• On Writing Book Reviews

    Friends,

    Just a few thoughts, before proceeding to this next book which I intend to review on this blog. First of all, there are indeed rules for book-reviews which are published in journals, pertaining mostly to the length of such reviews. What constitutes a review or a proper review, I am afraid are matters which you should learn by doing and by getting such responses as your editors send to you.

    However, to the best of my knowledge there is nowhere a manual for blog book-reviews. Even the blogs which have inspired my own blog do not undertake book-reviews and to the best of my knowledge there isn't even a academic-bloggers-consortium in India, such that by interaction with each other, we could have arrived at a consensus of sorts, for how and what should constitute, a proper blog-book-review.

    However, to the extent, bloggers such as us, are practicing academics, it is my contention here, that blog-book-reviews cannot even remotely resemble journal book reviews, for very simply if I wrote a review such as the one given below in a journal-style or any journal-style, then the proper wages for such labour would merit a publication of this review, at the very least.

    A Book Review

    When a reviewer sets out to read the work under review the prime curiosity is always satisfied by reading first the contributions of the editor or editors as their contributions set the tune for the book under review. I have thus proceeded first to the very last essay written by Arun Bandhopadhyay, in a work which at first browse seems very topical and informative reading. In his article entitled as Three Issues from a CPR Management: Village Forestry in Post-colonial South Asia Bandhopadhyay first engages in a definitional debate regarding CPR (Common Property Resources) and after a brief polemic given on the basis of N.S.Jodha's (2001) work, listed in the bibliography here, comes to the following conclusion "viewed from the broader definition, CPRs in Indian villages include community pastures, different kinds of forests including community forests, wastelands, watershed drainages, village ponds, rivers and rivulets with their banks and beds, both from a de jure and a de facto rights framework." (pp.209). In the following paragraph he makes a more remarkable claim which I shall in part cite and paraphrase. He suggests, in the light of the definition he has chosen that in village forestry practices in post-colonial South Asia CPRs have been enormously "disregarded" both in "rural development programmes" as well as in "effective forest management" (pp.209). This has, and therefore, resulted in a dramatic reduction of CPR in the two states he considers, Tamil Nadu and Bengal. Citing Jodha again he considers "the depletion of the CPRs in India from 1951 to 1981 has been measured to vary from 31% to 55% in different regions. In one of our study areas (Tamil Nadu), the decline is stated to be 50%. Three factors are mentioned as causes. First, gradual extensions of private field borders took place through outright grabbing of CPR plots individually or collectively. Second, government also made distribution of CPR land as private land in the name of land reform in the last fifty years. Third, CPR area was also curtailed by various agencies of government like the forest departments or the panchayats in the name of development or resource harnessing." (pp. 210). He thus concludes the opening section of his paper by suggesting that "In order to have clearer, more focused view of the process of change in this area (Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, parenthesis mine), this paper concentrates on the history of `village forestry' in post-colonial South Asia with special reference to Tamil Nadu and West Bengal."

    Thereafter, in this article, we are introduced, historically, to the issue of forestry practices. Citing Madhav Gadgil and Ramachandra Guha's works (see bibliography) here Bandhopadhyay tells us that "from the middle of the nineteenth century, `scientific forestry' developed in India under the colonial auspices, which could lead to the artificial demarcation of `reserved', `protected' and `village' or `community forests'. This was very aesthetic, however in practice, both during and after the colonial era, this only meant official or administrative depredation of Indian Forests, whether for commercially valuable wood or for turning mixed multi-species forests, into commercially desirable single-species ones.

    The post-colonial era, 1950 onward, evidenced `Vana Mahotsava' and `Grow More Food' sorts of campaigns in forest areas, conveying the message that the depletion of forests was now a matter of administrative concern. The earliest of Vana Mahotsavís actually date to 1948, when the Government of Madras enjoined upon common people to grow such species as would be useful for fuel and to save cow-dung for manure. Two years later the Government of Madras is also discussed as being worried about the loss of soil-cover due to deforestation.

