Nightmarch: Among India's Revolutionary Guerrillas (Hardback)Alpa Shah (author)
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Nightmarch chronicles the author’s eighteen month tenure alongside India’s Maoist guerrillas, dubbed the country’s biggest internal security threat by its Prime Minister. An unprecedented glimpse of a movement viewed as confused and contradictory, this is a balanced and thrilling account of a complex issue.
Shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2019
In one of the world’s most intractable and under-reported rebellions, the Naxalites have been engaged in a decades-long battle with the Indian state. Presented in the media as a deadly terrorist group, the movement is made up of Marxist ideologues and lower-caste and tribal combatants who seek to overthrow a system that has abused them.
In 2010, anthropologist Alpa Shah embarked on a seven-night trek with some of these communist guerrillas, walking 250 kilometres through the dense, hilly forests of eastern India. Speaking to leaders and living for years with villagers in guerrilla strongholds, Shah seeks to understand why some of India’s poor have shunned the world’s largest democracy and taken up arms to fight for a fairer society—and asks whether they might be undermining their own aims.
Nightmarch is a compelling reflection on dispossession and conflict at the heart of contemporary India.
Publisher: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd
Number of pages: 256
Dimensions: 216 x 138 mm
'I've enormously enjoyed and admired Alpa Shah's careful, rich, sympathetic account of the Maoist insurgency in India . . . a brave and necessary work'.
'Powerful, emotional and painstakingly detailed analysis . . . a rare insight. . . the book is engrossing and its characters will haunt you.' * The Hindu *
'A subtle and moving portrait . . . Shah combines powerful first-hand description - as gripping as any novel - with analysis which understands the rebel's motivations and backgrounds without ever falling into simplistic political binaries.'
'Powerful, reflective and deeply engaged scholarship . . . rarely does a work of social science transport one so fully into the lives and worlds of those whose stories are being recounted. Alpa Shah succeeds in doing just that and more by combining ethnographic profundity with almost cinematic vividness . . . the work is a perfect illustration of the unique contribution anthropologists can bring in comprehending the world we live in.'
'An astonishing journey. A rare, granular portrait.' -- The Indian Express
'[Alpa Shah] treats the groups she is living with as equal social and political beings ... The result is a powerful synthesis, warm but never uncritical, a distillation of her own scholarship and the experiences of her subjects, that immerses the reader in a lifeworld.' -- New Left Review
'A thoughtful and balanced account.' -- La Stampa
'Simultaneously a major contribution to scholarship and at the same time written to entice a wider readership to care about the poor and their insurgent politics.' -- Journal of Peasant Studies
'A beautifully crafted and highly engaging narrative that draws the reader into the secretive world of one of today's forgotten revolutions . . . [an] ethnographically rich and vivid rendering.'
'An eloquent and compassionate account of revolutionaries whose voices are rarely heard. Shah skilfully analyses the individual motivations for the Naxalites' radical commitment, their failures, and the deep history of exploitation and neglect that has provoked their struggle for liberation.' -- David Lan, theatre producer and author of 'Guns and Rain'
'[A] vibrant piece of anthropological work . . . written in a way that provides food for thought and, at the same time, moves hearts, this book is an example of the unique contribution anthropologists can bring to understanding the world we live in.'
'Shah's brilliant, careful research and writing is not meant to be an apologia for her subject. It's quite the opposite. . . . a book that dwells on the electrifyingly complex battle between ideas and experience.'
'As a committed independent observer and researcher, [Shah's] experience has endowed her with a genuine understanding of the Naxalite revolutionaries.'
'A story that could not be more important, told with the perfect balance of clear-eyed realism, thoughtful criticism, and deep and abiding love. ... Nightmarch reveals what anthropology can do in the hands of a master willing to take genuine risks in the name of human freedom.' -- David Graeber, author of 'Bullshit Jobs' and 'Debt: The First 5000 Years'
'One of the most gripping, engaging and accessible books I've encountered on the Naxalites. Shah fearlessly bears witness to the upheavals caused by India's rising inequalities, while also asking many urgent, difficult questions.' -- Meena Kandasamy, author of 'When I Hit You'
'Compassionate, courageous and uncommonly observant. This is an extraordinary work of rigorous, reflective and deeply engaged scholarship, full of unexpected insights. At the same time, it manages to be haunting, lyrical, occasionally harrowing, even racy--more compelling than some of the best fiction writing.' -- Harsh Mander, human rights worker and author of 'Fatal Accidents of Birth', 'Looking Away' and 'Ash in the Belly'
'It is hard to imagine a work of social science as a page-turner that you cannot put down. But this intrepid author has produced that rare find: ... a beautifully written and absorbing book that disturbs, moves and educates the reader all at once.' -- Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University
'In this intimate and insightful book, Shah elucidates why Adivasis become Naxalites and are also able to alternate between being Naxalites and not being Naxalites; brings out several contradictions in the Naxalite movement; breaks stereotypes about the Adivasis; discusses issues of class, community, privilege, sexual behaviour, and the status of women; and asks one vital question: Is the Naxalite movement doing good for the Adivasis?' -- Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, author of 'The Adivasi Will Not Dance'
'Brave, brilliant and beautifully written, Nightmarch is an anthropological tour de force. Shah portrays the Naxalites' revolutionary dedication with love, respect and analytical acumen, while laying bare the tragic contradictions of their armed struggle.' -- Philippe Bourgois, author of 'In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio' and 'Righteous Dopefiend'
'Nightmarch is outstanding, combining ethnographic depth with almost cinematic vividness. From an extraordinary inside perspective, Shah reveals a complex interplay among the Naxalites of political ideals, cultural values, personal attachments, and the lure of money.' -- Sherry B. Ortner, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, UCLA
'Riveting, finely textured, and acutely perceptive, Nightmarch captures both the Naxalite insurgency's contradictions and its human promise against the background of the crippling indignities and exclusions of Indian society. It is a model of what ethnography can offer.' -- James C. Scott, author of 'Against the Grain'
'Profoundly insightful and compassionate, but also critical. ... An admirable example of serious social science writing, this book exhibits the potential of ethnographic research with a comparative angle -- grounded and accessible, yet still theoretically rich.' -- Surinder S. Jodhka, Professor of Sociology, Jawaharlal Nehru University
'Bold and courageous, humane and sensitive, Nightmarch is an excellent illustration of how to take ethnography beyond the confines of the academic world.' -- Virginius Xaxa, author of 'State, Society and Tribes: Issues in Post-Colonial India'
'Woven into a fascinating account of her walk through the Maoist heartland, Shah tells a scorching story of dispossession, displacement, exploitation, intense inequality and state violence in India.'
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