Skip to content

Conflict, Security, and Development

April 21, 2011

Robert B. Zoellick, President of the World Bank:  “…the effects of violence in one area can spread to other parts of the world, hurting development prospects of others and impeding economic prospects for entire regions.”

This forms a theme in this year’s  World Development Report 2011.  Recent events in the Middle East and Northern Africa reveal a major issue obstructing development in many parts of the world—conflict and security.

While this regional drama continues to dominate the news cycle, it is part of a larger story that touches the lives of more than 1.5 billion people who live in countries affected by  political or criminal violence—from developing countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia to some high-income countries.   

The World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security, and Development draws on the analysis of researchers and the experience of policy-makers in the development community, the United Nations system and the world’s regional institutions. Together they provide an extraordinary wealth of insight on the political, security, and economic dimensions of conflict reduction.

The 368 page report can be downloaded from the World Bank site, and can also be ordered in print in hard ($50) or soft ($26) cover. ISBN: 9780821384398


They are just so INTO us

April 12, 2011

As we are into them… In anticipation of the day when most books will be available in digital form- in addition to cellulose- Scholars is trying a dual format model with the Finnish epublishers, into.

Into which means Zest in Finnish have a zest for converting printed books to the e-Format. The web page offers  a steadily growing range of titles in e-book format. The aim is to offer an extensive collection of English-language fiction and non-fiction titles by writers and independent publishers.

Their mission is to gather together independent publishers, research institutes and organizations around the world, offering an open and interactive platform for eBooks, free eBooks, essays and networking.

The web page is maintained by Into Publishing, a small but active publisher based in Helsinki, Finland. Into Publishing publishes Finnish pocket-book editions of the respected French newspaper Le Monde diplomatique and the independent Russian paper Novaya Gazeta. We also publish various non-fiction titles, mainly in Finnish. Into Publishing is a social enterprise co-owned by Friends of the Earth Finland, the Finnish Peace Committee, the Finnish Nature League, the Finnish bookstore chain Rosebud Books Ltd. and independent author and researcher Heikki Hiilamo.

into‘s mission, to gather together independent publishers, resonates with ours. And as a mark of this resonance, we collaborate on providing two versions of selected titles, the electronic versions on their site, the print version on ours. For now, this is a small number of books from Tulika, but we hope to expand the list slowly, with books from India as well as outside.

The following seven titles are available in digital form


Wherever you see our banner on the into site, clicking on it brings you to the page on the SwB site where the printed book can be purchased…

Soon to come: titles from Stree, Samya, and Social Sciences Press…


April 6, 2011

In 1985, Rajiv Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India, in an address to the Nation, acknowledged and made a public statement on a matter of grave concern. Over a third of the nation’s land, he said, was degraded and laid bare, and our ecological security, indeed the survival of the people of India, inextricably linked with this degraded forest base. He said that the restoration of the degraded lands of this magnitude could clearly be set in motion only if it were put into the hands of the people.

This led to the creation of the National Wastelands Development Board (NWDB) and in order  to evolve an institutional structure to manage common lands so that it meets the basic fuelwood and fodder needs of the rural poor, they set up the National Tree Growers’ Cooperatives Federation (NTGCF). N organizations and committees later, this led to the formation of the Foundation for Ecological Security, FES, in 2001, to address the critical task of ecological restoration in the country.

Their website is, simply put, brilliant. A wealth of information is presented in a most attractive manner, and while it is largely (wholly?) in English, many of the issues they address are of wide interest.  Take, for instance,  the Atlas of Development Trends: Orissa which was released last year. The first of many that are planned, this summarizes the present state of affairs:

Many development programmes are being implemented by various agencies in the State of Orissa. A well-informed and holistic approach with a detailed understanding of various developmental parameters, underlying factors and their inter-linkages is necessary for effective planning. An understanding of the emerging trends and patterns over the decades can help place critical issues in a larger perspective and formulate appropriate intervention strategies.

Usually, data is not available on a single platform or through a single window. It needs to be collected from several sources, duly collated and harmonized, to derive valuable information. What makes the task more challenging is that in several instances the data is not consistent in its maintenance or availability over the years, which makes comparison difficult and time consuming. Further, the lack of access to mapping tools limits interpretation and comparison on a spatial basis.

