MICA Prof Harmony Siganporia’s book ‘I am the Widow: An Intellectual Biography of Behramji Malabari’ has been awarded the Prof Sneh Mahajan Award for the best book on modern India history (2015 to 2018).
The award was presented at the 80th session of the Indian History Congress, recently held in Kerala.
The book is an intellectual biography that compares and analyses the life-work and times of Behramji Merwanji Malabari (1853–1912)—A Parsi social reformer, journalist, poet, proto ethnographer/anthropologist, travel writer, and a vital catalyst of change who did much to shape the national reform discourse. This exercise reveals a society in transition in the late nineteenth century, providing an understanding of this crucial and formative moment in Indian history.
Prof Siganporia who teaches in the area of Culture and Communication at MICA says, “I am full of gratitude that the Indian History Congress thought my work was worthwhile. The award means a lot because I see it as an exercise in undoing erasure: lives like Malabari’s, with his belief in always speaking truth to power have lessons for us, especially in the contentious times we live in.”
The book also evaluates Malabari’s lifelong commitment to working for the upliftment of women, particularly widows, even as it explores the politics of representation and outlines some of the tensions that such a voicing of ‘women’s issues’ by male reformers such as Malabari, who possessed the ‘innate human ability to identify with another’ as much as ‘the ability to refuse to identify solely with oneself’, entails.
Malabari had two biographies written about him before he was forty, and a third two years after his death. He then vanished almost completely from the pages of Parsi and Indian history, reduced at best to a footnote. This fourth biography attempts to discover why.
This text will be a rare and valuable asset to scholars of history, cultural studies and literary studies.
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