Like every year, we at Café Dissensus look back at the year gone by and try to understand what we were able to accomplish. Do read the year-end reflections of our editors.
Bhaswati Ghosh, Editor-at-Large
A burst of sunshine fills my room as I look back at 2016. As I look out of the window of our family room, blocks of snow glisten as they melt away in the sun. In the artificially-heated comfort inside, it is easy to forget the chill of the outside. The ease of routine in my daily life becomes that cozy family room for me even as the world burns. A community like Cafe Dissensus forces me to step out of that family room and get a sense of the flaming everyday that many across the world are caught in at the moment. Like years past, 2016 brought me the opportunity to learn from the contributors whose work I read and edited. In a year that saw the world scarred evermore with the politics of division, gruesome violence, political repression, and refugees dying as they tried crossing Syria, Africa, or Myanmar, Cafe Dissensus saw discussions on the unimaginable atrocities carried out on indigenous people in North America, first-hand accounts of state-sponsored muzzling of voices and fates in Kashmir, and the violent hand of communal riots that strangles innocent love.
We read and shared more poetry – protest poetry from young campus-going voices and from poets using satire as their best weapon to resist the authoritarian crushing of dissent. We also read poetry that took us on other voyages – quests with one’s body, sexuality, loneliness, and depression. In all of this, we continued to controvert, question, debate.
2017 may be just as or an even more difficult year than the one preceding it. Our work here at Cafe Dissensus remains the same – more difficult and more important than ever.
Rashida Murphy, Books Editor (Author of The Historian’s Daughter, UWA Publishing)
When Mosarrap Khan, co-editor of Café Dissensus, invited me on board as the Books Editor of a journal I have loved since I first encountered it as a contributor back in 2014, I accepted the challenge willingly. Mosarrap, Mary Ann Chacko, and Bhaswati Ghosh provided cheerful guidance when I started. I had the autonomy to make decisions, commission reviews, harass and plead with authors, and write reviews myself. For that I thank them sincerely.
We published a number of book reviews, essays, interviews, conversations, and book excerpts in 2016. Some of these were commissioned, but most arrived unsolicited. First time reviewers, authors and poets sat comfortably alongside veterans and well-known literary figures. We established collegial relationships with publishers like ‘Fingerprint’ and ‘Aleph Books’ who ensured a steady supply of books to comment on.
We reviewed poetry, fiction, politics, philosophy, and memoir. Poets Goirick Brahmachari, Arjun Rajendran and Sanjeev Sethi all appeared on our pages in 2016. Essays ranged from discussions on feisty Bengali feminists by Lopa Banerjee to analysing feminine identity in Jane Austen’s society. Conversations and interviews happened with writers as diverse as an Australian woman’s Tibetan encounters to a Turkish writer’s exploration of Sufi philosophy. Book excerpts that stay with me are the excellent Iqbal Chacha by Sameer Khan and Mother Teresa: An Untold Story by Aroup Chatterjee.
My personal reading list was not as extensive as I would have liked. I focussed mostly on short story collections this year, simply because I could read a whole story in a short time and pick up the rest days, if not months later. My favourites this year, in no particular order, are: The Permanent Resident by Roanna Gonsalves, Letter to Pessoa by Michelle Cahill, Leaving Elvis and Other Stories by Michelle Michau-Crawford and Feet to the Stars by Susan Midalia. Both Gonsalves and Cahill are Indian women writing and living in Australia and their collections are richly evocative of not merely the migrant experience but the idea that the concept of ‘home’ is a tenuous one at best.
In 2017, I hope we can do more of the same. I’m looking for reviews that make me want to instantly buy the book, conversations with writers I want to have dinner with and essays that make me wish I’d written them myself. So, all you readers and writers out there – flood my inbox with your submissions! I wish you a happy holiday reading season. See you in 2017.
Mary Ann Chacko & Mosarrap H. Khan, Editors
Let’s first get the facts out of the way before we could reflect on our activities in 2016.
In 2016, the number of visitors to our sites (Café Dissensus and Café Dissensus Everyday) certainly showed an upward curve. We had a total number of 105,300 visitors in 2016 to our websites, up from 57,900 in 2015. That’s a growth of about 80%. Although we are unable to ascertain if all of these were unique visitors, we are certainly delighted that more people read Café Dissensus in 2016.
At a more substantive level, the year 2016 saw a return of politics of nationalism in India, motored by the ruling dispensation at the centre, desperate for legitimacy. The politics of nationalism, in India as elsewhere, demands its other to perform its spectacle in the public domain. The imaginary of upper caste Indian nationalism didn’t have much difficulty in finding its other: the lynching of Muslims, including Mohammad Akhlaq; the killing and degradation of Dalits, most prominent being that of Rohith Vemula; the blinding of Kashmiris, naming individuals would lessen the enormity. As an alternative no-holds-barred magazine, our guest editors responded to the discourse and performance of nationalism in timely issues, ranging from JNU and Its Tradition(s) of Dissent to The Idea of the University to Bollywood Nationalism. Each of these issues dwelt on diverse spaces of dissent: from the university to spaces of cultural production. As the shadow of majoritarian nationalism loomed over India, three of our issues explored an ethics of co-existence, a shared sense of space with the other: Jewish-Muslims Relations in South Asia, Cosmopolitanism in a City: The Past and Present of Calicut, and In the Shadow of the Larger Faiths: Minor Faiths of South Asia. In addition, two of our issues in 2016 broke fresh ground and engaged with transnational cross-pollination of ideas in the domain of art – Beat and Hungry Generation: When losing became hip – and in the domain of human dignity – Female Genital Mutilation. Like every year, we published an issue on disability and its intersections: Disability and the Other Margins. In fact, we are extremely grateful to Nandini Ghosh & Shilpaa Anand and, also, to Navras Jaat Afreedi, for guest-editing issues every year.
