Since the 1980s, secularism in India has been a topic of heated contestation. Advocates for a Hindu nation deride what they call ‘pseudo-secularism’, claiming that it privileges Muslim and Christian minorities against the interests of India’s Hindu majority. Religious minorities, however, consistently appeal to India’s secular constitution to secure their rights.
Popular references to Calcutta (now Kolkata) – once the gleaming capital of British India – in Anglo-American contexts often conjure images of poverty, crowded city streets, unbearable traffic, smog, and residents that require a savior.
The historical literature on Afghanistan and the various armed conflicts fought on its soil has greatly increased in recent years, due to the tragic events following the American-led invasion of the country in October 2001.
Histories of the fate of the Ottoman Armenians have long, and understandably, been dominated by two themes. Firstly, the quest for ‘proof’ of the genocidal intent behind the treatment of the Armenians in 1915.
I was recently in a conversation with a friend who told us that his parents, who were communists in New Zealand, used to make him sit through slide shows on China in the 1970s. Young Philip was subjected to these presentations because China was, his parents told him, the closest place to utopia on this earth.
In Room 145 of the Ceramics Galleries of the Victoria & Albert Museum, at the top of case 50, you can see an ‘architectural fragment’, which, according to its label, ‘once ornamented a palace in Yuanmingyuan or “garden of perfect clarity”’.