1. Vietnam Whistle-Blower Suffers for War on Graft: There is rapid economic growth in Vietnam but also a lot of corruption. Economic growth is not dependent on eliminating corruption first. Here is another story about corruption in China.
2. Student ties trump Indo-Pak tension: The experience of two Indian students in Lahore when Mumbai was struck. This is where our hope lies and this is what we have to build on. For our proposal, read the post Terrorism -4: Reaching Out.
3. Slokas after a noon Namaz: Muslim students study Sanskrit and Hindu ones read Quran in these UP madrassas. Some things have become impossible for us to believe now. You will have to register (for free) but this article will really make you re-think a lot of things.
4. Oneness-Family School: I am placing here the curriculum of a school in the US that has the motto Peace Begins with the Children. It would be a useful source of ideas for educators and for parents interested in promoting tolerance and mutual respect in society.
5. The cost of fearing strangers: Who should we fear more – the guy in the backyard or the stranger from across the fence?
6. Al-Beruni’s India: What it takes to make a scholar.
7. Marco Polo’s India: Interesting views of a famous tourist.
8. Time Perspective: Are you past, present or future oriented and why it makes a difference? A new and interesting view of human behavior.
9. Neighbors: If South Asians could understand the message in this excellent film, the Kashmir dispute would soon vanish! (Link thanks to Isa Daudpota).
10. Toba Tek Singh: One of the great short stories of all times. You can put all the scholarly analyses of the Partition on one side and Toba Tek Singh by Manto on the other – you will learn more from Manto. In Urdu, English and Devanagari on Fran Pritchett’s gift to South Asia.
11. Born Believers: How the Brain Creates God: On the origins of religious belief and a discussion on whether it is hard-wired.
12. Bill Moyers interviews Karen Armstrong: Hear/Read the leading scholar of religion say that compassion is far more important than belief. That it is the essence of religion. Also hear her talk about Islam, Pakistan, fundamentalism, the literal interpretation of religious texts, and evolution. Here is a shorter text about the charter of compassion and the Socratic method.
13. From mammals to humans: Susan Savage-Rambaugh on TED. Rethink how much of what a species can do is determined by biology and how much by cultural exposure. A lesson in evolution.
14. Innovations in Education: Sugata Mitra on TED. How children can teach themselves and illiteracy is not a barrier to learning.
15. The Evolution of Religions: Professor Jared Diamond talks about the four major functions of religions and how they have changed over history.
16. God Talk and God Talk, Part 2: Professor Stanley Fish explains why thinking about religion requires a certain intellectual sophistication. The debate is muddied by simplistic comparisons of science and religion or reason and faith.
17. Einstein and Faith: What Einstein thought about religion and God and how he got to thinking that way.
18. Lincoln’s Black History: Lincoln fought to end slavery but what were his own views on race? An article that South Asians should read and reflect upon.
19. Pakistan – The State of the Union Report: Selig Harrison’s 12 recommendations to help Pakistan survive (April 2009).
20. How Does Our Language Shape the Way We Think? Professor Lera Broditsky describes the results of a study designed to answer this question. Plus a video presentation by Lera Boroditsky – truly exciting for those interested in experimental cognitive psychology. A refutation of the hypothesis by John McWhorter is here.
21. Public Opinion on Kashmir: A 2008 poll conducted by the University of Maryland. The polling was limited to urban areas in India and Pakistan.
22. The Evolution of God: A review of the book by Robert Wright on the Bill Moyers Journal – video and transcript.
23. The Great Himalayan Watershed: Agrarian Crisis, Mega-Dams, and the Environment. A useful survey by Kenneth Pomeranz showing how South and East Asia are linked, why Tibet is important, what might be the binding constraint in the future, and why lack of cooperation might spell disaster.
24. Capital Gains: An essay on Delhi by Rana Dasgupta in Granta Summer 2009. A piece we can build a discussion around.
25. What is Living and What is Dead in Social Democracy: Historian Tony Judt in a remarkable video that presents a framework in which we need to address the issues of our time. A powerful combination of human intellect and human spirit. Later published as an essay in the New York Review of Books and subsequently expanded into the 2010 book Ill Fares the Land. Also see this important interview with Tony Judt.
26. Pakistan Picaresque: An essay by Samia Altaf in the Wilson Quarterly. Lucymem meets the Director of Nursing and a chat over tea at a government office in Islamabad reveals why billions in aid have done so little for Pakistan’s poor.
27. Beyond Progressive Religion: Ivan Petrella argues why it is necessary to move from being progressive believers to being progressive about belief.