It is in this context that Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), with financial support from Concern Worldwide and with the active support of various Government and non government agencies, embarked on an exercise of developing an information base on various aspects of the development context of the State of Orissa (and some selected districts). We aimed at creating an information base that would aid in the improved understanding of the development context of the State, which would hopefully lead to the formulation of better developmental policies and programs.

More specifically this Atlas is aimed at building a comprehensive database that would consist of district and State level information of various development indicators which were broadly clubbed under six thematic areas viz agriculture, livestock, natural resources, demography, infrastructure and vulnerability. Secondly, the effort was aimed at depicting the development trends on a spatial platform with a historical perspective (mostly decadal changes from 1950s) which would set the context and trajectories and there by help locate our current and future course of action. The preparation of this Atlas involved intensive engagement with various agencies in the State – both government and non-government. The Atlas is an amalgamation of statistics and Geographical Information System (GIS), capturing both spatial and temporal patterns.

Along with this Atlas is an interactive CD, which would assist the users in analysing the developmental patterns as per their requirements. We would disseminate the findings of the Atlas among various interested parties at the State and district levels. We hope that this document will prove to be a handy tool to policy makers, development planners, academia, researchers, development practitioners, students, in shaping the development agenda of the State of Orissa.

As can be seen, this is invaluable material for anyone seriously involved in environmental and developmental issues. The Atlas is priced at Rs 2000 and can be got by writing in to FES. Or to us, of course. In addition, the FES publishes a large number of reports and working papers, all of which can be downloaded free from their website.

A Social Sciences Library for the asking

March 21, 2011

The Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University, Boston, in conjunction with the United Nations Decade for Education for Sustainable Development has developed a remarkable library resource in the Social Sciences destined for all university libraries.

Neva Goodwin, GDAE Co-Director, and Brian Roach, Project Director led an initiative to develop  The Social Science Library (or SSL), a rich bibliography of nearly 10,000 entries that includes 3,200 full-text PDF files in the social science disciplines of

  • Anthropology,
  • Economics,
  • History,
  • Philosophy,
  • Political Science,
  • Social Psychology, and
  • Sociology.

The goal of the SSL is to significantly expand access to social science literature in those countries where university libraries have scant materials in these areas.  For some university and college libraries these extraordinary resources will multiply their social science holdings many times over.

Advisors in this enterprise include  Craig Calhoun (President, Social Science Research Council, New York), Kemal Dervis (United Nations Development Programme), Khadija Haq (Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Institute, Pakistan),  Andrzej Kassenberg (Institute for Sustainable Development, Poland), Kumari Jayawardene (Colombo University, Sri Lanka), Wangari Maathai (Nobel Laureate and Minister for Environment and Natural Resources, Kenya), Mary Robinson (Former President of Ireland (1990-1997), United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002)),  Amartya K. Sen (Professor at Harvard University and  Nobel Laureate in Economics), Ismael Serageldin (Director, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt) and Joseph Stiglitz (Professor at Columbia University and Nobel Laureate in Economics).

These resources are yours for the asking. Seriously, all that you need to do is to request your Librarian to write to If you are in India,  you could also have your Librarian write to us,  Scholars without Borders, at and we will see that it eventually reaches your institution. Its free, and its that simple!

The SSL is Carefully organized to facilitate scholarly use by students, faculty, and researchers and comes to you on USB drives and/or  CD-ROMs. It does not require Internet access or institutional subscriptions to the relevant journals. The collection can be loaded onto all computers in the institutions that receive them, and can be easily copied by individuals for their own use.

An online version with the extensive bibliography, but without the PDFs, can be seen here.

The SSL are being distributed in different countries by different organizations. In Pakistan, this is the Civil Society Resource Centre, a project of the Aga Khan Foundation.  In Zimbabwe, via Books for Zim and the University of Zimbabwe. In Bangladesh, via BRAC University. In Afghanistan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam, via Books for Asia, a project of the Asia Foundation.  In Indonesia, Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, Palestine, the Philippines, and Uganda via Sabre Foundation.