    Bandhopadhyay argues that the Van Mahotsavs were unsuccessful and in the 1960s and 1970s `farm forestry of various types' (pp. 211) was introduced. This also did not make any significant difference as Eucalyptus and Bamboo whose plantation was adopted proved ecologically degrading and `the lack of market intelligence in terms of prices and products was economically discouraging'. (pp. 211). Thus group farm forestry and joint industrial forestry also met a similar end.

    He casts further light on the development of forestry practices. Apparently, in the 1960s and 1970s, the forest departments of various states were preoccupied with large plantation-oriented social forestry projects, backed by the central government, foreign donor agencies and various agencies...keeping however the indigenous community separate and isolated from the forest management initiative. (pp.211). He cites, in particular, the case of Bihar which encouraged the programme of nurseries and fast-growing tree plantations in the 1980s, with the help of the SIDA (the Swedish International Development Agency) "keeping however the indigenous community separate and isolated from forestry management initiative" (see Poffenberger, McGean and Khare, bibliography).

    These limitations of social forestry (pp.211-212) projects became apparent over time, encouraging some planners to devise alternative methods of management. Joint Forestry Management (JFM), devised as Forest Protection Committees (FPCs), as early as in the 1970s, was adopted in certain parts of West Bengal, but only became widely known in the 1980s (see Poffenberger, bibliography). In 1988 and 1989, Orissa and West Bengal passed state resolutions recognizing the validity of community forest protection. In June 1990 the Government of India passed guidelines notifying that the exclusive rights to forest products be extended to those villages effectively protecting public forest lands. By 1994, sixteen states passed similar orders (see Poffenberger et al. op. cit.).

    Having reviewed thus "the history of village forestry" (pp.212) from Vana Mahotsavs, farm forestry, and social forestry, down to joint forest management, Bandhopadhyay feels that such a review makes for an appreciable understanding of social and ecological change in the past "fifty years" (pp. 212) as also "by that matter `good governance' aspects of it" (pp. 212). He now turns to his two case studies in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

    A next essay worth reviewing as a whole in this volume is Adivasi and Aranyaks: reconsidering some characterizations of their polity and economy in Pre-colonial India which is written by BB Choudhuri who is the first editor of this collection of very remarkable essays. In this essay Chaudhuri suggests that in the pre-Colonial context if it was certain that the Adivasi referred to forest dwellers then the term Aranyaks may be applied equally suitably, Chaudhuri suggests, to those groups of peasants, whether farmer or pastoral, who dwelled on the periphery of Adivasi areas, but more importantly that these two groups were in a symbiotic relationship with each other during the pre-Colonial period.

    This is a very fundamental point which scholars and students of tribal history of India have to take into account as it is this which demolishes the colonial overhang of the idea that Indian Tribes were always cultural isolates. Chaudhuri buttresses this contention successfully with appending arguments. He then turns to examining the nature and impact of the pre-Colonial or the Mughal State on various forestry communities and their symbiotic counterparts.

    Towards such an end he not only takes a look at the works of Shireen Moosvi and Irfan Habib (see bibliography) on the nature of agrarian relations during the Mughal Period, and we find through this exercise, that Chaudhuri's deductions are in perfect order, however, he also, through the medium of this very welcome construct leads onto challenge Gadgil/Guha's concepts about a sort of `Ram Raj' for forestry communities during pre-Colonial times.

    Another essay in this remarkable volume worth reviewing is B.D. Chattopadhyaya's contribution entitled as State's Perception of the `Forest' and the `Forest' as State in Early India. The opening lines to this remarkable chapter are worth quoting in full `There are many ways in which forests have been perceived both in written sources of early India and modern historiography of analyses of such sources (here he cites a recent works as by Romila Thapar, see bibliography). the most general characterization of the forest is derived from its terminological contrast with other types of spaces. If forest was aranya, vana, jangala and so on in ancient texts, it stood in contrast to areas which were different such as kshetra, janapada, nadu, suggestive of spaces with greater human civilizational (and here I would have preferred the word Density) associations.' (contd.).

    ...

    (contd.)

