Ellen Ambrosone (University of Chicago): Biography of a Language: Malayalam in the Kēraḷapāṇinīyam(s) of A. R. Rajaraja Varma
In 1896, A.R. Rajaraja Varma Thampuran published his first attempt at a comprehensive grammar of the Malayalam language. Strongly influenced by his Sanskrit educational background, the first Kēraḷapāṇinīyaṃ paid homage to the Sanskrit grammatical master in its sūtra-vṛtti form, leaving the historical grounding of the language to the side and favoring a logical and concise approach to the explication of language. But some twenty years later in 1916, with age, profession, and knowledge acquired with time, Rajaraja Varma published the second edition of the grammar born from the curiosity of his youth.1 The second edition would jettison the sutras and become radically modified to include an extended discussion of the history of the language. In contrast to his famous brother, the artist Ravi Varma, Rajaraja Varma dedicated his life’s work to the intellectual pursuit of the “prosperity of the Malayalam language.”2 What began as an intellectual exercise in his youth became a project that required a radical re-imagining of the possibilities of language and its articulation in grammatical treatise. By examining the frames of both grammars, one can see a substantial shift between the first and second editions. The shift is a move from the ābhyūhika-prasthānaṃ, which he claims is attached to the name Pāṇini, to the āgama-prastānaṃ, which he claims is necessary in order to count his grammar as one among the śāstras.3 The āgama of Malayalam as articulated in the second Kēraḷapāṇinīyaṃ requires Rajaraja Varma to personify the language as he writes of its gestation in the wombs of other languages, its gender upon birth,
and its development through 3 life stages. By writing the biography of Malayalam, Rajaraja Varma fixes and locates the language within the dominant European models of linguistic development current in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and perhaps offers legitimacy to a vernacular employed not only in the home, but in literary and institutional practices.
Ishan Chakrabarti (University of Texas-Austin): Individuation in Early Modern Travelogue
Faced with both the erosion of Eurocentrism within the traditional disciplines and the rise of geographically-centered area studies departments, scholars seeking to work across geographic areas continue to find themselves at a difficult impasse. Whereas Europe once centered scholarly discourse, today we find multiple centers: South Asia, East Asia, Africa, the Middle East, etc.
Yet what happens when the object of one’s study moves freely across these areas? The replacement of a European center with a non-European center is of little avail. I seek to understand the exchange of ideas across South Asia and Europe in the 16th-17th centuries through the genre of autobiographical travelogue. In this time period, merchants began publishing hugely popular narratives of their travels containing autobiographical anecdotes, descriptions of foreign lands and anthropological information about their inhabitants. As these travelers roamed across Europe, the Middle East and South Asia, situating their literary work within any one of these areas confines their legacies. To adequately understand this nomadic literary genre, we must abstract ourselves from the geography and examine the thematic aspects of our roaming objects. Hence, I suggest it is imperative to look at the new modes of life being formed by these author-merchants: the philosophically-rich questions of the categories that structured their lives.
Specifically, my paper examines the Viaggi of Pietro Della Valle (an Italian traveler in Turkey, Iran and South Asia) and the Ardhakathānaka of Banārasīdāsa (the first Indian autobiography, comprising the records of a Jain merchant roaming South Asia). Significantly, I find that the accounts of these travelers trace an arc that emphasizes individuality as an ethical
concept. Ejected from all geographical confines and thrust into a world of constantly changing places, the travelers confront their individuality. Autobiographical writing becomes an ethical practice by which they reflect on and build this individuality: I seek to annotate this process.
Dolly Daftary (Washington University in St. Louis): Panchayats, Institutional Change, and the Politics of Democracy in India
The Indian state enacted Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in 1993, devolving local governance and community development to elected bodies called panchayats. My paper will explore the politics of a neoliberalizing state through ethnography of panchayats in eastern Gujarat, in the state that is the poster-child of market reforms in India.
