NEIL DEVOTTA, EDITOR
LYNNE RIENNER PUBLISHERS, 2010
341 PAGES, ISBN: 978-1588267153, PAPERBACK
Reviewed by Christopher Shaw
Professors in the evolving field of global and area studies continuously confront the challenge of “coverage.” What might a course on the Indian subcontinent, for example, responsibly omit? If the focus is on political and economic challenges, to what extent does the teacher examine modern versus ancient history? Refer to trade patterns versus regional diplomacy? Refer to the arts or local culture? Every world region merits examination in its full complexity, but the reality of a ten- to fifteen-week course demands a pitiless commitment to omission.
A recent addition to the Understanding: Introductions to the States and Regions of the Contemporary World series edited by Donald Gordon for Rienner Publishers, like the series’ other volumes on China, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa, Russia, Latin America, and the Asia Pacific, seeks to omit nothing. In this second India edition, Neil DeVotta, a political scientist at Wake Forest University, has edited and expanded the first edition, published with co-editor Sumit Ganguly in 2003. The new version (2010) debuts five chapters by DeVotta and others, which take their place alongside seven updated essays and strive, slavishly, to cover all bases necessary and sufficient to understanding contemporary India. This “topical survey” examines India’s geography, history, democracy, international relations, economy, environment, women, religions, caste system, and arts. None of the chapters effectively refers to any other; they exist as stand-alone nods to all academic departments that might lay a claim to India.