    Ajay

    Bibliography

    Gadgil, M and Guha, R. 1993. This Fissured Land: An Ecological History of India. University of California Press.

    Gadgil, M and Guha, R. 1995. Ecology and Equity: The Use and Abuse of Nature in Contemporary India. OIP. Delhi.

    Habib, I. 1999. The Agrarian System of Mughal India, 1556-1707. OUP. Delhi.

    Jodha, N.S. 2001. Life on the Edge: Sustaining Agriculture and Community Resources in Fragile Environments. OUP, New Delhi.

    Moosvi, S. 1987. The economy of the Mughal Empire c. 1595: a statistical study. OUP. Delhi.

    Poffenberger, M. 1985. The resurgence of community forest management in the jungle mahals of West Bengal. In Arnold, D, and Guha, Ramachandra (Ed.) Nature, Culture and Imperialism: essays on the environmental history of South Asia.OUP.USA

    Poffenberger, M McGean, B and Khare, A. 1998. Communities sustaining India's Forests in the Twenty-first Century. In Poffenberger, M, McGean, B. (Eds.) Village Voices, Forest Choices: Joint Forest Management in India. OUP. Delhi.

    Thapar, R. 2001. Perceiving the forest: early India. Studies in History. New Series. 17.1 (2001). pp?

  • On Plagiarism

    On Plagiarism

    By

    Ajay Pratap,
    Professor,
    Department of History,
    Faculty of Social Sciences,
    Banaras Hindu University,
    Varanasi - 221 005

    Friends,

    I am writing this post specifically for my PhD students. They have often asked me questions like "What is the Harvard Citation System?", "Why should we use such a complicated system of referencing?", and, ultimately, "What purpose does it serve?"

    Without wishing really to add to the many woes a doctoral student faces in putting-together a systematic body of text, based on original research, called their dissertation or thesis, here are a few reasons which I wish to put before you, for your consideration, why following a standard and acknowledged referencing system for your thesis is a must.

    Here are some definitions of Plagiarism:

    Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism

    UC Davis: http://cai.ucdavis.edu/plagiarism.html

    The Online Dictionary: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/plagiarism

    Hinkhoj: http://dict.hinkhoj.com/words/meaning-of-PLAGIARISM-in-hindi.html

    Friends, thus those of us who are in the academic community will be very quick to realize how serious this offense is just as quickly as we would also see that the best way to circumvent such a circumstance by chance is to follow a proper system of citation. I have given below the Harvard System of Citation as I myself prefer this system well above others that I have run into in the past few years.

    The Harvard Citation System:

    http://libweb.anglia.ac.uk/referencing/harvard.htm

    Practice makes perfect. Try using it! However, a story half-told is best not told at all. Your next query, in this context of citations/and/or referencing systems in research publications would very logically lead to the question: what indeed are research publications, in the first place, and, I would think that to be a very good question. Typically, research publications, from the simplest to the most complex, are arranged in such an order, in my personal but most practical sort of reckoning: book-reviews, short-notes, short research articles, long research articles, and finally, or rather most finally a monograph. let's deal with these issues, one by one. Other issues should arise as we get along and indeed we shall aspire to be dealing with them on a catch-as-catch-can basis.

    ..........................

    1. Book Review, what is it?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_review

    2. What is a short-note?

    http://www.plinia.net/skills/snotes.html

    3. What is a short research article?

    http://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/academic1/short-research-papers/

    4. What is a long research article?

    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070401081248AAgF9WW

    5. What is a monograph?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monograph

    ............

    Friends,

    This done, to some degree of satisfaction, and do let me have your responses at apratap_hist@bhu.ac.in, let us proceed now, to a question which has most frequently been heard in our departmental corridors, which is "How to publish?", which is to say, "How to publish some thing which your have succeeded in writing and which falls into one or more of the categories which I have outlined above, for your convenience?"

    As before, let us take each of these, one by one.

    ..................

