly enjoyable book" that suggests in some ways that "cricket may sometimes be rather more fun to read about than it is to watch." The editors of India Today wrote of Guha, as reported on the Yale University Web site: "The range of his works is awesome…. Combining Gandhian values with lucid prose, Guha cannot be straitjacketed…. The net result is that Guha is read more avidly and widely than his more vocal contemporaries."
Among Guha's environmental works are his mid-1990s titles This Fissured Land and Ecology and Equity. In the first, Guha and collaborator and ecologist Madhav Gadgil chronicle the ecological history of India from primitive to modern societies. The authors consider the important themes related to India's ecological history and the many troubles caused by resource shortages in the country, noted Eva Cheung Robinson in Pacific Affairs. Acute shortages of resources have caused "increased misuse, given rise to social conflicts, and threatened the health of the land," she observed. Guha and Gadgil consider the conditions under which human populations conserve resources; the relationships between means of production and the belief systems that influence use of resources; the type and intensity of conflicts that result from particular patterns of resource use; and the conditions under which resource overuse can be justified and allowed. In discussing these factors, the authors also consider issues related to the many years of British colonial rule in India and the influence they had on consumption and conservation of India's forest resources. Robinson concluded that This Fissured Land "provides a fresh, scholarly look at key issues in resource management which currently threaten the subcontinent." In the Journal of Asian Studies, John F. Richards called the book "a provocative, stimulating sketch of the long-term ecological history of the subcontinent. It is also, unfortunately, very much a present-minded book, a tract for the times with a specific environmentalist agenda which distorts the argument."
In Ecology and Equity, Guha and Gadgil argue for a new ecological paradigm. P.P. Karan of Geographical Review called Ecology and Equity "a thoughtful and imaginative book." Although Karan found the pace a "little slow," a "bit dry," and "the solutions proposed … too general," he considered it a "successful synthesis of nature-society relationships in India."
In 2000 these works were published together under the title The Use and Abuse of Nature. Reviewing the work for the Journal of Asian Studies, Abdul Jamil Urfi applauded the authors' efforts: "Overall, this book is indeed remarkable for its wide sweep of case studies from not just India but other parts of the world. It helps provide a full understanding of virtually all of the major environmental movements which have taken place in India over the past few decades." Yet the work was not viewed as flawless. "Problems … arise from the proselytizing nature of its arguments and the presentation of the material," conceded Urfi, who concluded: "Nevertheless, the authors' deep and sincere concern about environmental degradation in India and their clear, logical analysis and formidable cross-disciplinary armature make this book a fundamental advance in our understanding of environmental issues and problems."
Guha is also the editor of a number of works, including the 1997 collection Varieties of Environmentalism, in which various authors explore the differences between the world's environmental ideas and movements. For his part, Guha discusses his definitions of such key terms as underdevelopment and overdevelopment. "I would like the language of ‘overdevelopment’ to enter the discourse on environmentalism," he stated on the Individual in a Global Society radio program. "I think that some people have too much. And sometimes it doesn't even create true human happiness." Also published that year was Nature, Culture, Imperialism, which Guha coedited and for which he coauthored the introduction by putting the essays in context both within South Asian literature and North American scholarship.
In several of his works, Guha focuses on an individual's role in environmentalism. Savaging the Civilized: Verrier Elwin, His Tribals, and India is an "important new biography" of Verrier Elwin, according to New Statesman critic Guy Mannes Abbott. Elwin was a ground-breaking ethnographer who lived among the tribal peoples of India and recorded their customs in a series of popular books. He also became a champion for their right to maintain traditional ways. In his thoroughly researched biography of Elwin, Guha compares the ethnographer to other English social critics who saw serious limitations with the industrial age. Sunil Khilnani, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, highly praised Savaging the Civilized. "Guha has written an excellent biography, the best example of the genre by an Indian for many years," he commented, adding that Guha's "fascinating portrait" erases "easy distinctions between colonialist and nationalist, anthropologist and subject, missionary and convert, between dedicated scholar and louche amant."
