Dressed like Rajput princesses in bangles, rhinestones and brocade tightly fitted over their svelte bodies, the young women created a stir when they entered the elevator of our nondescript apartment block in Singapore. Only later did I learn that these were bar dancers, dispatched by their needy families in rural Bihar to earn 200 hundred dollars a week in the clubs on Circular Road. 100 years earlier these women might have aspired to become elite entertainers, tawaifs, for the aristocrats of Benares or Lucknow. Saba Dewan’s magistral work explains the decline and fall of this storied tradition.

John Oliver has been blamed, among other things, for helping Donald Trump win the 2016 US Presidential race. Rather than dealing with the rise of right-wing populism, liberals like Oliver chose to deride, ridicule and dismiss. Worldwide, liberals are seen as elitists and out of sync with the problems of the common man. In her book Reading India Now: Contemporary Formations in Literature and Popular Culture, Ulka Anjaria approaches the issue through the examples of literature and popular culture produced in India since 2000.

Chinese Grammatology: Script Revolution and Literary Modernity, 1916–1958, Yurou Zhong (Columbia University Press, November 2019)
Chinese Grammatology: Script Revolution and Literary Modernity, 1916–1958, Yurou Zhong (Columbia University Press, November 2019)

Chinese Grammatology traces the origins, transmutations, and containment of this script revolution to provide a groundbreaking account of its formative effects on Chinese literature and culture, and lasting implications for the encounter between the alphabetic and nonalphabet worlds.

Performing the Arts of Indonesia: Malay Identity and Politics in the Music, Dance and Theatre of the Riau Islands, Margaret J Kartomi (ed) (NIAS press, July 2019)
Performing the Arts of Indonesia: Malay Identity and Politics in the Music, Dance and Theatre of the Riau Islands, Margaret J Kartomi (ed) (NIAS press, July 2019)

A fascinating and innovative study of the Malay performing arts of Kepri, Performing the Arts of Indonesia is the first of its kind. The volume, written by fifteen contributors, adds greatly to our knowledge of the cultures of a region previously receiving little attention and brings to light previously unknown material.