Panchayats are mediators of resource conflicts, frontiers of statemaking and sites for a ‘politics of the governed’ (Chaterjee 2004) in the 21st century. Through such incidents as national level bureaucrats advising businesses to acquire land through panchayats to minimize local resistance, and both elected leaders and local bureaucrats in Gujarat rewarding panchayats that agree not to hold elections that threaten to open up crevices of political dissent, my paper will study the postcolonial state’s use of democracy to render natural spaces and communities malleable through panchayats. By means of an examination of the politics of panchayats among elected leaders, NGOs, district level bureaucrats and political parties in eastern Gujarat, I will tease out how grassroots democracy both precludes and enable a politics of the governed. Panchayat contestants’ assertion of autonomy against the highest state actors through dissent against ‘consensual politics’ reveals panchayats to be located not only in political society but also the community, potentially rupturing state agendas and creating the possibility of an alternative democratic project. I suggest that by uniquely constituting representational politics in the locality, panchayats craft an acutely politicized understanding of development among subalterns and a deep sense of legitimacy and justice of rule, creating the possibility for a distinctive democracy of resistance that is simultaneously implicated in the state. This precludes any easy categorization of panchayats as state instruments or political parties’ tools, revealing panchayats to be open to popular, subaltern, opportunistic and state-centered forces, and contingently shaping democratic practice.
Victor D’Avella (University of Chicago): On the Purity of Poetry
The question of pure speech within the Sanskrit literary tradition dates back to the definitive work on grammar, the Mahābhāṣya (ca. 2nd cent. CE), where the notion of linguistic correctness is presented in the context of the Brahmanical ritual and society. Over the centuries, however, the uses of Sanskrit and the accompanying grammatical system spread beyond this narrow realm and into the larger cosmopolitan and courtly sphere including poetry. Although this transition has been the subject of much research and theorization in recent years, scholars have largely disregarded the role Sanskrit grammar played in the development of a pure poetic language in the early works on poetics or alaṃkāraśāstra. In this paper I will begin to fill this lacuna.
In addressing this topic I draw on three primary texts: Patañjali’s Mahābhāṣya, the “Great Commentary” on Pāṇini’s Aṣṭādhyāyī, Bhāmaha’s Kāvyālaṃkāra, and Vāmana’s Kāvyālaṃkārasūtra. In tracing the usage of Sanskrit grammar through these texts, I will detail how two early authors of poetics drew on the already established notions of linguistic purity in the Mahābhāṣya to create their own idea of a pure poetic language. Bhāmaha (ca. 7th cent. CE), likely to be our first author on Sanskrit poetics, presupposes the purified language as defined by the Pāṇinian school of Grammar, but carves out the domain of proper poetic language in terms of restrictions on the application of grammatical rules. Vāmana (ca. 8th cent., Kashmir) responds to, and refutes, Bhāmaha’s notion of poetic language; in place of restrictions on the derivational system found in Pāṇini’s grammar, he focuses on providing grammatical justifications or rejections of already current poetic usage. In my final analysis I will demonstrate how the unique grammatical system of the Sanskrit grammarians allowed for two authors to arrive at differing notions of poetic purity supported by a single authority, Pāṇini’s Aṣṭādhyāyī.
Sean Dowdy (University of Chicago): Moral Economies of the Marvelous: Rain, Value and the Marwari Stranger Merchant
Alterity is a great source of value. This argument, which is present in both structural and historical anthropology (especially in their attempted fusion – c.f. Sahlins 1985, 2008) and in some strands of moral philosophy (c.f. Levinas 1999), is the central proposition of this essay. It applies to the particular (in this case, the invidious distinctions made concerning pan-Indian merchant communities now known as “Marwari”) but does not discount the generalizable. During the nineteenth century, Marwari “stranger merchants” acquired kin-centric monopolies over financial and wholesale markets across the sub-continent. Over time, they also became figures of moral alterity, synonymous with opprobrium for peasants and with abject usury and/or anachronism for the British Raj, social reformers and paeans to liberalism. Drawing on historical and ethnographic examples of Marwari relationships to the monsoon rains of India, both in the guise of a controversial speculative economy (barsat kaa sattaa, or “rain-gambling”) and of nineteenth century peasant moral economies that hedged merchants against their supposed rain-making abilities, I develop a thesis that poses moral alterity as a kind of productive cultural description – in this case, mediated by the uncontrollable force of the weather. Values, both social and cosmological in scope, become fashioned and/or rearticulated through such descriptions. What concerns this thesis, then, is not why Marwaris have been represented, stereotyped or symptomatically diagnosed as usurious, anachronistic or otherwise, but how “Other-wise” relations of alterity and alliance license the creation of timely values out of untimely or uncontrollable conditions.
