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This segues into a lively and comprehensive discussion about individual and communitarian identity that draws on Seyla Benhabib, and Martha Nussbaum, among others. The majority of Tanika Sarkar's recent writing has moved along two trajectories - her scholarship in 19th century cultural studies and her exploration of aspects of contemporary Hindutva thought within the larger framework of communalism.

This latter theme which runs as a leitmotif throughout the chapters but receives full-fledged attention only in the last could have been given more space. What she achieves in this chapter is remarkable, its impact being further heightened by the brutal acts of destruction of September 11, when terrorist attacks based on religious fundamentalism have changed the contours of geographical landscape as we knew it.

Two of Sarkar's thematic suggestions are linked to the nature of extremist military action. These may be roughly articulated as the significance of space in the mindscape of the religious militant as well as the deadly repercussions of political violence that can express itself as a religious cause. In the context of communalism in India, Sarkar delineates the theme of the spatialization of the object of devotion; she also underscores the need to recognize the power and charge of Hindutva thought. Religious fundamentalist outfits across nations follow some of the same paths.

The choice of the World Trade Center, the icon of modern capitalism, as the target of terrorist attacks is proof of the importance of the site to those who wage these wars of passion. As the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, had indicated, spaces are invested with extreme emotional valency. Another interesting fallout of the terrorist attacks is the increased willingness amongst Americans to know more about west Asian religions and politics - an area of indistinguishable "darkness" for the average American. Clearly, it is important to know and not underestimate the potential of religious zeal.

Sarkar gestures towards these issues in her writings on cultural nationalism but wraps up the discussion rather quickly. Readers are made aware of the non-innocent implications of using religious rhetoric to sanction militant actions but it would have been a valuable addition to the book, if she had substantiated the compressed elements of the last chapter.

These structural quarrels apart, the quality of the intellectual endeavour is impressive.

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Anthony J Parel. Gandhi and Tagore. Gangeya Mukherji. Brian A. Humanitarian Ethics. All of them work upon ideas of gender and Hindu cultural nationalism, particularly with the late 19th century Bengal as context. Sarkar has dealt with larger national ideological traditions but not neglected the small, bounded, local events which are skilfully connected with the former. Flames burn higher, burn higher.

The widow has come to immolate herself. Needless to say, the message drummed up is that of ascetic widowhood which with all its stringent living and rituals represented the pride of a spiritual Hindu order. Power relations in 19th century Bengal involved concepts of adhinata subordination and dasatya slavery where the woman became the true patriotic subject in terms of power relations within the home.

The construction of the Hindu wife enabled the Bengali intelligentsia to create a paradigm of the colonial relationship, this time practiced on a domestic level.