Abstracts of Papers
Manan Ahmed (Chicago): Knowledge Systems of the Empire in Sindh.
Sareeta Amrute (Chicago): NRI: A short history of a term.
This paper will explore some aspects of the contemporary relationship between the nation-state and diasporic populations through a history of the term Non-Resident Indian (NRI) and an analysis of how the Indian nation-state lays claim to the allegiance of diasporic Indians as part of a strategy of capital accumulation. The term NRI is found first in the Indian Tax code of 1961 and the Foreign Exchange Relation Act (FERA) of 1973, both of which tried to foster the free flow of capital from “abroad” to the “nation” even while attempting to control those flows through moral pressure and economic incentives leveraged through the creation of a new category of personâ- the NRI. In the process, these codes invoked at least two possible modes for the generation of wealth, one heroically individual, the other socially circuitous. Thus, the NRI, as a legal, economic and social category, embodies concurrently two opposing theories of the relationship of nation-states to the production of wealth – it suggests the opening up the national market to “foreign” equity in a way consonant with neo-liberal economic philosophies; conversely, it calls on a specific cadre of foreigners, the NRIs, to invest in India at least partially to redistribute goods held collectively by the nation. Based on this and related evidence, I will argue for a reconsideration of neoliberalism that makes more of the long history of financial instruments, such as the colonial tax law out of which the NRI concept emerges, that allow the contemporary relationship between the Indian state and its subjects to be remade.
Laura Desmond (Chicago): Objects of Knowledge and the Subject of Pleasure: kama and other puruṣarthas
The classical Sanskrit scholarly discourse known as śastra emerged in tandem with the conceptual category of the trivarga, the “three-fold group” comprised of dharma (“duty, moral order”), artha (“acquisition, profit”) and kama (“pleasure, desire”), also known collectively as the puruṣarthas, the “human goals”. The puruṣrthas exist as a conceptual field in a large body of classical Sanskrit literature, comparable to current academic fields such as “the human sciences.” Just as today we have scholars of comparative literature, history, or psychology but no “human scientists”, classical India produced dharma-, artha-, and kama-śastras, but no trivargaśastras; this three-fold category does not exist as a separate object of knowledge within the disciplinary framework of classical Sanskrit scholarship.
This paper proceeds with the assumption that śastra is a disciplinary style of reasoning, one that takes place within the bounds of carefully delimited conceptual spaces; each sub-genre of śastra functions as a distinct scholastic discipline. To better understand the correlation between the trivarga and the śastric discourse that constitutes its component elements, this paper will consider kama as an exemplary object of śastric knowledge. Taking as its point of departure the text of the Kamasūtra, and with evidence drawn from saṃkhya, ayurveda, mīmasa?, the Mahabharata, and dharma- and artha-śastras, this paper will examine the relationship between kama and the category of the puruṣartha-s, as a means of elucidating the connection between śastric inquiry and the trivarga, and between disciplinary styles of discourse and their objects.
Nitya Dhakar (Buffalo (SUNY)): Stylistic Expression of Power in the Akbarnama
During the sixteenth century, the art of painting flourished under the reign of Akbar. It began as a mixture of Indian, Persian and European elements that became a staple of Akbar”s imperial atelier. The combination of these various styles and the innovations of the master painters led to the development of a unique Mughal style. Though influenced by others, it existed as an autonomous entity. The style mainly survives to the present day in the form of miniatures, painted either as illustrations for books or albums. During the late years of Akbar’s reign, he commissioned the production of the Akbarnama (“Book of Akbar”) in order to create a record of his history, through both text and image. Scholars have often used the text and visual subject matter to investigate the social, political and ideological circumstances of sixteenth-century India, but little research has been applied to the stylistic elements and their implications. Through a brief examination of the Indian, Persian and European styles utilized in the Akbarnama (the last manuscript commissioned by Akbar), issues of power and ideological acculturation are discovered. Akbar”s motivations were not simply based on the accessibility of these influences, but reveal his complex expression of authority and power inside and outside the Mughal Empire. The skillful harmonization of Persian, Indian and European styles in the Akbarnama illustrations reveals Akbar”s desire to carve out a new identity and authority for the empire.