Jyoti Gulati (University of California-Los Angeles): The Political-Minded Sufi in the Realm of Gujarat Sultans: A Reading of Ahmad Khattu’s Malfuzāt
The Tuhfat al-majālis (The Gift of Assemblies) and the Mirqāt al-wusūl ila Allah wa al-rasūl (The Ladder to Achieve Union with God and His Messenger), commemorate the life of the sufi shaykh Ahmad Khattū (c. 1337/8- 1445/6 C.E.), also known as Ahmad Maghribi, who died in Sarkhej, Gujarat. Written around the middle of the fifteenth century in Persian, these texts record the public discourses, or malfuzāt, of Ahmad Khattū in all their anecdotal complexity. They not only preserve Ahmad Khattū’s comments on doctrines of law and religion, his virtues and piety, but also his relationship with the social and political elites of the time. Historians working on the Delhi and Deccan sultanates have recognized the importance of sufi literary texts for historical inquiry in general and for complicating our understanding of politics and the exercise of political authority in the medieval period in specific. In the case of the Gujarat sultanate (c. 1407- 1573 C.E.), however, a similar appreciation and research is still wanting. In this paper I discuss how the Tuhfat and the Mirqāt enable us to delve deeper into the nature of Ahmad Khattū’s prominent political role in the early Gujarat sultanate, and the many tensions and competition that accompanied such a role. I attempt this by elaborating on two anecdotes relating to the time of political and spiritual succession. By illustrating the importance of these texts for this line of historical inquiry, I argue that the sufi was not just a legitimizing figure for the sultans but also an alternate center of authority who competed with and often outshone the Gujarat sultans.
Erum Aly Haider (University of Chicago): Strong Party, Weak Party – the Institutionalization of the All-India Muslim League
Using election data from 1937 and 1945-6, correspondence between
Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the leaders of the All India Muslim League
(AIML), his letters and speeches to the British Crown and newspaper
articles in the English and Urdu press, this paper shows that the AIML
was successful in its struggle for political significance because of
its highly centralized institutional structure. The party benefited
from Jinnah’s ability to broker power with the British government and
make alliances with religious and political leaders in the provinces,
it therefore dominated discourse on Muslim nationalism far more
effectively than other parties. The hypothesis proposed by some
scholars that the AIML based its demands for Pakistan on the increase
in vote share between 1937 and 1945-6 is rejected; Muslim support for
the war effort during the 1945-6 period is found to be a far more
important political lever when bargaining for near-equal status with
the numerically stronger Congress Party. Examining
institutionalization criteria proposed by Huntington and Mainwaring
and Scully (adaptability, complexity, autonomy and value infusion) in
the light of this evidence the author finds that the criteria do not
explain how “weak” institutions are often politically successful and
historically persistent. At various points in its trajectory the
League shows signs of several or none of these forms of
institutionalization: it is difficult to justify the use of these
variables as fully independent and exogenous. The paper suggests that
identifying the incentives that drive political parties to adopt
“good” practices (such as alliances with local organizations) may be
far more useful for studying the institutionalization of democratic
Amanda Hamilton (University of Chicago): The Missing ‘Half’: ‘Caste,’ ‘Casta’ and Hybrid Miscegenation Discourses in 1820’s British India
This paper describes the vibrant hybridity of ‘miscegenation discourse’ in British India. I examine debates in newspapers from 1820’s Calcutta and Madras in which Eurasian, Indian, and white-European commentators debated the nature of “Euro-asian-ness” and the implications of hybridity in legal policy and education. I argue that race hierarchies in 1820s British India derived from cosmopolitan selection of race practices that traveled across the Atlantic World. Between 1820 and 1830 Calcutta newspapers including the Bengal Hurkaru and the Oriental Herald reveal that Eurasians, white Europeans, and South Asians studied racial practices from Asia and the Atlantic World. Commentators invoked Iberian colonial ideas of mestizaje and Caribbean plantation color hierarchies to support or denounce Eurasian demands for political equality with British or Indian elites.
Could Eurasians define their status in India by using seventeenth and eighteenth-century Spanish American “Casta” categories? (Katzew, 1996) ‘Casta’ designations and ‘Casta paintings’ attempted to define and place in colonial Mexico the children of different combinations of mixed, not ‘pure’ parentage. European and native elites condemned Eurasians as an inferior race by linking color with assertions that most Eurasians were illegitimate. In Atlantic plantation societies whites deployed used color and illegitimacy to create potent racial hierarchies to ensure that even manumitted blacks should never attain equal socio-political status with whites. Eurasian activists perceived a creeping ‘One-drop’ ideology in British India that constituted them across time and space as an inferior ‘bastard’ race. They argued that their situation had nothing in common, politically or legally, with that of ‘illegitimate slave-mulattos’ in plantation societies. Indians and Eurasians confronted prejudices that reached selectively across time and space to ideas about color and miscegenation that evolved in colonies across the world.