29. Developmentally Disabled: Ken Silverstein shows how foreign aid to Afghanistan stays in America. Ditto for Pakistan.
30. Is India a Flailing State? Detours on the Four Lane Highway to Modernization: Lant Pritchett (Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University) on what ails India and how it compares with China.
31. India and Her Traditions: Professor SN Balagangadhara explains why the lingam is not just a penis.
32. On Music and Passion: Benjamin Zander on what we need to be and how to measure success.
33. E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime and American Cultural History: An essay by John Raeburn that enriches the reading of the novel and also suggests how culture feeds into literature. A good insight into an important period in American history.
34. Rediscovering Central Asia: This valuable historical account by S. Frederick Starr fills a huge gap in our knowledge and confirms our belief that we should think in terms of regions, not countries or religions.
35. Entangled Giant: Gary Wills highlights some very serious problems in American democracy.
36. The Invention of Pakistan: How the British Raj Sundered: Karl E. Meyer provides a good account of the forces involved in the partition of the Indian subcontinent with new evidence on some contested issues like the Radcliffe line.
37. Barack Obama and the Fight for Public Education: William Ayers pens a stirring, inspiring essay that makes one believe one can change the world, that the struggle must go on. [Access is presently restricted unless you have institutional log-in privilege to the Harvard Education Review.]
38. Justice: What is the Right Thing to Do? Great news. Michael Sandel’s course, the most popular at Harvard University, is the first course made available by the university online free of charge. This is how we need to teach in South Asia. See also, a very useful interview with Michael Sandel.
39. The Human Experience: Inside the Humanities at Stanford University. What are the humanities and why they matter. Plus a lot of very useful material and ideas.
40. Catching the Wind in Rural Malawi: A very instructive story. What I took away was the critical and transformative role of the library. Our vision should be an Internet equipped center in every village. Read #14 to connect the possibilities.
41. The Importance of Basic Education: An address by Amartya Sen that discusses the consequences of the education gap and also highlights the implications of the content of education.
42. Achievetrons: Lewis Lapham explains how the best and the brightest can lead us to disaster.
43. Basti: Intizar Hussain is the foremost novelist and short strory writer in Urdu. His novel has been translated into English by Frances Pritchett with an introduction by MU Memon that is invaluable for all who are interested in South Asian culture.
44. All (Muslim) Politics is Local: How Context Shapes Islam in Power. Professor Charles Tripp argues why it is important to grasp that politics takes precedence over ideologies.
45. Want a Stronger Democracy? Invest in Education: Edward Glaeser argues that the causality runs from education to democracy. Do you agree with him? Does the kind of education matter? How does one account for the politics that determines the nature of education? Link this hypothesis to those presented by Mark Slouka (#28 on this page) and Lewis Lapham (#42 on this page). For the issue in South Asia, see Why is Pakistan Half Illiterate? How does one explain the Indian exception?
46. Professor Video: Visual, audio, and interactive media are transforming the college classroom. An update from Harvard Magazine.
47. In Praise of Conversation: Ian Johnston describes how a liberal arts education ought to be structured – shifting the emphasis “from lecturing to learning, from a carefully mediated talk to an emancipating conversation.”
48. Two Interviews with Tariq Ali and a Lecture by him: Interviews on Religion and Politics and a video of the Eqbal Ahmad memorial lecture on Afghanistan at Hampshire College. As usual, Tariq Ali leaves readers with much to think about whether they agree with him or not – just what a good public intellectual is supposed to do.
49. How to Defend the Enlightenment. An interesting, wide-ranging conversation that concludes as follows: “And so the final word about our discussion could be that it is by criticising the Enlightenment that we are faithful to its principles.”
50. Daud Rahbar: Most viewers of this video presentation by a truly Renaissance individual would gain new insights into the ghazal and learn something about religion.
51. Koi Sunta Hai: Journeys with Kumar and Kabir. Documentary directed by Shabnam Virmani. An exploration of the thought of the 15th century mystic poet and its expressions in our times. A subsequent documentary in the Kabir Project is available here.
52. Charter Cities: Speculations by Professor Paul Romer on rules, culture and development that contain many ideas for students.
53. Building a Green Economy: A primer on the economics of climate change by Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman.
54. Does Reason Know What It Is Missing? Stanley Fish continues an important dialogue about the intersection of reason and religion.
55. The True Function of Education. Stanley Fish argues that the true function of education should be to generate enthusiasm for the pursuit of knowledge and not to further any political agenda. The argument is built around a discussion of Paulo Freire’s widely influential book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.”
56. From Representative Democracy. Sunil Khilnani highlights the peculiarities of Indian democracy and the difference between political and social representation.
