Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, journalist, commentator and a Marxist intellectual. He is the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. In 2013–2014, he was the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut.
Prashad is the author of twenty books. In 2012, he published five books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (AK Press) and Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today (The New Press). His book The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World (2007) was chosen as the Best Nonfiction book by the Asian American Writers' Workshop in 2008 and it won the Muzaffar Ahmed Book Award in 2009. In 2013, Verso published his The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South. He is author of No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (LeftWord Books, 2015) and the editor of Letters to Palestine (Verso Books, 2015), a book that includes the writings of Teju Cole, Sinan Antoon, Noura Erakat, and Junot Diaz.
Prashad is also a journalist. He writes regularly for Frontline, The Hindu, Alternet and BirGun. He usually writes on the Middle Eastern politics, development economics, North-South relations and current events.
In 2015, Prashad joined as the Chief Editor of the New Delhi-based publisher LeftWord Books. He is also an advisory board member of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, part of the global BDS movement.
Prashad attended The Doon School, received a B.A. from Pomona College in 1989, and earned a PhD at the University of Chicago in 1994.
He is the nephew of Indian politician Brinda Karat.
In his article for The Nation, Prashad lays out his vision for the struggle toward socialism. He argues progressive forces typically have very good ideas, but no power. He asserts that without power, good ideas are of little consequence and claims that socialists must not simply theorise but also organise.
Prashad is a self-described Marxist and a co-founder of the Forum of Indian Leftists or FOIL. His views on capitalism are most clearly summarised in his book Fat Cats and Running Dogs.
Prashad is an outspoken critic of what he calls American hegemony and imperialism.
Prashad gave a landmark interview on the Arab Revolt to Radical Notes, where he compared the fall of Egyptian President Mubarak to the fall of Mexico's dictator Porfirio Díaz:
The Mexican Revolution opened up in 1911, but didn't settle into the PRI regime till the writing of the 1917 constitution and the elevation of Carranza to the presidency in 1920 or perhaps Cárdenas in 1934. I find many parallels between Mexico and Egypt. In both, the Left was not sufficiently developed. Perils of the Right always lingered. If the Pharonic state withers, as Porfirio Díaz's state did, the peasants and the working class might move beyond spontaneity and come forward with some more structure. Spontaneity is fine, but if power is not seized effectively, counter-revolution will rise forth effectively and securely.
In a subsequent essay, he asserted that the Arab Revolt is part of a long process, the Arab Revolution. He argued that the Revolt of 2011 continues to raise the two "unanswered questions" of the Arab Revolution: that of politics (freedom from monarchies and dictatorships) and of economics (to make an independent economy). In addition, he considers the Revolt part of a historical process that he characterises as a "revolt against the market" (as opposed to revolts in Eastern Europe which he sees as a "revolt for the market"). In two essays, he lays out what he describes as the failures of US policy in the Middle East. The two pillars of US cynicism are its need for autocracy as an ally in its "war on terror," and its need to support Israel in any way possible. The test for this conservative US policy came in Obama's choice of Frank G. Wisner, who he calls the "empire's bagman," as the US envoy to Mubarak.
In a further essay he offered an analysis of the collapse of the national liberation dynamic which is evident from his book, The Darker Nations. This essay goes over the recent history of Libya and proposes of the recent upsurge there, "Old rivalries and new grievances are united. Some of them are for reactionary tribal purposes, and others seek liberation from 'reforms.' Some cavil that a country of 6 million with such oil wealth does not look like the Emirates, and others simply want to have some more control of their lives. But most want release from the hidden corridors of the Libyan labyrinth." Prashad debated historian Juan Cole on the US-French-NATO military intervention. Cole was for it. Prashad against. Prashad argued that the genuine Libyan rising had been "usurped" by various unsavory characters, including someone with CIA connections.
Prashad's 2012 book Arab Spring, Libyan Winter AK Press puts this story together. His two part interview on Newsclick provides the argument of the book.
He gave a talk on the geopolitics of the Iranian nuclear deal.