Atiya Khan (University of Chicago): The Vicissitudes of Leftist Politics in Pakistan: The Self-Defeat of the 1960s New Left
1968 betokened the collapse of student-led, mass, social-democratic movements globally. The Left in Pakistan was, in this sense, unexceptional; it failed politically to remain in the van after the dramatic events which forced General Ayub Khan (1958-69) to abdicate the reins of the state. With the return to liberal, parliamentary rule in 1970, the ordeal of a military dictatorship looked to be over. Yet, we can see that present-day Pakistan is once again in crisis, the roots of which stretch back to the defeat of progressive groups in an earlier era. From our vantage-point, when the real threat exists of a chauvinistic, retrograde form of Taliban Islam, as the alternative to the paternalistic authority of President Zardari, it seems difficult, utopian even, to imagine an era when Leftists might have seized control of the nation. That the conservatives have now established their political hegemony, effaces the historical importance of progressive organizations that once had the support of agriculturalists in the rural country-side as well as worker-student alliances in the cities; it also fails to consider that it is precisely at that moment, in the late-1960s, when the stakes were highest, that conservative elements were proportionately robust. The “retrograde” nature of political developments in Pakistan, the forestalled, uneven character of its industrial development, its relationship to the United States at the height of the Cold War, the extreme depravation everywhere in spite of the bountiful “Green Revolution” all call out for an historical analysis of Left democratic groups that had once sought to develop an alternative to these kinds of sociopolitical contradictions, but which were blindsided by historical developments. The aim of this paper is to address the political history and argue that the contemporary meltdown in Pakistan is the stark consequence of the cumulative (self-) defeats of the Left.
Madhav Khosla (Yale University): Inclusive Constitutional Comparison
Constitutional scholars and political theorists are presently engaged in an important debate regarding whether judges should refer to foreign law in determining domestic legal disputes. There are several theories positing constitutional comparison, outlining its benefits and elaborating on its promise. Yet the support for foreign law is deeply qualified. Scholars of constitutional comparison are highly sensitive in identifying the type of jurisdiction that should assist judges. Thus, while judges in the United States should, it is argued, refer to decisions in the United Kingdom, there is little to gain by referring to decisions in countries such as Nepal. In my paper, I study the comparative approach of the Indian judiciary to reflect upon this exclusionary approach. In particular, I study the recent decision in Naz Foundation (2009) where the Delhi High Court decriminalized homosexuality while referring extensively to a diverse range of unlikely foreign sources. I argue that Indian decisions demonstrate uses of comparative law that western scholars have hitherto ignored. I elaborate on these uses, showing how Indian courts have viewed comparative law as a bundle of ideas. The Indian judiciary’s approach illustrates how sometimes the most unlikely jurisdictions can provide the most meaningful lessons. Moreover, different jurisdictions can serve distinct and unique purposes; for instance, some provide methodological guidance while others substantive assistance. Importantly, the Indian judiciary’s approach is of enormous significance in understanding how democracy operates in South Asia. The comparative approach of Indian courts suggests that they understand democracy is a fashion that commits them to engage with and seriously consider views and opinions that they may regard both irrelevant and ill-founded. Till scholars learn from the Indian judiciary’s approach, their work may well be comparative but it shall never be global.
Ashok Kumar (Indian Institute of Technology): Dalit Christianity, Caste, and Structurally Imposed Marginality: A Sociological Study of Lutheran Church in Contemporary South India
The present paper is empirically rooted in the socio-political and spiritual context of a typical South Indian village in Andhra Pradesh. In the first section, the paper attempts to explore socio-political impulses of backward castes who embraced Lutheran Christianity in modern Andhra Pradesh, south India. Further, it illuminates the importance of Christian festivals and celebrations in their day to day life, and how these celebrations have been viewed as platforms to demonstrate collective strength, social status and political power. The paper describes about how church has replaced the Hindu temples in the lives of these Lutheran converts who are ex-untouchables popularly known as Dalits in modern India. This Paper describes about their struggle against structures of social domination, and how Lutheran church became a facilitator of community politics by placing itself at the centre of power relations.