And in India, through us, namely Scholars without Borders.

The goal is reach all university libraries in each country – with possible additional outreach to other appropriate recipients such as teachers’ colleges or research institutes. Full coverage would ensure reaching the most remote or rural institutions, where there is often the greatest need.

The list of countries to which the SSL and related materials can be sent may be found here. In any case, write to us. And please do pass the word along to those you think might find this resource of use, but may not come across this blogpost… We’re here to help!

Kabir, the project.

March 11, 2011

The Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology is an institute of art & design education, research and experimentation. One of their experiments that has been wildly successful is The Kabir Project.

The Kabir project, an initiative undertaken by filmmaker Shabnam Virmani,  brings together the experiences of a series of ongoing journeys in quest of this 15th century North Indian mystic poet in our contemporary worlds. Started in 2003, these journeys inquire into the spiritual and socio-political resonances of Kabir’s poetry through songs, images and conversations.

The core inspiration of the project is music, and Kabir comes alive in 4 documentary films, 10 audio CDs and poetry books through the power of song. [This is a] journey through a stunning diversity of social, religious and musical traditions which Kabir inhabits, exploring how his poetry intersects with ideas of cultural identity, secularism, nationalism, religion, death, impermanence, folk and oral knowledge systems.

But more than that, the Kabir project is about taking the word, and the song, back to the people. In the various forms that have evolved in the past few centuries, Kabir’s poetry has found resonance with a huge cross-section of the country, and  a remarkable range of cultures. The Malwa Yatra, for instance will see artistes like Prahlad Tipanya, Bhanwari Devi, The Makeshift Band and Latif Bolat travel from Luniyakhedi Village to Ujjain … and eventually to Indore over an eight day period from 17 to 24 April (see the poster above) performing in the most basic and most direct forums…

In addition, the Kabir project also has a tangible output, the four documentaries and the ten CDs and books of poetry. All of which we are very proud to make available via Scholars in our Documentaries and Audio CD ministores.

One of the four documentaries is Chalo Hamara Des (Come to My Country): Journeys with Kabir and Friends (98 min). A journey in search of the des (country) invoked in the poetry of the 15th century mystic poet of north India – Kabir – this film interweaves the stories of two people from two very different countries, Indian folk singer Prahlad Tipanya and North American scholar Linda Hess. Where is Kabir’s country? The answer is elusive, as we journey through song and poem into these two lives, brought together in an unlikely friendship by the cross-cultural resonance of Kabir.

The various CDs come with librettos that are richly annotated and produced imaginatively…

Prodigal ancestral voices

February 26, 2011

Between  1913 and 1929  Sir George A. Grierson, author of the Linguistic Survey of India, in cooperation with the Gramophone Company, Calcutta  recorded a huge number of  stories, songs and poems in different Indian languages, in an effort to catalogue our linguistic diversity. Long before the digital age, these were, however, preserved on vinyl records, playable on 78 rpm gramaphones.

In all 97 languages and dialects were recorded, ranging from Tulu and Badaga to Shan and Mon. In many of these languages, there is a standard text, the biblical parable of the Prodigal son, and in others, there are stories, songs, and poems.

The voices have, like the son in the parable, come home. In a story that sounds like the best combination of scholarship and serendipity, these records were rediscovered in the British Library. They then informed  Shahid Amin, Professor of History at Delhi University who had long been looking for it (this is told in the OPEN Magazine- see the link below). The rediscovery of these recordings now was fortunate, particularly because of Professor Amin’s subsequent action, to digitize the entire lot and put them on the web through the Digital South Asia Library in Chicago on a site that is a joy to navigate, The Linguistic Survey of India at the DSAL.

The approximately 250 recordings are invaluable, and extensive, coming from Madras (43), Burma (38), Central Provinces and Berar (37). United Provinces (33). Bombay Presidency (25). Bengal (20). Chotā Nāgpur (17), Bihar and Orissa (12), Assam (10), and Delhi (6). Arguably the most eclectic is a piece of Dastangoi, the art of story telling, by Mir Baqar Ali, a legendary Dastango.

