Reflections / 17.10.2012

By Kabir Altaf … ‘Please excuse me,’ Riaz was saying to Brownlow. ‘But you are a little arrogant.’…. ‘Your liberal beliefs belong to a minority who live in northern Europe. Yet you think moral superiority over the rest of mankind is a fact. You want to dominate others with your particular morality, which has—as you also well know—gone hand-in-hand with fascist imperialism.’ Here Riaz leaned towards Brownlow. ‘This is why we have to guard against the hypocritical and smug intellectual atmosphere of Western civilization.’  … ‘That atmosphere you deprecate. With reason. But this civilization has also brought us this –' ‘Dr. Brownlow, tell us what it has brought us,’ Shahid said.  …On his fingers he counted them off. ‘Literature, painting, architecture, psychoanalysis, science, journalism, music, a stable political culture, organized sport—at a pretty high level. And all this has gone hand-in-hand with something significant. That is: critical enquiry into...

Development / 02.06.2009

By Anjum Altaf What have we learned from our discussion of the laws of inheritance? First, that laws pertaining to the same issue can differ across societies and over time. Second, that laws need not be divinely ordained and fixed for all times and places. The law of primogeniture was introduced in England in 1066 after the Norman invasion because the Norman knights who were awarded land grants did not wish their estates to be diluted by divisions. Third, laws can have negative and positive effects. The law of primogeniture was unfair because it deprived all heirs except the eldest son from a share in the wealth of the father.However, by removing all uncertainty from the issue of political succession, it provided a lot of stability in society. This was in marked contrast to the fratricidal conflicts that plagued succession in the Mughal Empire. Fourth, these positive and negative consequences...

Reflections / 12.05.2009

By Kabir Altaf Flora: You are an Indian artist, aren’t you? Stick up for yourself. Why do you like everything English? Das: I do not like everything English. Flora: Yes, you do. You’re enthralled. Chelsea, Bloomsbury, Oliver Twist, Goldflake cigarettes, Winsor and Newton… even painting in oils, that’s not Indian. You’re trying to paint me from my point of view instead of yours—what you think is my point of view. You deserve the bloody Empire! (Tom Stoppard, Indian Ink, pg. 43) Great works of art often reveal insights about history in ways that are more accessible than academic historical accounts.  One work that was especially powerful in doing so for me is Tom Stoppard’s play Indian Ink. Ever since I first read this play some years ago, it has provoked me to think about the colonial experience in India as well as issues of identity and nationalism more generally. In the...