Radio for the Millions: Hindi-Urdu Broadcasting Across Borders, Isabel Huacuja Alonso (Columbia University Press, January 2023) Columbia University Press
Radio for the Millions: Hindi-Urdu Broadcasting Across Borders, Isabel Huacuja Alonso (Columbia University Press, January 2023)

From news about World War II to the broadcasting of music from popular movies, radio played a crucial role in an increasingly divided South Asia for more than half a century. Radio for the Millions examines the history of Hindi-Urdu radio during the height of its popularity from the 1930s to the 1980s, showing how it created transnational communities of listeners.

It helps to come to Islands & Cultures—a collection of essays focusing largely if not exclusively, as goes the subtitle, on “sustainability”—with at least some background on Polynesia, not because such background is necessary to follow the arguments in the various papers, but because otherwise one will be spending a great deal of time on the Internet chasing down one interesting reference after another.

Ashoka the Great (3rd century BCE) of the ancient Indian Mauryan dynasty (4th to 2nd century BCE) remains something of a mystery. He was emperor of one of the largest and richest kingdoms of the ancient times that covered Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northern parts of India. However, he was forgotten in India (while continuing to be revered in China and Southeast Asia, thanks to his appearance in Buddhist narratives) until the 19th century British scholars researching Indian antiquity discovered him as texts and inscriptions in the previously unreadable Brahmi script came to be newly deciphered.

It can be easy to think of colonies as having two populations: colonial subjects, and colonial overlords from Europe. It’s an easy narrative: one has power, status and privilege, the other does not. But in practice, European colonies created many populations in-between: groups who benefited from imperial power, yet not one of the elite.

The World of the Ancient Silk Road describes what once represented the epicenter of civilization, before being swallowed up and forgotten, like the Library of Dunhuang, by invading sands. In the last thirty years or so, researchers have increasingly brought this world back to light. The operative word in the title is “world”, for it is really on an expansive scale that editor Liu Xinru has structured this volume. 32 different academic papers cover topics as varied as the merchandise of an ancient caravan. Fittingly, many of these papers use the dispersed manuscripts of Dunhuang as their sources.

After years of diplomatic pressure from the United States, China placed all fentanyl-related chemicals under an enhanced regulatory regime in 2019… only to see India emerge as a new source for the drug’s precursors the next year. Since then overdose deaths have continued to surge, prompting one US Senator to declare that “The flow of deadly synthetic opioids across our southern border is a public health crisis and a national security threat.” Peter Thilly’s new book, The Opium Business: A History of Crime and Capitalism in Maritime China, shows that a rising tide of addiction can indeed threaten a nation. It also shows why government attempts to disrupt the drug trade so often fail.

The Journey of Hindi Language Journalism in India: From Raj to Swaraj and Beyond, Mrinal Pande (Orient BlackSwan, September 2022)
The Journey of Hindi Language Journalism in India: From Raj to Swaraj and Beyond, Mrinal Pande (Orient BlackSwan, September 2022)

In India, the English-language media is considered the “national media”, while vernacular media remains “regional”. However, from the 1980s onwards, demographic changes and growth in literacy in the Hindi heartland broadened the market for Hindi newspapers.