Jennifer Dubrow (Chicago): Print, Pleasure and the Public: Fasana-e Azad and the World of the Literary Text in Late Nineteenth-Century Lucknow
This paper examines the relationship between print, literary pleasure, and the newspaper reading public in Fasana-e Azad (The Tale of Azad) by Ratan Nath “Sarshar.” A serialized “novel” published in the Lucknow newspaper Avadh Akhbar between 1878 and 1880, Fasana-e Azad was a commercial text, designed to sell newspapers by inducing readerly pleasure. Using a unique mixture of dastan narrative techniques, colloquial language, and contemporary news events, the author and newspaper editor, Ratan Nath “Sarshar,” took his hero from the streets of Lucknow to the battlefields of the Turko-Russian War, all the while satirizing old navabi elites and propounding New Light reforms. This combination of dastan-like adventure narrative, contemporary satire, news story and reformist guidebook broke new ground in Urdu narrative fiction, and perhaps inspired Sarshar to call his work a “novel.” More importantly, it produced considerable pleasure for the readers, as evidenced by their letters to the author, by presenting both their city, Lucknow, and foreign affairs, the Turko-Russian War, as something lived and instantaneous. Through their debates with each other and the author, readers formed not only a critical public but also an imaginative community, bound together by print. This helped to transform, albeit incompletely, an oral public into a reading public, and brought the world of the literary text into contemporary time and space.
Walt Hakala (Penn): Pashto, Persian, and the English in the First Anglo-Afghan War”
This paper explores the inability of cultural models built upon dichotomies of the “self” and “other” to account for the linguistic experience of the British in Afghanistan during the first Anglo-Afghan war. It takes as its point of departure an account of a particular episode penned by the only Englishman to have survived of the disastrous retreat of the British Army from Kabul without capture in January, 1842. Examining this and other narratives of the episode, presented in fiction and as firsthand accounts, this paper attempts to trace the means by which British and Indian authors come to consider themselves capable of representing and reproducing Afghan speech in English. It asks in particular what happens when one culture finds itself unable to engage with a “radically alien” culture except through the intermediation of other, perhaps less radically alien, cultures. This seems to have been the case in the failed attempt of the British to export an “internalized” Indian model of colonialism to Afghanistan between 1838 and 1843.
Rajeev Kinra (Chicago): Crimes against Imperiality: Rogue States and Suitable Chastisement” in 17th-Century Mughal India”.
This paper draws on a moment of imperial assertion in Mughal India, in order to ask questions about how we understand early modern empires and their relationships with client states, and further to see how those questions can inform a critique of contemporary discourse about global empire. The primary source here is a letter from the celebrated Mughal secretary, Chandar Bhan “Brahman,” to the Emperor Shah Jahan (the “King of the World,” most famous as the builder of the Taj Mahal). The letter concerns Chandar Bhan”s diplomatic mission to Udaipur, brought on by the increasing recalcitrance of the local ruler, Rana Raj Singh of Mewar. After a florid j”accuse detailing the Rana”s transgressions against imperial stability, Chandar Bhan warns, ominously, that continued misbehavior will prompt a “suitable chastisement.” He then culminates with an extraordinary narration of what it means to be a part of the Mughal Empire, and the financial, status, and security benefits of participation in that imperial project. It is this latter aspect of the letter which reads almost like a manifesto of the Mughals” “vision of a unified polity” (to borrow Eisenstadt”s terminology), and suggests intriguing interpretive possibilities, not the least of which is to explore some stirring echoes of (post)modern carrot-and-stick discourse vis-Ã -vis alleged “rogue states.” This paper, therefore, begins by briefly historicizing this fascinating diplomatic artifact, and locating it within the general context of Mughal-Rajput collaboration and conflict. But from there, through discursive analysis of Chandar Bhan”s vivid language, I move to address the larger question of how “rogue-ness” is constructed in imperial imaginations, past and presentâand thus to tease out illuminating parallels, as well as crucial differences, between this early modern example of policing the imperial margins and its more recent adumbrations under the so-called “new imperialism.”
A. Azfar Moin (Michigan): Imperial Imaginings and Millenarian Polemic in Mughal India: Bada”uni”s Historiography Reconsidered.