57. Letter from Birmingham Jail. Martin Luther King, Jr. reflects on injustice and how it needs to be combated. A 1963 document that needs to be read in full and re-interpreted for its relevance to the struggles for justice underway in South Asia at this time.
58. Religion Gone Global: An interview about rethinking secularism with Reza Aslan, author of No god but God and Beyond Fundamentalism. There is a great deal to think about in this interview. Highly recommended.
59. A Classical Education: Back to the Future. More from Stanley Fish on the foundations of a good education – grammar, logic, rhetoric.
60. The Disintegration of the Public Sector: Recasting Public Conversation. An essay by Tony Judt on why and how we should strive for political change.
61. Is God Irrelevant? An interesting essay on ‘apatheism’ – a viable third way between theism and atheism – by Davidson Loehr.
62. Obama and the World: Does America have a Foreign Policy? Does the World Need it? Evert Cilliers puts across a blistering, angry, profane, amusing critique labeling America the ‘psychopath of the planet.’ It would be interesting to poll our readers on this verdict. Do you agree or disagree?
63. They Will Do Whatever the Law Allows; Or, Don’t Hate the Player, Change the Game. An elegant, common-sense primer on the role of the government in the market.
64. Solve Kashmir First: Rethinking South Asia’s Longest War. A video discussion sponsored by the Open Society Institute and moderated by Steve Coll of the New Yorker with Pankaj Mishra, Basharat Peer and Professor Mridu Rai as panelists.
65. On Not Translating Hafez. Dick Davis in the New England Review has an overview of the sensibility of Persian poetry that is of interest in its own right. Given our experiment with the Ghalib Project on this blog, it is also of more specific interest. Our decision to work with individual couplets instead of entire ghazals is supported by the arguments in the paper.
66. Reappraisals: A critical review by Terry Eagleton of books by Tony Judt (Ill Fares the Land) and Martha Nussbaum (Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities). We have discussed all three – Eagleton, Judt and Nussbaum – on this blog and this review brings some of their ideas together in a particularly cogent manner. It also leaves us with many new ideas to explore.
67. Blood Without Guts: A wide-ranging discussion on the reasons for militarism in the US and why it is unlikely to fade away. It should make readers think about the parallels with militarism in Pakistan.
68. Environmentalism as Religion: An essay by Joel Garreau on the parallels between environmentalism and religion. And a complementary article on debates about secular or planetary humanism as an alternative to religious ethics.
69. What’s Wrong With Classical Music? Colin Eatock discusses the dilemma facing Western classical music today. Much the same can be said about Indian classical music. It would be useful to canvass suggestions on whether anything needs to be done, and, if so, what?
70. It’s the Occupation, Stupid: Extensive research into the causes of suicide terrorism proves Islam isn’t to blame – the root of the problem is foreign military occupation. Robert Pape discusses results of new research at the University of Chicago.
71. The Meaning of Secularism: Charles Taylor argues persuasively that in thinking of secularism we have the wrong model, which has a continuing hold on our minds. We think that secularism has to do with the relation of the state and religion, whereas in fact it has to do with the (correct) response of the democratic state to diversity.
72. The Haves and the Have-Nots: Catherine Rampell explains economic inequality within countries in a cross-country perspective. The graphic will require a little bit of working through but it will be well worth the effort.
73. Foreign Aid for Scoundrels: William Easterly describes the politics of foreign aid. “The international aid system has a dirty secret. Despite much rhetoric to the contrary, the nations and organizations that donate and distribute aid do not care much about democracy and they still actively support dictators.” Plus, a brief follow-up exchange.
74. Pakistan’s Road to Disintegration: Stephen Cohen, author of The Idea of Pakistan, has some very frank things to say about Pakistan’s future including its turning into an arena for an India-China conflict.
75. The Future of Political Islam: An useful video presentation by Tariq Ramadan that brings to light the many currents and cross-currents that are likely to shape the new configuration of power in the Middle East.
76. Urdu Ghazal and the Indian Mind: A profound article by Professor Gopi Chand Narang. The central thesis that is argued convincingly, with excellent illustrations from Urdu poetry, is that the Urdu Ghazal has a greater proximity with Indian cultural and spiritual ethos than Islamic ideas as practised in Arabia.
77. Secularism: Its Content and Context. Columbia University Professor Akeel Bilgrami provides a wide-ranging analysis of secularism including a discussion of its application to India. This is a demanding but rewarding paper.
78. Pakistan’s Latent “Potentialities”: An interview of Ashis Nandy by Chris Lydon. Ashis Nandy has a wide-ranging perspective on Pakistan that includes some aspects that are less heard than others.
