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Last modified: Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ramachandra Guha, Indian environmental author and historian, to present IU's Bhattacharya Lecture

Oct. 15, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Ramachandra Guha, an environmental author, historian and biographer based in Bangalore, India, will present the Hrishikesh and Sailabala Bhattacharya Memorial Lecture at Indiana University at 5 p.m. on Oct. 24.

Ramachandra Guha

Ramachandra Guha

Print-Quality Photo

Guha's lecture, "The Beauty of Compromise: Political Reconciliation in South Asia," is being presented by IU's India Studies Program in the President's Room of the University Club, located in the Indiana Memorial Union, 900 E. Seventh St. It is free and open to the public.

"This lecture will present a case for a philosophy of political moderation. Over the past few decades, the nation-states of South Asia have been home to some of the most bitter and costly conflicts of the modern world," Guha said. "These conflicts have run along the fault-lines of language, caste, religion and ethnicity. Some conflicts, which once threatened to tear a nation apart, have been, in the end, resolved. However, other conflicts have persisted for decades, with the animosities between the contending parties deepening further with every passing year.

"By examining a range of such conflicts, this lecture will argue that they stand the best chance of being resolved when the language of ideology is converted into the currency of interest, and when both sides are willing to recognize the 'beauty of compromise,'" he added.

The New York Times wrote of Guha that he is "perhaps the best of India's nonfiction writers."

Born in Dehradun in 1958, Guha studied at St. Stephen's College, Delhi, and took his doctorate at the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata. From 1985 to 1995, he held academic posts in India, Europe and North America. Since 1995, he has been a full-time writer. Guha also has since been a visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Yale, Stanford and Oslo.

His first book, The Unquiet Woods: Ecological Change and Peasant Resistance in the Himalaya (jointly published by Oxford University Press and the University of California Press, 1989), was called by one reviewer as "an uncommon story told in an uncommonly eloquent manner" and "one of the decade's most significant contributions to the social history of the environment." The book is now in its sixth printing.

Among Guha's other books are Savaging the Civilized: Verrier Elwin, His Tribals and India (Oxford University Press and University of Chicago Press, 1999); Environmentalism: A Global History (Addison Wesley Longman, 2000), and two books on Indian ecological conflicts co-authored with Madhav Gadgil: This Fissured Land (1992) and Ecology and Equity (1995). His collection of environmental essays, How Much Should a Person Consume? was published in 2006 by the University of California Press.

Guha has published scholarly essays in Past and Present, the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Development and Change, and Economic and Political Weekly. His essay, "Radical American Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation," first published in 1989, has been reprinted in more than 30 anthologies. Another essay, "Prehistory of Community Forestry in India," was awarded the Leopold-Hidy Prize of the American Society for Environmental History for 2001. Guha's books and essays have been translated into French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Guha is also known for his writings on India's favorite sport, cricket. Frontline magazine has spoken of him as "the laureate of Indian cricket," and he is the author of two cricket books and the editor of a third.

The Bhattacharya Memorial Lecture was created in honor of Hrishikesh and Sailabala Bhattacharya, who were born in neighboring districts of East Bengal (now Bangladesh) early in the 20th century. In 1947, at the time of the partition of India, they and their family moved to West Bengal. As refugees in this new land, they struggled to make ends meet, but against great odds all their 10 children received a proper education. Hrishikesh passed away in 1982 and Sailabala in 1994.