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Amartya Sen

The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2005

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Summary and Study Guide


In The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity (2005), Nobel laureate Amartya Sen explores the intellectual and historical panorama of India, delving into its heritage of public debate and intellectual pluralism. The book fits into the genre of an essay collection. Sen, whose expertise as an economist and philosopher has often intersected with cultural and social issues, employs his understanding of Indian history and identity to dissect the country’s diverse traditions of argument and heterodoxy. Originally published in 2005, this collection of essays spans a genre that blends history, philosophy, and cultural study, addressing topics from India’s secular heritage to its colonial past. The work operates within the contemporary literary movement that seeks to re-examine and narrate non-Western histories in a global context. Readers should be aware of the academic rigor and potential use of terminology specific to Indian historical and cultural discourse, which may necessitate some background knowledge for a fuller understanding. The essay collection covers thematic elements such as the significance of rational public debate, heterodoxy, the role of pluralism and religion in shaping societies, and the complexities of identity in a historical and global context. The book has been praised by numerous scholars and thinkers, most notably by Martha Nussbaum.

This guide refers to the 2013, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Kindle Edition of The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity.

Content Warning: This book refers to colonialism and colonial atrocities committed in India. It also discusses stereotypes and problematic depictions of India and the “East.”