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Book Launch & Discussion with Frank Perlin. Comments by Jairus Banaji, Neeladri Bhattacharya, and Aditya Sarkar. 15:00 CET / 7:30 P.M. IST

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Frank Perlin's City Intelligible is a thoroughgoing and profoundly original attempt to combine an empirical and historical anthropology with Kantian transcendental philosophy. Its subject-matter is the history of commoditization and commodity exchange prior to modern industrialization. The book delves into a diverse array of forms of evidence of such commoditization, and marshals them to make a case for the possibility of a universal - yet also irreducibly cultural - human nature underlying processes of human differentiation. As a philosophical treatment of empirical materials, City Intelligible marks an unprecedented attempt to conceptually reframe the ways in which we think about economic data. The discussion of the book will delve into both the philosophical stakes and the historical implications of Frank Perlin's endeavour.

Prof. Frank Perlin's work has been crucial for the historiographical reassessment of the subcontinent’s 18th-century history since the 1980s. His research is at the intersection of social, economic, and cultural history of India, within a local and a global context. However, his wide-ranging publications transcend both the boundaries of region and of economic history. Among his publications are The invisible city (1993) and Unbroken landscape.

Prof. Jairus Banaji is currently research associate at the Department of Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. His research interests include agrarian history, the history of merchant capitalism, late Antiquity, and questions of historical materialism. His most recent publication is A Brief History of Commercial Capitalism.

Prof. Neeladri Bhattacharya retired as professor of history at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi. He has published widely on agrarian relations and colonial discourses in 19th and 20th century India. His most recent publication is The Great Agrarian Conquest: The Colonial Reshaping of a Rural World.

Dr. Aditya Sarkar is associate professor at the History Department of the University of Warwick. His research interests include the history of labour in colonial and post-colonial India, and political movements in post-colonial India. His most recent book is Trouble at the Mill: Factory Law and the Emergence of the Labour Question in Late Nineteenth-Century Bombay. He has also written a preface to City Intelligible.

The session will be moderated by Dr. Anna Sailer (Centre for Modern Indian Studies).

Frank Perlin (2020) City Intelligible. A Philosophical and Historical Anthropology of Global Commoditisation before Industrialisation, Studies in Global Social History, Vol. 38, Leiden, Boston: Brill.

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