    How to Publish a Book Review?

    http://www.ehow.com/how_2301927_publish-academic-book-review.html

    How to publish a Short Note?

    http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2007/02/which_journals_.html

    How to publish a research paper?

    http://www.wikihow.com/Publish-a-Research-Paper

    How to publish a Monograph?

    http://www.power-publishers.com/

    How to publish a Journal?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_publishing

    How to publish A Blog?

    http://www.simplesite.com/pages/receive.aspx?partnerkey=ffgoogle:IN_Search_Blog_3&target=ftp3:crea&swi=blog

    How to publish a website?

    Being currently a publisher of my own website this necessarily means that I have to mull-over this issue somewhat? Shall be right back.

    http://www.simplesite.com/pages/receive.aspx?partnerkey=ffgoogle:IN_Search_Website_BM_Website&target=ftp3:crea

    The End

    P.S.

    However, I shall check the URL for the Harvard Referencing System given above to see if I have missed-out on any category of publications which should be of relevance to my students.

    How to self publish an e-Book?

    http://reviews.cnet.com/how-to-self-publish-an-e-book

    How to publish Magazine and Newspaper Articles?

    Dear Students, this one is very simple and I would like to here include articles on History, Culture and Heritage which you may wish to write and for which there are more than many takers in the Indian Publishing Scene. Magazines like Discover India, the India Magazine, Inside Outside, Swagat, Namaskar and a feast of others which may have newly come-up are always on the look-out for informed but popular essays on this monument and that, this cultural practice or that, preferably accompanied with nice pictures and so on. In both these cases you may wish to write-out your story such that it appeals to the general public with nice photos to go with them (here magazine editors are very fussy about the micro-resolution or the grains of a picture etc.). Newspaper usually do not have much space and therefore writing feature-articles for them require more of informed and scholarly text rather than pictures. In both cases you, Dear Student, stand to get paid some money too! Therefore, first-off you would need to improve your photography skills. By virtue of having taken my education in the 1970s and the 1980s I personally belong to the SLR or the Single Lens Reflex Cameras generation when you could by yourself control for the aperture and the shutter-speed, even check the depth-of-the-field etc. Digital Cameras of today, however, claim that they are idiot-proof. However, this is contested, because framing a picture which a magazine would accept or a newspaper is no idiot's job! Thus, and therefore, for research students undertaking fieldwork it is absolutely essential to undergo some amount of training whether through do-it-yourself manuals or through short-formal courses in Audio-Visual techniques of field-data recording.

    ....................

    And, I haven't even begun to speak about the recording of Oral History Data, as yet? Ever tried to read Jan Vansina's The African Past Speaks? I suppose no. Well at least try!

    The importance of Oral Tradition...has been recognized for a longtime now however what significance that has, has always been a mater of debate. Not so lately!

    More later!

    ............

    Friends,

    This explication of some of the rules governing proper referencing and citation of other scholars' work in your publications and writing is now, and technically, at an end, for the moment. I propose to take this post off this Blog in due course.

    A small-note, just to let you know!

    Thank you.

    Ajay

    (Contd.)

    ...

    Thank you,

    Ajay

    5.1.2013

  • Terminal Pleistocene Temperatures in the Vindhyas

    Friends,

    Even a cursory look at the human adaptations in the Vindhyas during the last phases of the last Ice Age suggests that some degree of climate change did take place. The rock art data (see our project website http://www.rockartofindia.webs.com/ is replete with evidence of such changes during and posterior to the Pleistocene-Holocene climate change.

    Thus such a claim is just a little more than a plain truism, innit? The question, however, is how precise are our estimates of the temperatures prevailing during this fluctuating climatic regime'? What sort of temperatures, for instance, obtained between,say 14,000 B.C. and 8,000 B.C., the former being the Vindhyan date for the Upper Palaeolithic Period (for instance at Wyndham Falls!) and the Latter for the start of the Mesolithic!

    However, climatic estimates have to be based on real time data and not estimates of one sort or another. A good example which comes to my mind is the work, for instance, of Meltzer and Holliday (2010), insofar as the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition in North America is concerned.

    Think about that!

