Nation at Play

A History of Sport in India

Ronojoy Sen

Columbia University Press

Nation at Play

Google Preview

Pub Date: October 2015

ISBN: 9780231164900

400 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $35.00£30.00

Pub Date: October 2015

ISBN: 9780231539937

400 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $34.99£30.00

Nation at Play

A History of Sport in India

Ronojoy Sen

Columbia University Press

Reaching as far back as ancient times, Ronojoy Sen pairs a novel history of India's engagement with sport and a probing analysis of its cultural and political development under monarchy and colonialism, and as an independent nation. Some sports that originated in India have fallen out of favor, while others, such as cricket, have been adopted and made wholly India's own. Sen's innovative project casts sport less as a natural expression of human competition than as an instructive practice reflecting a unique play with power, morality, aesthetics, identity, and money.

Sen follows the transformation of sport from an elite, kingly pastime to a national obsession tied to colonialism, nationalism, and free market liberalization. He pays special attention to two modern phenomena: the dominance of cricket in the Indian consciousness and the chronic failure of a billion-strong nation to compete successfully in international sporting competitions, such as the Olympics. Innovatively incorporating examples from popular media and other unconventional sources, Sen not only captures the political nature of sport in India but also reveals the patterns of patronage, clientage, and institutionalization that have bound this diverse nation together for centuries.

Ronojoy Sen has produced a fascinating, rich, and thoroughly engaging history of sport in India. He manages to paint at once with powerful, evocative, and very convincing broad strokes and with the finely gauged brush of an ethno-historian concerned as much with the intricacies and nuances of embodied experience as with quirky personalities and the odd politics of everyday life. All of this adds up to a book that fully captures the imagination to generate deep and often unexpected insight on the serious business of play in modern India.

Joseph S. Alter, Yale-NUS College, author of The Wrestler's Body: Identity and Ideology in North India

Like other arenas of performance, organized competitive sport in a newly constituted public domain was a product of India's colonial modernity. Sen's book presents an informative and readable account of the Indian history of football, hockey, wrestling, boxing, and cricket in the last two centuries. Alongside, he provides a fascinating social history of the involvement in sports of colonial officials, missionaries, princes, teachers, soldiers, and clerks. An important addition to the growing literature in the field.

Partha Chatterjee, Columbia University, author of Black Hole of Empire: History of a Global Practice of Power

Nation at Play is an ingenious history of Indian sport. It combines lucid accounts of the evolution of several sports in India (both indigenous and Western) within a unified narrative that tells the story of India's mostly failed love affair with competitive sport since the nineteenth century.

Mukul Kesavan, author of Men in White: A Book of Cricket

A fine, lucid, engaging and constantly surprising study. Highly recommended.

Gideon Haigh, author of On Warne and Uncertain Corridors: Writings on Modern Cricket

His ambitious book examines Indian sports in a largely chronological manner and does not duck the more awkward questions, such as the perceived athletic limitations of Indians. The narrative has an attractive sweep to it, starting with the place of sports and martial competition in Hindu epics such as the "Mahabharata" and the "Ramayana."

Wall Street Journal

Rich in detail and nuanced in terms of analysis.... [Ronojoy Sen] is to be praised for adding to the understanding of sport in India by looking at how it intersects with culture and politics, and for using sport to provide insights about Indian history and society.

Choice

Sen is to be applauded for writing such an ambitious book, enriching our understanding of the history of sport in India.

Journal of Sport History
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Down the Ages: Sport in Ancient and Medieval India
2. Empire of Sport: The Early British Impact on Recreation
3. White Man's Burden: Teachers, Missionaries, and Administrators
4. Players and Patrons: Indian Princes and Sports
5. The Empire Strikes Back: The 1911 IFA Shield and Football in Calcutta
6. Politics on the Maidan: Sport, Communalism, and Nationalism
7. The Early Olympics: India's Hockey Triumphs
8. Lords of the Ring: Tales of Wrestlers and Boxers
9. Freedom Games: The First Two Decades of Independence
10. Domestic Sports: State, Club, Office, and Regiment (1947–1970)
11. 1971 and After: The Religion Called Cricket
12. Life Beyond Cricket
Notes
Index

Read an excerpt from the introduction:

2016 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

About the Author

Ronojoy Sen is senior research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies and Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. He has worked for over a decade with leading Indian newspapers, most recently as an editor for The Times of India. He earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago and read history at Presidency College, Calcutta. He is also the author of Articles of Faith: Religion, Secularism, and the Indian Supreme Court.