In 2017, we look forward to issues on ‘India’s response to the holocaust’ to ‘India at 70’ to creating a ‘Digital Archive’. It promises to be an exciting year of ideas! If you would like to submit an article or art-work, do look up our submissions page.
As we had stated earlier, we would like to position Café Dissensus as a reader-sourced magazine; a people’s magazine. With that spirit, we invite our readers, academics, activists, journalists, students to guest-edit an issue in 2018. If you are excited about an idea, an event, a book, a personality, or anything else and feel you want to generate a critical conversation around it, do consider guest-editing an issue of Café Dissensus. Send us a concept note and we will take it forward from there. You may find detailed guidelines for guest-editing an issue HERE.
As a space of engagement with contemporary political events, Café Dissensus Everyday emerged in 2016 as a voice of young, aggrieved Kashmiris. We published a number of articles on the Kashmir uprisings and Indian military atrocity in Kashmir. We also published a number of intriguing travel pieces. In 2016, we were able to expand our core editorial team with some talented inclusions. Adil Bhat joined us as an assistant editor, author Rashida Murphy joined us as the Books Editor, and Nadira Khan joined us as the Films Editor. Our books section looks more vibrant than ever. If you would like to submit to our Books Section (which will be called the Café Dissensus Review of Books in future) and the Films Section (which will be called the Café Dissensus Review of Films in future), do look up our submissions guidelines for Café Dissensus Review of Books & submissions guidelines for Café Dissensus Review of Films. We take special pride in the fact that we have been able to publish a number of young, talented writers on Café Dissensus Everyday. We are looking for regular writers, who will take this tradition forward. Do look up our guidelines for becoming a regular contributor to Café Dissensus Everyday.
We would like to thank our editorial team members, guest-editors, friends, and acquaintances for their support and help. Our particular thanks to Bhaswati Ghosh, Rashida Murphy, Nadira Khan, and Adil Bhat for helping us in editing Cafe Dissensus Everyday. We hope all of you will continue to help and guide us.
Finally, it goes without saying our biggest supporters are our readers. We are grateful to you for reading Café Dissensus. Despite being resource-starved and running without any financial support, we keep going because you read us. And we will continue doing so as long as you read us.
Here is a list of our most read pieces published in 2016. We have chosen these pieces on the basis of maximum number of hits they garnered. However, it goes without saying the pieces/issues published earlier in the year got more hits than the ones published later in the year:
15 Most Read Pieces on Café Dissensus
A Story of the Holocaust and the AIDS Epidemic: The romance of an Indian Muslim Freedom Fighter and a Lithuanian Jewish Woman (Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod)
Have you met your clitoris? (Aarefa Johari)
The Women of the Beat Generation (Pamela Twining)
The Only Hebrew Language Teacher in Indian Academia: A Devout Muslim (Navras Jaat Aafreedi)
Reflecting on my Memory: My Life with Disability (Sameer Chaturvedi)
Glimpses of History and Teasers of the Future: An Interview with Anirban Bhattacharya (Malavika Binny & Tintu K J)
TO BE DEMOCRATIC IS TO BE RADICAL: An Interview with Umar Khalid (Malavika Binny)
Muslim-Jewish Relations in Sidi Janjira (Anuradha Bhattacharjee)
Guest-Editorial: What ‘Use’ is the Liberal Ruse? Debating the ‘Idea’ of the University (Debaditya Bhattacharya)
Still My-Self? Or The Loss of the Self? (Rukmini Sen)
The Commoditization of Education (Prabhat Patnaik)
Guest-Editorial – The Beat and the Hungry generation: When losing became hip (Goirick Brahmachari & Abhimanyu Kumar)
10 Most Read Pieces on Café Dissensus Everyday
The Independent Intellectual?: A Response to Professor Makarand Paranjape’s Lecture on Nationalism (Debaditya Bhattacharya)
Jagmohan’s Padma Award: Rubbing salt in our wounds (Ajay Raina)
Kutighat: A Small Slice of the Past (Nishi Pulugurtha)
Photo-Essay: The Beat Goes On (Seth Brigham)
Korlai Alibaugh, the surviving Portuguese Creole (Sameer Khan)
How Have You Responded to the Public Display of Penis? (Mary Ann Chacko)
The March is on, Burhan! (Basarat Hassan)
We wish all our readers a Very Happy 2017! Keep reading Cafe Dissensus & Cafe Dissensus Everyday!!
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA and India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.