In the second section, the paper focuses on the weak financial condition of Lutheran church which has forced these converts to arrive at a dual religious identity; official identity being a Hindu and personal/unofficial identity being a Christian. But their Hindu identity is only declared identity but not professed. Politics of caste, political economy of this village and above all, legal problems associated with their ‘dual religious identity’ would be meticulously explained. The paper also explains dual religious identity of these Dalit Christians as a product of structurally imposed marginality as well as symbol of marginality itself. It also furnishes some important subaltern tactics to combat caste domination in their everyday life. Formation of the Sangham, a newer expression of caste pachayat, and how it is being used by Dalit Christians in the village to fight against caste domination and imposed marginality within the limited resources they have.
Risha Lee (Columbia University): A Community in Transition: Tamil Merchants in China
In South India, Tamil Nadu, merchant guilds operated in networks that reshaped political borders within India and across the Indian Ocean. By the 13th century, at least six permanent merchant settlements existed in numerous Southeast Asian countries, as well as China. Over 300 carvings from a Saivite South Indian temple, located in the coastal city of Quanzhou in southern China, many of which have been reused in the city’s main Buddhist temple, speak to the fascinating process of artistic exchange between China in India. One the one hand, the carvings themselves evince consciousness of a collective “Tamil identity” in their mimicry of contemporary South Indian architecture, while on the other, they show the artistic contributions of multiple Quanzhou communities in their application of “Quanzhou-style” ornamentation and innovative adaptation of traditional South Indian temple forms.
When reconstructed, the Siva temple (dated 1281) illustrates the vibrant processes of artistic exchange between foreign and local communities, illustrating the cultural transformation experienced by the newly settled Tamil patrons as they planted roots in Quanzhou. Whereas the reused Indic carvings in the Buddhist temple, which were installed most likely within a half century of the Siva temple’s destruction, in their consciousness of South Indian temple architecture, point to another transitional period in Quanzhou history, where Indic architectonic forms and populations merged with local communities to create a composite culture and visual aesthetic.
My paper investigates the temple’s aesthetic, situating it in the larger context of mercantile traffic across the Indian Ocean, as represented by monuments patronized by Tamil merchants. Through comparison to merchant patronized temples in South India, many of which exist in close proximity to the coastal regions, as well as selected carvings and inscriptions of Tamil merchant patronized temples in Southeast Asia, I ask whether an underlying aesthetic logic, reliant on the socio-economic character of patron groups, may govern a temple’s built form. Through examination of sculpture, architecture, and inscriptions of Tamil merchant temples in Tamil Nadu and Southeast China, this paper investigates the notion of merchant identity and how this identity is translated into built forms across geographical boundaries.
Ashley Lyons (University of Chicago): Beneath the Surface: Layers of Duality in Caitanyacandrodaya of Kavikarṇapūra
Many works on Sanskrit drama strive to include a sampling of various dramatists; however, a prominent void exists with regards to allegorical dramas. Researchers such as A.B. Keith, G.K. Bhat, and Indu Shekhar relegate allegories to what they would consider the trough of Sanskrit drama in the age of “decadence-laced” decline. It is my belief that the reason for the authors’ disregard is because of their narrow scope. This tunnel-vision allows no room for the expansive nature of allegorical dramas, which necessitate an approach that delves into the text to uncover larger meanings. The third act of the Caitanyacandrodaya of Kavikarṇapūra, a 16th century Sanskrit play-within-a-play, will be examined as a clear example of what early scholarship has missed. The Caitanyacandrodaya is a complex structure of multiple, simultaneous narratives that has as its center the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava saint Kṛṣṇa Caitanya. The depth of the two-fold nature of this act enhances the layers of meaning and ultimately reiterates Kavikarṇapūra’s radically new belief in the dual incarnation of Caitanya as both Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. I have used close, textual analysis of the poet’s linguistic choices, style, plot construction, as well as traditional dramatic rasa theory to show how the author steeps his drama in the idea of dual incarnation of the ecstatic saint. Without engaging in a broad set of knowledges when analyzing this play, one would fail to see all the facets of Kavikarṇapūra’s representation of Caitanya and his revived Vaiṣṇavism that unfold. This study shows the intricacy and subtlety with which a poet introduces radical ideas into his/her work and it is my hope that it will provoke more inquiry into allegorical dramas in South Asia.