In the year 990 AH (1582 AD), the Mughal emperor Jalal al-Din Akbar celebrated the end of the first millennium of Islam. One of his court scholars and historians, Abd al-Qadir Bada”uni, famously described in his secret chronicle how Akbar declared the end of the period of Islam and instituted a new religion with himself as its prophet. Much ink has been spilled on Akbar”s interest in heterodox Islamic doctrines, his evolving spiritual quest, his “liberalism” and astute political manipulation of religion. This scholarship, moreover, has depended heavily on Bada”uni”s description of the religious dynamic at the Mughal court. Bada”uni has been understood as an “orthodox” or “bigoted” Sunni, horrified at the heresies being perpetrated by the Emperor and his court favorites. In this paper, I argue that this sanitized and ahistorical image of Islamic “orthodoxy” from the Mughal period was developed by ignoring the pervasiveness of millenarian discourse. Millenarianism was hegemonic in the early-modern Persianate milieu. It provided not only an idiom of imperial legitimacy for Mughal, Safavid and Ottoman rulers but also found expression in regional political upheavals and popular movements of social change. In other words, there was an intense competition over the public symbols signifying the millennium. In this context, I show that Badauni was well aware of the importance of millenarian discourse and, indeed, deployed it in his polemics against Akbar. In reinterpreting Badauni”s historiography as millenarian, I focus on an important but understudied form of knowledge that structured political debate and social communication in early modern India. To ignore millenarianism as a systematic form of thought, I argue, is to misconstrue how imperial imaginings were constructed and contested in the Mughal “ecumene”.
Sharleen Mondal ( U. Wash. Seattle): Beyond Nationalism: Politics, Sexuality, and the Figure of Woman in Rabindranath Tagore”s The Home and the World
In this paper, I examine the ways in which issues of gender, sexuality, and nationalism shape Rabindranath Tagore’s imagining of a political future for early twentieth century Bengal in his novel The Home and the World. Sangeeta Ray argues (see her book Engendering India: Woman and Nation in Colonial and Postcolonial Narratives) that Tagore”s “poetic onslaught against nationalism fails to offer an alternative modus operandi for decolonization” (96) and that Tagore fails to “offer a political manifesto for a positive movement of decolonization.” Responding to Ray”s assertion, I find the demand for a “political manifesto” to be dismissive of other kinds of political imaginings, overlooking the significant ways in which Tagore”s narrative engages in a politics defined in less formulaic terms. Drawing on Mary Layoun”s concept of “strategic narrative authority” (see her Wedded to the Land? Gender, Boundaries, and Nationalism in Crisis), I read the voice of Bimala, the main female character in the novel, as a conscious political engagement with an uncertain future, striking in the fact that Bimala is a heavily sexualized and eroticized subject throughout the novel. While Partha Chatterjee argues that in the model constructed by patriarchal nationalists, woman”s movement from home to world necessitated a desexualization of woman, who was adulated as mother or goddess (see his book The Nation and Its Fragments, 130-131), Bimala”s consistently sexually charged character leads me to suggest that it is Tagore”s critique of nationalism which allows him to imagine the figure of woman with her sexuality intact, despite her crossings between home and world. Through the journey of this non-desexualized subject, Tagore offers two principle sites from which an effective politics beyond swadeshi nationalism can be formulated: the erotics of the adopted or in-law brother and sister relationship, and relations of the everyday.
Dara Price (Oxford): The Punjab Tradition and disunities in British imperial polity”
Britain”s annexation of the Punjab in 1849 signalled the birth of a potent and tenacious vision of imperial polity. Within a few years of the extension of the British Indian boundary, politicians and administrators began to extol the virtues of the “Punjab Tradition”. This idealized notion of imperial governance connoted a system of benevolent paternalism wherein a brotherhood of English soldier-sahibs presided as enlightened despots over the supposedly martial races of the north-west. It is the Punjab Tradition which informs and conjures trite vignettes of the omnipotent “man on the spot” governing from the saddle and inspiring the loyalty of fierce tribesmen. Indeed, the legacy of this construct is embedded and commemorated in the nostalgic fiction-cum-propaganda of the Raj left to us by the likes of Rudyard Kipling, Flora Annie Steel and Maud Diver.
