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Leveling Crowds: Ethnonationalist Conflicts and Collective Violence in South Asia

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Ethno-nationalist conflicts are rampant today, causing immense human loss. Stanley J. Tambiah is concerned with the nature of the ethno-nationalist explosions that have disfigured so many regions of the world in recent years. He focuses primarily on collective violence in the form of civilian "riots" in South Asia, using selected instances in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and India Ethno-nationalist conflicts are rampant today, causing immense human loss. Stanley J. Tambiah is concerned with the nature of the ethno-nationalist explosions that have disfigured so many regions of the world in recent years. He focuses primarily on collective violence in the form of civilian "riots" in South Asia, using selected instances in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and India. He situates these riots in the larger political, economic, and religious contexts in which they took place and also examines the strategic actions and motivations of their principal agents. In applying a wide range of social theory to the problems of ethnic and religious violence, Tambiah pays close attention to the history and culture of the region. On one level this provocative book is a scrupulously detailed anthropological and historical study, but on another it is an attempt to understand the social and political changes needed for a more humane order, not just in South Asia, but throughout the world.


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Ethno-nationalist conflicts are rampant today, causing immense human loss. Stanley J. Tambiah is concerned with the nature of the ethno-nationalist explosions that have disfigured so many regions of the world in recent years. He focuses primarily on collective violence in the form of civilian "riots" in South Asia, using selected instances in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and India Ethno-nationalist conflicts are rampant today, causing immense human loss. Stanley J. Tambiah is concerned with the nature of the ethno-nationalist explosions that have disfigured so many regions of the world in recent years. He focuses primarily on collective violence in the form of civilian "riots" in South Asia, using selected instances in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and India. He situates these riots in the larger political, economic, and religious contexts in which they took place and also examines the strategic actions and motivations of their principal agents. In applying a wide range of social theory to the problems of ethnic and religious violence, Tambiah pays close attention to the history and culture of the region. On one level this provocative book is a scrupulously detailed anthropological and historical study, but on another it is an attempt to understand the social and political changes needed for a more humane order, not just in South Asia, but throughout the world.

40 review for Leveling Crowds: Ethnonationalist Conflicts and Collective Violence in South Asia

  1. 4 out of 5

    Iftekhar Sayeed

    An honest South Asian intellectual is as rare as rocking horse turd. This is one honourable exception. Tambiah unflinchingly lays the responsibility for violence in South Asia at the door of democracy. As an anthropologist, he is a credit to his profession: he looks at the phenomenon itself, without prejudice and preconceptions. As an academic, he is no doubt able to rise above donor pressure, political maneuverings, and the sheer intellectual dishonesty that characterises our intelligentsia. But An honest South Asian intellectual is as rare as rocking horse turd. This is one honourable exception. Tambiah unflinchingly lays the responsibility for violence in South Asia at the door of democracy. As an anthropologist, he is a credit to his profession: he looks at the phenomenon itself, without prejudice and preconceptions. As an academic, he is no doubt able to rise above donor pressure, political maneuverings, and the sheer intellectual dishonesty that characterises our intelligentsia. But the same cannot be said of academics in general. This book will not be read by most people: another of those unbenign neglects that stifle discourse and debate in this part of the world. Pity.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Drew Kerr

    Leveling Crowds is a necessary read in the literature of ethnic conflict, violent riots, and riotous events in South Asia of (primarily) the 20th century. An excellent choice for cases looking at Sri Lanka (1915 Sinhala Buddhist-Muslim Riots), Pakistan (particularly Sindh and Punjab, but actually a rather tightly packed section on religio-politco-ethnic issues of Pakistan during partition / post-partition history), and India (Hindu-Sikh tension 1980s, and onward, Punjab and Delhi). Tambiah's wri Leveling Crowds is a necessary read in the literature of ethnic conflict, violent riots, and riotous events in South Asia of (primarily) the 20th century. An excellent choice for cases looking at Sri Lanka (1915 Sinhala Buddhist-Muslim Riots), Pakistan (particularly Sindh and Punjab, but actually a rather tightly packed section on religio-politco-ethnic issues of Pakistan during partition / post-partition history), and India (Hindu-Sikh tension 1980s, and onward, Punjab and Delhi). Tambiah's writing both captures interest and provokes engagement with the roots, implications, and trajectory of these events, themselves. Because of Tambiah's personal experiences and intimate inclination to the Sri Lankan case, there is much more material woven into that section -- for anyone focused on Sri Lankan affairs, the chapter's bibliography alone is an invaluable resource. Similarly, the India case is also evocative and charged with personal and first-hand accounts. I am unconvinced, or rather left questioning, his conclusion on the matter-of-fact presence of current, violent ethnic conflict in South Asia, and the world; in which he seems to side-step to statements he critiques in other writers or rushes to finish a book already thickly crafted for his ambitious project.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amrapali

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kryzel Bonifacio

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kerry

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bernadette M

  9. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

  10. 4 out of 5

    PeaceAll

    Brilliantly written by a Harvard Professor of Anthropology.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michel Van Goethem

  13. 4 out of 5

    Soo

  14. 4 out of 5

    Vijay S

  15. 4 out of 5

    daniel dillon

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ulla Sperber

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  18. 5 out of 5

    Debora Casanova

  19. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

  20. 5 out of 5

    Fatima

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sapan

  22. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  23. 5 out of 5

    Wrb

  24. 4 out of 5

    P

  25. 5 out of 5

    Eromsted

  26. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

  27. 4 out of 5

    Aakash

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

  29. 4 out of 5

    Smps

  30. 5 out of 5

    Adam

  31. 5 out of 5

    Tulendra Saikia

  32. 5 out of 5

    Maxwin

  33. 5 out of 5

    Elina

  34. 4 out of 5

    David

  35. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

  36. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Zu

  37. 5 out of 5

    T.

  38. 5 out of 5

    LPenting

  39. 4 out of 5

    Taseer

  40. 4 out of 5

    a20

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