The world-weary Giuseppe Lampedusa introduced us to the cynical formulation “for everything to remain as it was, it’s necessary for everything to change.” Empires rise and fall, sometimes swiftly.  The papers in Short Term Empires in World History, delivered at a conference held in Germany in 2017, raise the issue of continuity and discontinuity in the context of characterizing empires.

Back in the day, whenever one was in a waiting room or vestibule, one would likely come across a copy of “Reader’s Digest”, which would include a diverse selection of pieces, often abridged, often extracts from elsewhere: easy reading, something to interest anyone and everyone, thought-provoking but not enough to require too much mental exertion.

The Tantra is an Indian esoteric doctrine of mysticism spanning Hinduism and Buddhism. It incorporates not just the spiritual but also the sexual ways of becoming one with the divine. While the Indian poets belonging to the devotional bhakti movement have written about the possibilities of the union with God with a hint of eroticism, this extreme route of using sexual practice to know everything, including the ultimate divinity, has remained unexplored. 

Mention Japanese film and responses will likely range from the 1950s Golden Age to today’s panoply of genre movies. The variance has less to do with conflicts between artistry and populism—even Kurosawa famously trafficked in samurai—than with context and perspective. International acclaim, whether past or present, offers only a limited vista on a country’s internal cinematic life; to make full sense of Japan’s giant dinosaurs, yakuza gangsters and animated princesses, you need someone well-placed on the ground. Someone like Mark Schilling.

In a collection of essays penned by Arab women reporting from the Arab world, one can expect destruction and bullets, bodies and despair to litter the pages. And rightfully so. Our Women On The Ground: Essays By Arab Women Reporting From The Arab World does not shy away from the front lines and splashes copious amounts of reality onto readers who dare to venture into its chapters.

Voices from the Chinese Century: Public Intellectual Debate from Contemporary China, edited by Timothy Cheek, David Ownby, and Joshua A Fogel (Columbia University Press, November 2019)
Voices from the Chinese Century: Public Intellectual Debate from Contemporary China, edited by Timothy Cheek, David Ownby, and Joshua A Fogel (Columbia University Press, November 2019)

China’s increasing prominence on the global stage has caused consternation and controversy among Western thinkers, especially since the financial crisis of 2008. But what do Chinese intellectuals themselves have to say about their country’s newfound influence and power? Voices from the Chinese Century brings together a selection of essays from representative leading thinkers that open a window into public debate in China today on fundamental questions of China and the world—past, present, and future.

Manu S Pillai, the acclaimed author of a monumental historical study, The Ivory Throne: Chronicles of the House of Travancore (2015), presents himself here in a somewhat lighter vein, with a series of essays on interesting personalities, known and unknown, from Indian history both before and during British rule.