In fact, however, this rhetorical monolith disguised not only the tenuity of British hegemony, but also deep fissures and ambiguities in the socio-political and bureaucratic components internal to the hegemonic framework. More specifically, the arrogance evinced by the Punjab Tradition belies the disunities in British imperial polity. Its historically broad application as being representative of British Indian governance in general is misleading, for the driving force behind the articulation of this model was the desire, on the part of British bureaucrats themselves, for a distinction between governance in the Punjab and that of the rest of British India. This imperative grew out of widespread profound disillusionment with liberal and utilitarian experiments in empire; in effect, it represented the “othering” of British Indian government by its own agents.
This paper examines how imperial officials expressed disappointment in British systems of government and sought to distance themselves from the establishment by forging a new polity. It therefore explores the broader themes of the weakness and detumescence of the imperial state and the challenges posed to imperial authority by recurrent crises in confidence and pervasive self-criticism.
A. Sean Pue (Columbia): Ham EshiyÄÄ«”: Solidarities After Empire
In the preface to her translation of Mahasweta Devi’s Imaginary Maps, Gayatri Spivak argues that intellectual efforts after the 1955 Bandung Conference did not follow political efforts to establish a “third way” in the world system. She writes, “The only idioms deployed for the nurturing of this nascent Third World in the cultural field belonged then to positions emerging from resistance within the supposedly ‘old’ world orderâanti-imperialism and/or nationalism.” While Spivak’s point is largely true, this paper uncovers the efforts of N. M. Rashed to provide just such a platform for new idioms of solidarity between South Asia and Iran in his modernist Urdu-language poetry of the 1950s. I focus on his volume, ÄªrÄn meÃ± ajnabÄ« (A Stranger, or Foreigner, in Iran) , which addresses the poet’s experiences in Iran as an officer in the British Indian Army during World War II. Published while Rashed was working at the U. N., the volume is steeped in Third Worldist politics. I will argue that in this volume Rashed proposes an “imaginative geography” of West and South Asia that does not resort to nationalism, but rather deliberately seeks to overcome the political and cultural idioms of the past. By privileging the category of experience, Rashed focuses on the present of Persian and Urdu, rather than their past entanglements. Rashed stakes a claim to the political and literary arena of the Third World, but his unspoken agenda remains the future of the Urdu literary community. Writing from a position inside and outside of the Subcontinent, Rashed intervenes in debates amongst Urdu writers and intellectuals about the fate of the community after Partition. Focusing on the future of his language, Rashed presents the possibilities of modernism for producing new solidarities in Pakistan, India, and the Third World.
Siddharth Satpathy (Chicago): Conversion of Rama Chundra: A Hindoo Native Preacher in Orissa”
One fine morning in the winter of 1829 Rama Chundra Jachak, a Hindoo Mahratta residing in Orissa chose to convert into Christianity. Rama Chundra not only embraced the faith of the Padre Sahibs but also emulated their literary habits: he began to keep a personal journal in the vernacular. A Baptist missionary duly translated and published parts of it as a tract and gently reminded the “Christian Reader” to be a good Christian and to do “all you can to send his Gospel to other Lost and perishing heathen.” My paper will attempt an analysis of this autobiographical tract published in the year 1834.
Scholars of conversion in colonial India rightly underline the limitations of a missionary-centered focus: the unidirectional flow of activity suggested by this model contradicts what is, after all, an exchange.” While studying such an exchange in the context of Rama Chundra’s autobiography, my paper will touch upon a variety of issues: availability of a native tradition of religious debate which helps the subject to think about his personal need of conversion; his attempt to fashion for himself an idea of guilt which is at variance with the “traditional” Christian idea; the autobiographer”s construction of an image of the self as renouncer vis-Ã -vis the loss of property attending upon conversion; his complex relationship with his family as well as “brethren and sisters in the Lord”; inherent tensions between the two literary forms of autobiography and tract etc.
