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January 23, 2011




Page: 24/40

Home > 2011 Issues > January 23, 2011

A case study in social work experience
By Vidhur Bhushan

Varieties of Activist Experience: Civil Society in South Asia, David N. Gellner (Ed.) Sage Publications, Pp 291(HB), Rs 750.00

THIS volume brings together ethnographic studies of activists working in the field of politics, development and environmental protection. Through a series of case studies from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka through the efforts of activists, the book elucidates how they mediate between different spheres that are often (and sometimes legally) kept apart – the political and the legal, the economic and the political, the local and the international.

The compilation begins with the biography of Barman Budha Magar who was elected as Member of Parliament in Nepal in 1991, a year after the people’s movement (jan andolan) had put an end to 30 years of the partyless panchayat ‘democracy’ in Nepal. His life was largely confined to his rural homeland but he since long believed that the unjust situations in the land demanded redressal. This study focuses on Barman’s political awakening while retracing the process by which his political awareness emerged from local conflicts and how he helped in turn to adapt Communist propaganda to local realities.

The book reveals that environmental activism is broad-based and democratic in the range of perspectives offered than it used to be, but it remains a form of activism that disproportionately attracts the urban middle class.

From an observer’s point of view, the civil society and activism belong to the same field. The evaluative load and essentially contested nature of many of the key terms are part of what constitutes the field, with the result that some activists deny having any contests with some other practitioners.

Such a book can have only a limited readership.

(Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd, B1/I-1 Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area, Mathura Road, New Delhi-110044; www.sagepublications.com)




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