Thursday, January 24, 2008


I'm traveling to China tomorrow for work, so naturally I read a book about India this week. Edward Luce's In Spite of the Gods makes for an excellent introduction of India. The book is organized thematically with each chapter covering a topic like the urban-rural divide, the role of Nehru-Gandhi family, the state of the caste system and the role of a rising India is national politics. Each chapter provides the basic context for the topic as well as illustrative interviews with political, business and cultural figures.

With each chapter, we see India as an immensely diverse country. While there are rural differences, the rural north is quite different from the rural south. Hinduism is the most significant religion, but Islam is also well represented as is Christianity. The importance of caste means that class based analysis will often miss the mark on understanding identity. The huge number of political parties representing all of the nation's interests makes governing quite a feat.
No single book will ever be able tell you all you need to know about a country. This one manages to clearly provide some key points and will provides a reader with the interest and confidence to read further.

You can read a Q&A with the author here.

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