Katarzyna Pazucha (University of Chicago): King Bhoja of Dhāra and his court; as described in Ballāla’s Bhojaprabandha
Warrior, town planner, builder of irrigation works and more, as well as the most celebrated poet-king and philosopher-king of his time, King Bhoja ruled for over forty years (1011-55) over western India in Mālva. He was most famous and praised, however, not for his military achievements but for his literary career. He was not only the respected author of poetry and theoretical works in his own right but also the head of a famous literary court and a great benefactor of poets. There are countless stories about his generosity, which surpassed even that of the legendary king Vikramāditya, and drew all men of learning to his country. His capital city, Dhāra, was said to be solely inhabited by scholars and poets.
The aim of this paper is to look at the famous King Bhoja, his works as a poet and theoretician, but mainly the descriptions of his legendary court that we can find in later texts. The main text I will be dealing with is Ballāla’s sixteenth-century work, Bhojaprabandha.
C. Ryan Perkins (University of Pennsylvania): From the Mehfil to the Printed Word: Public Debate and Discourse in late Colonial India
In 1905, a 23-year-old Kashmiri Brahmin, Brijnarayan Chakbast, published a new edition of Pandat Daya Shankar Kaul Nasīm’s maṡnavī, Gulzār-e Nasīm (c. 1844) (Rose Garden of Nasīm). Shortly thereafter in March, Abdul Halim Sharar published a review of the maṡnavī in his periodical, Dil Gudāz, which became the focus of an ensuing debate that filled many prominent Urdu newspapers and periodicals for the next year and involved the major literary personalities of the period. Generally recognized as the longest and bitterest of polemics ever known in the history of Urdu literature (Shīrāzī, 1966; Suvorova, 2000) these debates appear to concern themselves primarily with literary style and the appropriate use of language, but as evidenced by the intensity of the debate there was a great deal more at stake. Using Gallagher and Greenblatt’s concept of the “touch of the real” I look at how these “literary” debates reveal a deeper struggle for historical and literary hegemony centered around questions of who had the right to speak for Lucknow’s past and who had the authority to define not only true Lucknow speech but claim a particular history as one’s own. While many studies have highlighted the rising communalism within the late 19th and early 20th century this debate points to the equally significant cross currents that sought to reclaim history from religiously predicated interpretations. Rather than seeing printing and publishing as operating in its own isolated sphere that lagged behind public debates I argue that printing did not so much displace the formerly dominant mode of public debate and dissension, i.e. face-to face contact, as much as add another avenue for debate to take place within the public sphere. Thus new modes of communication, printing and publishing, were incorporated within older systems of circulation and public discourse. This debate in particular presents unique opportunities to examine the relationship between print, circulation, literature, history and the workings of an expanding and critical public in late colonial India.
Sadia Saeed (University of Michigan): Nationalist Discourses and Religious Identities in the Judicial Field in Pakistan
This paper examines the juridical transformation in Pakistan through an empirical focus on the judiciary’s treatment of the Ahmadiyya community. A self-identified minority sect of Islam with roughly 4 million adherents in Pakistan, the community was constitutionally but forcibly declared a ‘non-Muslim minority’ in 1974 on grounds of its controversial claims about the prophethood of Ghulam Mirza Ali (1835-1908), the founder of the sect . This moment of nationalist exclusion set the grounds for subsequent legislations under the Zia regime that made it a criminal offence for Ahmadis to refer to themselves as Muslims and practice their version of Islam. This paper explores how the courts responded to claims and challenges by the Ahmadiyya community in both religious and secular courts that anti-Ahmadiyya legislations were against the injunctions of Islam and that they violated the fundamental citizenship rights guaranteed by the constitution. It argues that Muslim lawyers and judges invoked and constructed novel discourses about Islamic laws and codes to argue that the question of defining and purifying the boundaries of ‘Muslim citizenship’, that is who is and is not a Muslim was central to the creation of an Islamic state. Furthermore, these legal debates provide a unique source for studying how the courts participated in the symbolic construction of the Ahmadiyya community as ‘heretics’. The response of the courts to challenges by the Ahmadiyya community can only be put into perspective by looking at how these legal debates were anchored within larger questions about the very identity of the Pakistani nation-state. Theoretically, this paper draws upon Pierre Bourdieu’s conceptualization of the juridical field and combines it with culturalist approaches (most notably Lawrence Rosen’s) to understand the historical interplay between legal discourse, political field, and citizenship practices.