Prashad offered his analysis of Mother Teresa's missionary work in Calcutta, designating her as a representative of the collective 'bourgeois guilt' of western nations. He argued how people like Mother Teresa obscure the tragedies of capitalism. For instance, "During the night of December 2–3, 1984, methyl isocyanate left the environs of a Union Carbide factory and poisoned thousands of people. He contends that the Bhopal disaster by Union Carbide was but the most flagrant example of a transnational corporation's disregard for human life at the expense of its own profit. In 1983, Union Carbide's sales came to $9 billion and its assets totaled $10 billion. Part of this profit came from a tendency to shirk any responsibility towards safety standards, not just in India, but also in their West Virginia plant. After the disaster, Mother Teresa flew into Bhopal and, escorted in two government cars, she offered Bhopal's victims small aluminum medals of St. Mary. "This could have been an accident," she told the survivors, "it's like a fire (that) could break out anywhere. That is why it is important to forgive. Forgiveness offers us a clean heart and people will be a hundred times better after it." Pope John Paul II joined Mother Teresa with his analysis that Bhopal was a "sad event" which resulted from "man's efforts to make progress."
In the same article he also commented on Mother Teresa's alleged links with Charles Keating and Michele Duvalier (wife of Haitian dictator Baby Doc Duvalier). Denouncing the 'cruel rule of capital' he also offered the view that the communists of Calcutta were the "real nameless Mother Teresas who conduct the necessary work towards socialism, for the elimination of poverty forever".
Prashad, along with his FOIL compatriot Biju Mathew, is also an outspoken critic of the resurgence of Hindu cultural nationalism, known as 'Hindutva'. He has also critiqued what he described as the 'epidermic determinism' of V.T. Rajshekar, an advocate for Dalit rights, and others, and suggested that a 'polycultural' approach is needed instead. He also identifies himself as an anti-Zionist and has advocated for the end of US aid to Israel.
In 2010, Prashad was appointed to head the newly formed Trinity Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies. A group of professors wrote a letter protesting to the appointment based on "the prominent role he has played in promoting a boycott of Israeli universities and of study abroad in Israel". After initially refusing to meet with them, Trinity President James Jones eventually met with representatives from Jewish organizations, including the Connecticut Jewish federation, Anti-Defamation League, and the JCRC Hartford on September 14, 2010. One participant reported a "veiled threat" to have Jewish donors "weigh in". The University chose to back Prashad and turned down attempts to demote him.(2017) Will the Flower Slip Through the Asphalt: Writers Respond to Climate Change (New Delhi: LeftWord Books).
(2017) Red October: The Russian Revolution and the Communist Horizon (New Delhi: LeftWord Books)
(2017) Land of Blue Helmets: the United Nations in the Arab World (co-edited with Karim Makdisi) (University of California Press).
(2016) The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press), ISBN 978-0-520-29325-0
(2016) Communist Histories, vol. 1 (New Delhi: LeftWord Books).
(2015) No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (LeftWord Books).
(2015) Letters to Palestine (Verso Books).
(2013) Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso). Foreword by Boutros-Boutros Ghali.
(2012) Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today. (The New Press), ISBN 978-1-59558-784-8
(2012) Arab Spring, Libyan Winter, (AK Press), ISBN 978-1-84935-112-6.
(2007) The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World, The New Press, ISBN 978-1-56584-785-9
(2003), Keeping up with the Dow Joneses: Stocks, Jails, Welfare, South End Press, ISBN 978-0-89608-689-0
(2003), Namaste Sharon: Hindutva and Sharonism under US Hegemony, LeftWord Books, ISBN 81-87496-35-5.
(2002) Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: Afro-Asian Connections and the Myth of Cultural Purity, Beacon Press, ISBN 978-0-8070-5011-8
(2002) Fat Cats and Running Dogs: The Enron Stage of Capitalism, Zed Books, ISBN 978-1-84277-261-4
(2002), War against the Planet: The Fifth Afghan War, Imperialism and Other Assorted Fundamentalism, Manohar, ISBN 978-81-87496-19-9
(2002), Untouchable Freedom: A Social History of a Dalit Community, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-565848-4
(2000), The Karma of Brown Folk, University of Minnesota Press, ISBN 978-0-8166-3438-5