Art of course is often more than just art. When the National Opera of Ukraine reopened in May, defying the thud of artillery and wail of air-raid sirens, it was a political and social statement as much as an artistic one. Less dramatically, public performances of Cantonese opera in Hong Kong have for decades contributed to the formation and perpetuation of a local identity.  

Blind in Early Modern Japan: Disability, Medicine, and Identity, Wei Yu Wayne Tan (University of Michigan Press, September 2022)
Blind in Early Modern Japan: Disability, Medicine, and Identity, Wei Yu Wayne Tan (University of Michigan Press, September 2022)

While the loss of sight—whether in early modern Japan or now—may be understood as a disability, blind people in the Tokugawa period (1600–1868) could thrive because of disability. The blind of the era were prominent across a wide range of professions, and through a strong guild structure were able to exert contractual monopolies over certain trades. Blind in Early Modern Japan illustrates the breadth and depth of those occupations, the power and respect that accrued to the guild members, and the lasting legacy of the Tokugawa guilds into the current moment.

Mansi Choksi’s The Newlyweds is an investigative journey into the lives of three young couples, who, to be together, defy conventions of caste, religion and sexuality. These individuals belong to small towns and villages—home to almost 70% of India’s current population—often growing up with strict moral codes and duties towards their families and communities. Choksi documents their journeys as they break traditional barriers, trying to understand and showcase if love really survives the ordeals that follow. 

In the early 2000s, a group of anthropologists formed the Matsutake Worlds Research Group (MWRG). Their object of collaborative study was to be the matsutake mushroom and the ways in which humans interact with it. 15 or so years might seem a long time for a scholar (let alone a team of them) to study a single mushroom; nevertheless their project is ongoing, having produced two research monographs so far: Anna Tsing’s The Mushroom At The End Of The World and now Michael Hathaway’s What A Mushroom Lives For, as well as a series of essays. There promises to be at least one more book yet to come. 

There are two thoughts about how English fits in India. One holds that it is a foreign language; the other claims that it is an Indian language. In her book Vernacular English: Reading the Anglophone in Postcolonial India, Akshya Saxena takes English out of this Indian/foreign binary and argues that it should be seen on the spectrum of its usage in India. At one end of this spectrum is its use by the state (in official documents and even in election slogans). At the other end is the use of English in protests against the state. 

Science and Religion in India: Beyond Disenchantment, Renny Thomas (Routledge, December 2021)
Science and Religion in India: Beyond Disenchantment, Renny Thomas (Routledge, December 2021)

This book provides an in-depth ethnographic study of science and religion in the context of South Asia, giving voice to Indian scientists and shedding valuable light on their engagement with religion. Drawing on biographical, autobiographical, historical, and ethnographic material, the volume focuses on scientists’ religious life and practices, and the variety of ways in which they express them.

On Hong Kong’s Ice House Street, in the heart of the city’s Financial District, is Club Lusitano: one of the city’s premier social clubs, nestled at the top of an office tower. But the club’s roots stretch back over 150 years, when it was originally set up to serve the colony’s burgeoning Portuguese community—including many who hopped over the Pearl River Delta from the Portuguese colony of Macau.