Yuthika Sharma (Columbia): Restructuring the past: The conservation of historic architecture as landscape in imperial Delhi, 1878-1913
For municipal planners and conservationists of Delhi, the advent of the British Indian Empire, announced in 1878, offered a new avenue for reconfiguring its Mughal past. Their efforts were doubled with the prospect of a new capital at Delhi announced in 1911. Faced with the task of reworking multiple layers of historical cities and archaeological remnants into the new city, the presentation of Beauty through nature and antiquities was seen as crucial for enhancing the picturesque value of the future New Delhi. As the future capital of the British Indian Empire, Delhi”s historic architecture and landscape was subject to intensive reformulation by the planners and conservationists who attempted to refashion it to suit a developing British imperial taste. This paper will look at the dual functioning of the Delhi Municipality and the Archaeological Survey of India as key players for the restoration, revival, and reformulation of Sultanate and Mughal architecture within the rapidly transforming urban character of Shahjahanabad/Delhi and its suburbs from 1878-1913. Through a closer look at the strategies for the enclosure of specific historical “monuments” into “monument parks” and “archaeological gardens” this paper will argue that much of the historical component of Delhi was reformulated as landscape. Through a survey of important cases, the discussion will highlight the tactical use of land acquisition and landscaping as a means and an end for the creation of a new imperial visuality at Delhi.
Miss Taylor C. Sherman (Cambridge): ‘The Indian Union and the Battle over the Princely State of Hyderabad, 1945-1953’
This paper explores the unified polity envisioned by the post-colonial state in India by discussing the integration of the princely state of Hyderabad into the Indian Union, 1945-1953. Most histories of the independence of British India have focused on the division of the subcontinent into two nation-states. When the assimilation of the semi-autonomous princely states into these two units is featured outside of the footnotes in these texts, the attention has been on the still-unresolved problem of Kashmir. Hyderabad’s centrality “geographically, economically and conceptually” to the new Indian Union has been overlooked. It was a large state in the middle of the subcontinent which, had it remained independent or had it merged with Pakistan, would have disrupted the economic and geographic unity of India. Further, because the state featured an elite leadership of Muslims with a cosmopolitan culture, and large numbers of Telegu and Tamil speaking Hindus, the inclusion of the people of Hyderabad into India was an important element in the creation of the Indian nation as imagined by the Congress Party. Absorbing Hyderabad into the Union was not easy, however. To do this, the Indian Government had to fight a two-front battle: first against the followers of the minority Muslim leader, the Nizam of Hyderabad, and also against a communist insurgency. These two groups had been fighting one another before the Indian state entered the fray in September 1948. While the Indian Army defeated the Nizam”s forces within weeks, the communists fought a lasting insurgency. Using archival sources from India, this paper examines how these struggles shaped the new Indian state, from the content of the constitution to the creation of schemes for rural development. In so doing, the work attempts to bridge the gap between colonial and post-colonial histories of the Indian subcontinent.
Nameeta Sugandhi (Chicago): Beginning Empire: Reconfiguring the Mauryan Polity in Modern India.
Though the appeal for additional development of a universal model of Empire may have dissipated, there is still somewhat of a sense that one must justify its absence and reconfigure existing models thought to be predicated on earlier, now-invalidated themes. Such is the case with many ancient empires in South Asia, including the Mauryan polity (c. 320-180 BC). This paper examines the way in which contemporary issues of modern India have been projected back more than two millennia to structure our understanding of a state often considered one of the first political expressions of a united Indian nation. Correspondingly, early interpretations of the Mauryan polity have contributed to current notions of modern India”s indigenous political legacy in ways that must be examined within the context of current scholarship concerned with the amalgamation of numerous strands of evidence available for the study of the ancient Indian past. In illustration of this point, this paper will present some of the results from ongoing research that examines the role of the Mauryan empire in various parts of the Indian subcontinent through an account of the types of histories that may be extracted from archaeological, textual and ethnographic sources. This project seeks to examine ways in which such multiple histories may be combined to further our knowledge of Mauryan strategies of control and the various relations of power and exchange that they may have exercised across the Indian subcontinent. This in turn can provide us with an historic example with which to engage in the broader theoretical consideration of empires, the numerous forms they may take, and the various intentions and policies that may shape their interaction across wide and diverse landscapes.
