Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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Reading of 'India: A Portrait' Humanizes Rising Power

November 8, 2011

Author Patrick French gave a reading on campus in October of India: A Portrait, which humanizes India amid its rapid rise on the world stage using historical narrative, interviews, and first-hand accounts.

Institute Professor Ashutosh Varshney introduced French who explained some of the process of writing the book and read excerpts from its three parts: Rashtra, Lakshmi and Samaj, which revolve around the formation of the nation, its economy and finances, and the challenges that now face its society. India: A Portrait uses vivid and visceral description to bring to life what economic growth has meant for everyday Indians.

French was motivated to write the book when “I noticed India was changing incredibly fast and the effects were social … many traditions were being altered and at the same time they were the same … Seeking a snap shot of this change prompted the book,” he said.

The first part of India: A Portrait looks at the making of the Indian Constitution, and the question of “how democratic India could be created, especially given its colonial history.” 

He read from the final chapter of this section: “Family Politics,” focused on nepotism in India. Other selections addressed India’s economic changes through history, the way in which caste ideas have been altered, changes in religious life, and the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. In the final part of the book French touched on the way individual representation and state mechanisms interact, especially depending on proximity to the centers of government.

By Watson Institute Student Rapporteur Brittaney Check ‘12