Reflecting on History, Society, and Politics

- Pranab Kharel | 2023-08-13

Pranab Kharel is a sociologist associated with Martin Chautari, who likes to read. He mainly prefers writings that talk about history, sociology, anthropology and politics. ApEx caught up with Kharel to know more about his preferences when it comes to books and writings. 

What genre of books do you mostly enjoy reading and why?
I mostly prefer non-fiction. I enjoy reading non-fictions that are historically grounded. However, I do read certain fictions as well, those that support and align with my interest. Some of the books that I have really enjoyed reading are the three volumes of ‘Capital’ by Karl Marx. I read this when I was a student. The others were ‘The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order’ by Samuel P Huntington, ‘Hitler Ra Yahudi’ by BP Koirala, and ‘Annihilation of Caste’ by Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. 

How do you think reading has shaped you?
Reading books has definitely helped me grow a lot as an individual. I wasn’t an avid reader before I pursued my Master’s degree. I read occasionally, but back then I used to read newspapers a lot. That’s when, I think, I started reading seriously. It was around 2004 when I began following the articles published on ‘The Hindu’ regularly. And as I began studying for my masters, I was expected to read more. That is when I read a lot of books, and I realize that it has helped shape my opinions on a lot of things I saw around me. It compelled me to question my own assumptions and helped me gain a lot of different perspectives. 

How do you choose what book to read next?
My interest primarily lies in reading books that include history, sociology, anthropology, political science, and international developments in politics. So if I am to pick a book, I choose one that caters to my interest. There are a few friends who are voracious readers, and they suggest good books. So sometimes I pick one based on their recommendations. 

What do you usually do when you don’t like the book you’re reading? 
There have been many instances where a book I’m reading doesn’t meet my expectations. Some of the books I started reading didn’t have much to say. So it feels like reading them would be a waste of time. So I generally stop reading it mid-way. But sometimes I need to refer those books to someone, or use it as teaching material for my class. In that case, I will complete the book anyhow. I think there are two books that I compelled myself to read despite not liking it. But usually I stop reading it. 

Which books/authors inspire you?
I’m someone who gets influenced by a lot of things, and quite quickly at that. So I don’t think I can pinpoint just one book or author that has inspired me. There are works of both Nepali and foreign scholars that have inspired me in many ways. In the case of Nepali writers, I like the works of historians Yogesh Raj and Pratyoush Onta. 

Secondly, I have been moved by the works of BP Koirala. Reading his works has helped me understand how a single person can be so different as a politician, and a literary figure. I also like some of the works of Chaitanya Mishra, and I look up to the works of Mahesh Chandra Regmi and Ludwig Stiller. In terms of non-Nepali authors, I have been inspired by the writings of many scholars like Dipankar Gupta, Surinder Singh Jodhka, André Beteille, Walter Mignolo and Boaventura de Sousa Santos.

Do you think people who don’t read books are missing out on something great?
I think they are missing out on the act of reading itself but not in terms of knowledge or information. In today’s digital era, there are many ways for an individual to learn what’s going on in the world. People can easily get information online. Even if they don’t read, they might get their information from videos online and other means like Ted Talks. So no, I don’t think they’re missing out if I look with a broader perspective.

Kharel’s Picks

Imperial Gorkha by Mahesh Chandra Regmi

This book deals with the conquest of Kumaon Garhwal by the Gorkhali empire and its aftermath.

Nepalko Sandarvama Samajsashtriya Chintan by Pratyoush Onta and Mary Des Chene

This book, edited by Pratyoush Onta and Mary Des Chene, deals with many facets of post-1990 Nepal. I recommend this book for anyone who is keen on understanding the Nepali society on a deeper level. 

History As Mindscapes: A Memory Of The Peasants’ Movement Of Nepal by Yogesh Raj

Written by Historian Yogesh Raj, this book helps readers understand the mid-twentieth century of Nepal. I recommend this book to those who are interested in understanding the political economy of land and something related to that spectrum. 

published date: Aug. 13, 2023

About the Author

Pranab Kharel

समाजशास्त्री, काठमाडौँ स्कुल अफ ल