    Bibliography

    Meltzer, D.J. and V.T. Holliday. 2010. Would North American Paleoindians have noticed Younger Dryas age climate changes? Journal of World Prehistory 23: 1-41.

    http://www.academia.edu/2690258/Climatic_Change_during_the_Pleistocene_Holocene_Transition_in_Upland_Western_Maharashtra_Western_India

    ...

    Thank you.

    Ajay

  • Morhana Pahar: A rediscovery

    Morhana Pahar: A Rediscovery

    by

    Ajay Pratap

    In this paper we shall reconsider the significance of rock art at Morhana Pahar, which was last discussed in a most scholarly article by Bridget Allchin (1958). The work of Mishra (1967), Varma (1957) and Jayaswal (1983) have followed in its wake. As has ours (see footnote!). And yet, very very clearly the total rock art resources of this region of Uttar Pradesh remain unexplored and unexcavated to the limits of their possibility.

    Of the painted rock shelters, which my students A.P. Pathak, Rajeev Pratap, Nawal Kumar and Gobind Paswan have surveyed and documented, to some extent, there are a total of fourteen at the location conventionally called Morhana. Five a few kilometers away, at another location, traditionally called Lekhania (Likhaneya Pahar in A.C. Carllyele's reckoning, however Carlleyle perhaps also visited Likhaniya Dari in the Valley of the River Garai at Sukrit Range of Hills! Fundamentally, and a linguistic turn here: the word Likhaniya literally means That Which Has Been Written or Writing ergo in folk perception the rock paintings may be regarded as writing of sorts!); others such as Bagai-Khor (excavated by R.K. Varma 1967) and Lahariya-Dih (excavated by V. Jayaswal, 1983), remain to be visited by us.

    The most remarkable feature of the rock art at this remarkable landscape is that this corpus of very heavily painted shelters at the very minimum represents a great population density, Upper Pleistocene onward to the Modern Period. We have ourselves studied at length and documented twelve painted rock shelters at the locality called Morhana Pahar and five separate but conjoined areas (called 'Chambers' by us) at Lekhania Pahar. However, in view of the sites mentioned by us above which we are yet to visit there is a great likelihood that the total number of painted rock art sites on the Morhana Escarpment may reach fifty or so!

    In his famous work of 1963, F.R. Allchin suggests (Year?, Pp.?) that he visited then the existing pastoral and agro-pastoral villages of Mirzapur to study ethnoarchaeologically why after-all do the agro-pastoralists accumulate cowdung mounds at their seasonal cattle-stations. His discussion of this point is remarkable.

    For the while, some pictures of it, by way of an introduction:

    DSC07365

    DSC07388

    DSC07395

    (Photo Courtesy: Dr. Nawal Kumar)

    DSC07396

    (Photo Courtesy: Dr. Nawal Kumar)

    (Cont'd.)

    -----------

    Thank you.

    Ajay

    Bibliography

    Allchin, B. 1958. Morhana Pahar: A Rediscovery. Man 58. 153-55.

    Allchin, F.R. 1963. Neolithic Cattle-Keepers of South India. The Deccan Ashmounds Problem. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

    Jayaswal, V. 1983. Excavation of a Painted Rock Shelter at Leharia-dih, Mirzapur District. Bharati, New Series. (1): 126-33.

    Misra, V.D., Pal, J.N. 2002. Mesolithic India. Allahabad. Allahabad University Press.

    Pratap, A. 2011a. Interpreting the Rock Art Imagery of the Vindhyas: Recent Surveys at Wyndham Falls, Likhaniya Dari, Chuna Dari, and Morhana Pahar. In Journal of Vikramshila Institute of Social Sciences. Bhagalpur. Pp?

    Pratap, A. 2011b. The Prehistoric Rock Art Imagery of the Vindhyas, Uttar Pradesh. Ancient India. New Series. No. 1. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi.

    Varma, R.K. 2012. Rock Art of Central India. North Vindhyan Region. With Special Reference to Mirzapur and the Adjoining Regions in Uttar Pradesh and Baghelkhand in Madhya Pradesh. Aryan Books International. New Delhi.

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