An introduction by Amin complements the collection and helps in understanding its organization. “The Survey was primarily to be a collection of specimens, ‘a standard passage was to be selected for purposes of comparison’. Its ‘foundation’ was comprised of three specimens for every language and dialect: the standard translation, the passage collected locally for the full idiomatic range, and a list of words and sentences originally devised by the Bengal Asiatic Society in 1866. The template passage was to be ‘a version of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, with slight verbal alterations to avoid Indian prejudices’. (3) The parable was chosen, Grierson coyly remarked in a footnote, because ‘it contains the three personal pronouns, most of the cases found in the declension of nouns, and the present, past, and future tenses of the verb’. (4) Specimens of this crucial first passage used for comparative analysis, were then not the writing down of how the ‘locals’ spontaneously told this biblical tale in their own tongues. ‘What was … aimed at was the acquisition of specimens in the home language of each translator’. (5) Those literate in English rendered it in their ‘native tongue’ from the English Bible. Others accessed it by locating a version which they could read in another Indian language from a volume containing all the known versions of the parable in Indian languages specially printed for this purpose. In a crucial sense, this monumental, authentic digest of Indian languages was a project of recurring translation by bi-lingual Indians.”

Searching the archive is simple. In minutes I was able to find a story told by a man from “Tinnevely” in  Tamil, and on the screen there was  a map that gave its provenance, and of course, the audio files. Hearing it didn’t exactly give one goosebumps, but still, there is something that speaks across these hundred years, and something that points to how we should, perhaps, preserve some traces of languages that will surely disappear in another hundred.

As Amin says further down in his Introduction, his aim in putting it all on the web was to democratize access to this valuable sound archive of 20th century India. Perhaps this altruistic sharing of our common past will lead to new discoveries and new insights into our common history.

The  Open Magazine has a detailed article on the LSI collection.

A Taxonomy of Disrepair

February 23, 2011

A serendipititious wandering through the website of an eclectic publisher based in Chennai led us to the Nāyakā Painting Archival Project that is supported by, somewhat unusually, the Centre for Plants, People and Ecosystems (CPPE). The CPPE promotes research and training for just and equitable use of biodiversity, but they are also interested in reviving, documenting and interpreting traditional cultural art forms. The Nayaka period of South Indian history is the  300 year period between the 16th and 18th centuries CE. The Nāyakās were originally provincial heads of the vast Vijayanagarā empire, and were originally Marathi speaking.

Some of the pages on the Nāyakā Painting Archival Project website are bleak… One, termed a Taxonomy of Damage inspired the title of this post (the image on the left gives an idea of what they faced when they started the project) but after seeing what the Prakriti Foundation in Chennai has done with the Mucukunda Murals in Tiruvarur, we prefer to hope…

Speaking of  the need to conserve, they say: What priceless heritage we had! What an artless society we have become. Of all the elements of heritage, murals are the easiest to degrade, and they usually are.

Natural wear and tear strikes eternally. Tourism superimposes mindless graffiti. Religious worship spews holy smoke and smears it with soot. Modernisation, renovation and restoration, unusual suspects, cause maximum damage.

The busier a temple, less likely that the paintings survive. We came across many instances where entire walls and ceilings had been whitewashed, acid-washed! Without exception, electrical lines had been drilled in and nailed across the murals, weakening and permanently damaging the surface plaster. The most incongruous of all, ‘restoration’ had been attempted over large areas in many locations with enamels and emulsions, that had of course peeled – and peeled together with the layers beneath.

The website seems to have been last updated in 2006. A bit of disrepair there too. One wonders what progress there has been since then… Nevertheless, its a great effort on their part, and one which is a true labour of love. And given the large number of sites where our heritage is in danger of being eroded away and lost forever, initiatives like this, though few and far between, should be commended.

The CPPE is a not for profit registered trust, founded by a committed core of experts in fields such as biodiversity, forestry, botany, ecology, conservation, sociology, economics and public policy. They are involved in documenting plant resources and uses of plants by communities in different regions of rich biodiversity, such as the Southern Western Ghats, East Coast, Eastern Ghats and Andamans…