Guha's Environmentalism is an introductory textbook that provides a historical survey of environmentalism. The work caught the attention of several reviewers. "Guha's methodology leads to the omission of important components of the global history of environmental thought," wrote Ethics and the Environment reviewer James W. Sheppard, concluding, "Overall …, the topics not covered work to neutralize what is accomplished by the topics that are covered." While acknowledging such omissions, however, Journal of World History reviewer Laxman D. Satya asserted, "This beautifully written and nice little paperback will be a valuable addition to anyone's collection."
In How Much Should a Person Consume? Environmentalism in India and the United States, Guha considers the issues of production and consumption as they relate to both nations and individuals. In his collection of essays, which examines the history and philosophy of environmentalism in India and the United States, the author discusses the dominant environmental themes in the two nations: "agrarianism" in India and "wilderness thinking" in the United States. Guha also considers how much less food, energy, water, and other resources people could consume and still sustain a reasonable quality of life. In addition, the author includes profiles of three prominent environmental voices: Lewis Mumford, Madhav Gadgil, and Chandi Prasad Bhatt. Along with a number of reasoned critiques on conservation, Guha offers practical suggestions for the future of conservation and environmentalism in the United States and India. A Habitat Australia reviewer called the book "thoughtful and provocative."
In India after Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy, Guha takes a look back at six decades of Indian history, beginning with its independence from British rule in 1947. Guha notes that some British officials considered India too diverse and too fractured to survive as a country, with tensions rising from political, social, religious, economic, and cultural issues. Within months of the British departure, India faced great turmoil. The country's leader and founding force, Mahatma Gandhi, was assassinated in January 1948. The partitioning of India and Pakistan resulted in the uprooting of millions of people and vast sectarian violence. Tensions increased between India's Muslim citizens and the country's Hindu majority. Yet for Guha, it is India's very diversity that has ensured its continued existence. Guha discusses the history of India' political, religious, and social troubles, but he also recounts the stories of the strong-willed leaders who helped lead the country during its most troubled times. The country's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, is credited for much of India's advancement in the fifteen years following its independence. "Guha expertly traces Nehru's leadership in the writing of India's Constitution, where legislators overcame potentially fatal disagreements over issues like what language the document would appear in," commented Isaac Chotiner in the New York Times Book Review. The author also charts the tenure of the next prime minister, Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi, and the role played by her son, Rajiv Gandhi, who took over after her assassination in 1984. Guha brings the story of India into the twenty-first century, charting the country's manifold successes in the face of numerous obstacles.
India after Gandhi received strong reviews. Guha's "history is not, could not be, definitive, but it is as comprehensive, balanced, and elegantly crafted as any reasonable reader could expect," remarked Spectator reviewer Philip Ziegler. "In telling his stories, Guha liberally quotes and excerpts from reports, newspapers, essays of traveling journalists, and recently released archives and letters: his narrative is a deftly crafted collage," observed Hari Jagannathan Balasubramanian on the Thirty Letters in My Name Web log. Any minor flaws in the book, Balasubramanian concluded, "should not detract from grand scale of Guha's undertaking and the lucidity with which he has rendered it." Booklist reviewer Gilbert Taylor called Guha an "able and readable scholar" and deemed the work "a fluent, judicious modern history for general interest." A Publishers Weekly reviewer similarly found it to be a "magisterial history of India."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, October, 1997, I.G. Simmons, review of Nature, Culture, Imperialism: Essays on the Environmental History of South Asia, pp. 1213-1214.
Booklist, August, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of India after Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy, p. 27.
Choice, December, 1999, J.W. Webb, review of Savaging the Civilized: Verrier Elwin, His Tribals, and India, p. 31; April, 2007, R. Grimsley, review of How Much Should a Person Consume? Environmentalism in India and the United States, p. 1378.
Ecologist, May-June, 1996, Nityanand Jayaraman, review of Ecology and Equity: The Use and Abuse of Nature in Contemporary India, pp. 117-119.
Economic Geography, October, 1993, Sharad Chari, review of This Fissured Land: An Ecological History of India, p. 438.
Economist, July 27, 2002, "Great Balls of Fire: Indian Cricket."
English Historical Review, February, 2001, Peter J. Durrans, review of Savaging the Civilized, p. 273.
