What Did NLSIU Read In 2021? | Part I
January 8, 2022
Curious about what was on NLSIU faculty members’ reading list during 2021? We sure are! As we begin a new year, we asked our faculty members to reflect on the year that passed by and share with us some of the books they found most meaningful in 2021 and why.
We begin this series by featuring three faculty members from NLSIU this week. Find out what impressed them most about these books, and why it made it to the top of their lists.
Part I of the Series:
Book Title: The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis
Author: Amitav Ghosh
Why this is my pick: The book begins with the violent conquest of Banda archipelago by the Dutch in the year 1621 for nutmegs and takes us all the way into the contemporary horrors of COVID-19. It retells the history of the world to talk about the ecological crisis staring us in the face. He tells us a non-linear story involving anecdotes from different parts of the world, snippets from literary classics, and human stories of a migrant, a shaman and sometimes his own. This book is a classic.
Book Title: Thondra Thunai
Author: Perumal Murugan
Why this is my pick: Perumal Murugan’s description of childhood in agrarian society in his book Thondra Thunai (Tamil) was touching. The book is truly inspirational in its telling of how inner courage can be developed to overcome the pressures of social norms. Didn’t Indian farmers just display the same kind of courage through their persistent year-long struggle to repeal the farm laws, which led to their eventual victory?
Book Title: The Imaginary Institution of Society
Author: Cornelius Castoriadis
Translator: Kathleen Blamey
Why this is my pick: In this stunning work, Castoriadis manages to radically reorient studies of social structures by conceptualizing an idiosyncratic notion of the social ‘imaginary’. By moving away from traditional Platonic ontology (eidolon) as well as psychoanalytic conceptions of the imaginary (à-la Jacques Lacan), Castoriadis weaves a unique analysis of social institutions as being based on an ‘imaginary’ fabric. He does this by incorporating a revolutionary Marxist theory of the social along with a subject-centric theory of the structure. This will be fundamentally useful to not just Marxist theory and poststructuralism (which has undermined the subject at the cost of the social), and psychoanalytic criticism (which has often, at least before Lacan, stressed on the personal at the cost of missing the social), but also, perhaps first and foremost, to readers of the law, a system which is replete with legal ‘fictions’. Castoriadis’s work is an epistemological investigation of the fictional, the imaginary and the imaginal, and will be profoundly beneficial to anyone interested in how structures imagine and how the social converts the imaginal to the real.