Sarah Waheed (Tufts): Selfhood and the “Other Woman”: The Urbane Intellectual and Tawaif 1899 – 1955
In this paper, I trace the figure of the tawaif as she was imagined from the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century, shifting from meaning an artist and courtesan, to reservoir of high culture, to prostitute, and then to entertainer. The multi-valent meanings of the tawaif across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are refracted through inflections of ethnographic, moral, and nostalgic renderings from Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa’s novel, Umrao Jan: Courtesan of Lucknow, to Sa’adat Hasan Manto’s Ganje Farishte (Bald Angels), a series of essays which recounts his days as a screen writer for the nascent Bombay film industry. Although both Ruswa and Manto have different understandings regarding the question of the “other woman” as a figure who is split between herself and her desire, they are both drawing from a longer Persianate tradition of adab. I argue that during the 1930s and 1940s, a period in which high politics had supposedly already defined the parameters of nationalist discourse anti-colonial resistance also took the form of an urban, alternative cosmopolitanism. The resuscitated image of the tawaif as grantor of cultural authenticity is central to the emergence of new subjectivities in the context of late colonial and post-colonial South Asia. The tawaif, then, is the purveyor of social intimacy amongst culturally refined men, shaping the identity of what I call urbane intellectuals. Many of them formed the prominent leftist intelligentsia engaging with popular entertainment (i.e. the nascent Bombay film industry.) The intimacy expressed between and within the worlds of urbane intellectuals is reflected in the re-imaginings of the Bombay film studio as a courtesan’s salon. These notions of social intimacy take on new meanings as the concept of adab is reconstituted and re-deployed by self-authorized adeeb (literary, cultured) personalities or urbane intellectuals, such as Manto.
Daniel Williamson (NYU): The Contradictions of the Colonial Enterprise: Uplifting and Essentializing the Other in Bombay”s Crawford Markets”
Based on research for my recently completed Master’s thesis, this paper examines the Crawford Markets (now Jyotiba Phule Market) as a nexus of contradictions in the British Raj”s ideology. On the one hand, William Emerson, the markets” architect, and Arthur Crawford, Bombay’s first municipal commissioner, conceived of the project as a way to morally uplift, modernize, and sanitize India”s “native” populations through the markets” plan, iconography, and integration with other urban structures and systems. On the other hand, through the same mechanisms, Crawford and Emerson essentialized South Asian culture as timeless, unchanging, primitive, and inferior by reifying this vision in the building”s sculptural program and designing a market that deferred to South Asian cultural and religious practices, even as Crawford and Emerson denigrated those practices in discourses for English audiences. The attempt to morally uplift the patrons of Crawford Markets through stylistic choices, a rigid plan, and iconography can be traced to the market halls that were designed in England throughout the nineteenth-century, in part as mechanisms for morally uplifting lower-class shoppers. Yet, the Crawford Markets should not be understood as the imposition of an alien building type by a hegemonic Colonizing power on a powerless Colonized populace. Crawford Market was designed for its specific context in a number of ways. Further, elements that it shares with its counterparts in England, such as its clock tower, took on subtle shifts in meaning in Bombay. In this process of adaptation, the designers of the Crawford Markets consulted with indigenous religious authorities and garnered the support of the city”s wealthy shetias. Meanwhile, groups opposed to the markets” design from uprooted vendors to British and indigenous ratepayers worried about exorbitant costs attempted to scuttle the plan and remove Crawford from office, failing at the former, but succeeding at the latter. The fragmented nature of Bombay”s British and indigenous communities revealed in their conflicting responses to the markets belied the vision of a benevolent British Empire morally uplifting a backwards South Asian population that the Crawford Markets were meant to express.
Taymiya R. Zaman (Michigan): Milk, Masculinity, and Memoir: Sovereign Authority in the Jahangirnama
In this chapter, I use the memoirs of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir (1605-1627) to explore how Jahangir’s production of kingship was a means of differentiating himself from his father Akbar, and locating himself within historiographical practice through conceptions of domesticity that included relationships of blood, milk, and loyalty. No historian to date has made a detailed study of Jahangir”s memoirs (Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri), and it is my hypothesis that such a study will demonstrate the importance of Jahangir”s memoirs to the inscription of imperial domesticity on empire. Because the Mughals are unusual in their writing of memoirs, the genre of memoir in the context of Mughal India deserves attention as a means by which emperors such as Jahangir located themselves within historiographical practice.. By using the Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri as the focus of this paper, I show the importance of memoir to understanding the fluid notions of kingship that underlay the nature of the Mughal state. Within Jahangir”s memoirs, I examine notions of sovereignty and authority in conjunction with family dynamics, which determined relationships of power and systems of allegiance. In doing so I argue that it is through the loyalty of gendered subjects and family members that Jahangir conceptualises sovereignty and power.