Ethics and the Environment, fall, 2003, James W. Sheppard, review of Environmentalism: A Global History, pp. 132-140.
Geographical Review, July, 1997, P.P. Karan, review of Ecology and Equity, pp. 418-420.
Habitat Australia, July, 2007, review of How Much Should a Person Consume?, p. 29.
Independent (London, England), June 23, 2001, Geoff Nicholson, review of The Picador Book of Cricket.
International Affairs, January, 1998, Matthew Paterson, review of Varieties of Environmentalism: Essays North and South, p. 218.
Journal of Anthropological Research, fall, 2000, review of Savaging the Civilized, p. 392.
Journal of Asian Studies, November, 1992, James R. Hagan, review of The Unquiet Woods: Ecological Change and Peasant Resistance in the Himalaya, pp. 954-955; November, 1995, Robert G. Varady, review of "Social Ecology," pp. 1129-1132; May, 1996, Richard P. Tucker, review of Nature, Culture, Imperialism, p. 483; August, 1996, John F. Richards, review of This Fissured Land, p. 747; February, 2004, Abdul Jamil Urfi, review of The Use and Abuse of Nature, pp. 224-226.
Journal of Rural Studies, April, 2000, Kay Milton, review of Varieties of Environmentalism, p. 260.
Journal of the American Oriental Society, July-September, 1999, Rosane Rocher, review of Nature, Culture, Imperialism, p. 551.
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, September, 2000, Adrian C. Mayer, review of Savaging the Civilized, p. 459.
Journal of World History, fall, 2002, Laxman D. Satya, review of Environmentalism, pp. 525-531.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2007, review of India after Gandhi.
Library Journal, June 1, 2007, Uma Doraiswamy, review of India after Gandhi, p. 128.
New Scientist, May 17, 1999, Guy Mannes Abbott, review of Savaging the Civilized, p. 50.
New Statesman, May 17, 1999, Guy Mannes Abbot, review of Savaging the Civilized, p. 50; August 27, 2001, Salil Tripathi, "The Lord's View," pp. 39-40.
New York Times Book Review, August 26, 2007, Isaac Chotiner, "All in the Family," review of India after Gandhi, p. 16.
Pacific Affairs, spring, 1995, Eva Cheung Robinson, review of This Fissured Land, p. 131.
Publishers Weekly, May 7, 2007, review of India after Gandhi, p. 49.
Spectator, September 4, 1999, David Gilmour, review of Savaging the Civilized, p. 31; August 3, 2002, David Gilmour, "India's Undying Passion," pp. 29-30; April 28, 2007, Philip Ziegler, "Succeeding in Spite of Itself," review of India after Gandhi.
Time International, June 18, 2007, Aravind Adiga, "Desert Blossom," review of India after Gandhi, p. 65.
Times Higher Education Supplement, August 20, 1999, Sunil Janah, review of Savaging the Civilized, p. 31; July 20, 2001, Christopher Ondaatje, review of The Picador Book of Cricket, p. 26.
Times Literary Supplement, May 7, 1999, Sunil Khilnani, "The Man Who Married His Work," p. 10; July 20, 2001, Simon Rae, review of The Picador Book of Cricket, p. 10; June 22, 2007, Patrick Curry, "Tiger Trouble," review of How Much Should a Person Consume?, p. 23.
Washington Post Book World, August 19, 2007, George Perkovich, "Big Democracy: Appreciating the Miracle of India's Triumph over Chaos," p. 7.
HarperCollins Web site, http://www.harpercollins.com/ (January 20, 2008), biography of Ramachandra Guha.
Infochange,http://www.infochangeindia.org/ (January 20, 2008), Gauri Gadgil, "Ramachandra Guha: The Trouble with Radical Environmentalists," interview with Ramachandra Guha.
ThatsCricket.com,http://www.thatscricket.com/ (July 28, 2004), Sajith Balakrishnan, "Rendezvous with Ramachandra Guha."
Thirty Letters in My Name Web log,http://thirtylettersinmyname.blogspot.com/ (August 9, 2007), Hari Jagannathan Balasubramanian, review of India after Gandhi.
Yale University Web site,http://www.yale.edu/ (January 20, 2008), "TRI 20th Anniversary Celebration."