79. What Makes People Vote Republican: An article on morality and moral psychology by Jonathan Haidt. An intriguing argument with a contrast between the US and India. Perhaps this also explains why many South Asian-Americans vote Republican. See also the companion article on Moral Psychology and the Misunderstanding of Religion. This TED Talks video by Haidt makes the ideas a lot more accessible.
80. Putting Growth in its Place: Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen explain the critical distinction between growth and development to answer the question ‘Is India doing marvelously well, or is it failing terribly?’ They show how growth is a means of development, not an end in itself. The authors conclude: ‘We hope that the puzzle with which we began is a little clearer now. India’s recent development experience includes both spectacular success as well as massive failure.’ The article includes very useful comparative data for South Asia.
81. What is India? Justice Markandey Katju articulates his perspective which should generate a rich discussion focused on ideas. In brief, he argues that India is a country of immigrants with a Sanskrit-Urdu culture traversing the perilous transition from feudal agriculture to modern industry. The next few decades will be critical. Many would find the thesis provocative but the temptation to attack the person rather than debate the ideas should be resisted.
82. Gandhi Centre Stage and After Nehru: Perry Anderson, Professor of History at UCLA, in the London Review of Books. A penetrating examination of Indian politics, the most insightful I have seen in years. Agree or disagree, it is a must-read.
83. Why Partition? A companion piece to the above by Perry Anderson and equally valuable in opening up the space for discussion. And an interview discussing his new book The Indian Ideology which “advances five main arguments that run counter to conventional wisdom in India today. Firstly, that the idea of a subcontinental unity stretching back six thousand years is a myth. Secondly, that Gandhi’s injection of religion into the national movement was ultimately a disaster for it. Thirdly, that primary responsibility for Partition lay not with the Raj, but Congress. Fourthly, that Nehru’s legacy to Republic was far more ambiguous than his admirers will admit. Lastly, that Indian democracy is not contradicted by caste inequality, but rather enabled by it.”
84. Ave atque vale: Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University, provides a great overview of the idea of a liberal arts education from Greece to the present. Invaluable for all who wish to explore the purpose of education and how and why it has changed over time.
85. East and West: The Reach of Reason. An invaluable essay by Amartya Sen tracing the history of reason, individual liberty, freedom, and choice in India starting from Ashoka in 3 BC and up to Akbar in the 16th Century AD. A must-read at this time in South Asia.
86. Piketty’s Fair-Weather Friends: Seth Ackerman, a doctoral student in history at Cornell, provides a valuable overview of economic ideas and theories to the present times. In doing so he demonstrates the value added of a good education and illustrates why some of the economic surplus of a society needs to be allocated to otherwise “useless” disciplines. Plus Nit-Piketty by Debraj Ray. These two comprise the reviews of Piketty’s book that I have liked most. Add one by Robert Solow because it helps to understand the conceptual apparatus of Piketty.
87. The Truth About Our Libertarian Age: Why the dogma of democracy doesn’t always make the world better. This is good advice from Mark Lilla on why we need to explore non-democratic alternatives.
88. Debating Pakistan in Late Colonial North India. Venkat Dhulipala explicates three narratives on Pakistan that emerged in the ferment of 1945-46. It is a worthwhile exercise to honestly assess which of these was the most intellectually compelling and which, in hindsight, turned out to be most prescient.
89. Capitalism and Slavery. A brief but comprehensive account of the deep links between slavery and capitalism and its global ramifications.
90. Tolerance, Religious Competition and the Rise and Fall of Muslim Science. A provocative, counter-intuitive but well-researched argument that is extremely relevant to contemporary times. It provides a “fresh answer to the puzzle of the steep and persistent decline of science in the Islamic world.
91. We Aren’t the World. Ethan Watters discusses new insights into the sources of human behavior and why we need to rethink the received wisdom. “Our economies hadn’t been shaped by our sense of fairness; it was the other way around.”
92. Death is Optional. A fascinating conversation about the future between Yuval Noah Harari and Daniel Kahneman, full of new ideas and perspectives.
93. What’s Wrong with the Economy – and with Economics? A high-powered conference at the New York Review of Books Foundation.
94. The Public Intellectual. A video interview with Professor Romila Thapar on the role of the public intellectual.
95. Can Islam be More Jewish? A good review of what promises to be a thoughtful book by Shahab Ahmed – What is Islam?
96. Crafting the Koran. Exquisite calligraphic samples of the various scripts in which the Koran was transcribed over the centuries.
97. Religious Obstacles to Democratization in the Middle East: Past and Present. Timur Kuran offers an institutional explanation of political problems in the Muslim world.
98. Economics and Philosophy. An engaging interview with John Broome on the intersection between Economics and Philosophy. Includes recommended reading by John Broome.