Arghya Sengupta (University of Oxford), Sanhita Ambast (Tufts University): Barred From the Bench: The Under-Representation of Women in the Indian Higher Judiciary
With increasing scholarly focus on the role of gender in judicial decision making, the issue of under-representation of women in the Indian higher judiciary assumes significance. Only 6% of the judges in the High Courts and Supreme Court of India are female with several High Courts not having any female representation at all. Analysing this under-representation is a crucial part of the evolving discourse on gendering public spaces – be it the workplace, legislature or civil administration – and of understanding the marginalisation of women owing to professional and social stereotyping in India. This paper seeks to study this under-representation and has two specific goals – to understand the reasons behind the masculinisation of judicial spaces in India and to analyse the consequences of this phenomenon. First, the paper will explore the history of judicial administration and education in India to explain the entrenched factors which have constrained women from accessing the higher judiciary. It will then analyse how the mainstreaming of professional stereotypes and gender biases in the official appointments process have contributed to this problem. Special emphasis will be placed on the opaque nature of the system of judicial appointments with minimal accountability which has allowed the perpetuation of such prejudice. This enquiry is also directed at what the material consequences of ‘male judging’ have been in India. Apart from its obviously inequitable nature, a predominantly masculine judicial space also has significant impact on decision-making. This paper will provide actual examples of such ‘male judging’ in India to make an argument as to how this leads to a jurisprudence that privileges a specific type of argumentation, perpetuates prevalent social stereotypes about women, and is insufficiently sensitive to the concerns of several societal groups.
John Stavrellis (Rutgers University): Chandrika Prasad Jigyasu and Bhikkhu Bodhananda: Buddhism and the Evolution of the Dalit Public Sphere
Chandrika Prasad Jigyasu and Bhikkhu Bodhananda were among the first Dalit leaders to greatly popularize the dual claim that Dalits were the original inhabitants of India and that their ancestral religion was Buddhism. Their formulation of a Dalit Buddhist identity occurred over a decade before B. R. Ambedkar began to seriously consider Buddhism as an important element of his own Dalit movement. It is argued in this paper that histories of Dalit Buddhism must begin much earlier than Ambedkar’s conversion in 1956. A member of the earliest generation of literate urban Dalit activists, Jigyasu established his own press as an affordable outlet for the publishing of works by Dalit authors (including his own writings), an effort which played a wide-ranging and influential role in fostering a “Dalit consciousness.” Jigyasu and Bodhananda’s main vehicle for establishing the awareness of a wider Dalit identity is their historical narrative of Dalits’ ancient Buddhist heritage which the authors describe in their writings. Jigyasu and Bodhananda’s work over a period roughly spanning from the publishing in 1930 of Bodhananda’s theories on Dalits’ origins in Mūl Bhāratvāsī Aur Ārya to Jigyasu’s later work in the 1960s thus provides key evidence for understanding the emergence of Buddhism as a major force in the social liberation movements of Dalits, as well as for uncovering the early creation of a rhetorical space for Dalits in the Hindi public sphere.
Luisa Steur (Cornell University): Divergent Pathways of Belonging: Indigenism and Class in Paniya Colony
Subaltern groups legally or commonly designated “adivasi” in India have in the course of the 1990s increasingly turned to this very notion of indigeneity to frame their everyday and political struggles. In Kerala, this process is exemplified by the rise of the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha (AGMS), a new social movement that organized state-wide “adivasi” protests culminating in the occupation of the Muthanga wildlife sanctuary in 2003. Yet during this occupation, the politics of indigeneity that had been nurtured by activists, for instance through the claim that Muthanga was an “adivasi homeland” where they came to live in harmony with nature, was turned against them as rumors were spread that the militant workers participating in the occupation were not in fact “authentic” adivasis. My paper focuses on the experiences of a group of Paniyas, “adivasi” agricultural laborers, from a particular colony near Muthanga, who took part in the land occupation. It explores the ways in which different people in the colony identified with the discourse of indigenism during and after their participation in the occupation. Though it is often assumed that substantive historical and legal differences between “adivasi” groups determine the extent to which they become attracted to the politics of indigenism, I demonstrate that it is rather an expanded, relational notion of class that explains why in the aftermath of the colony’s failed attempt to attain land at Muthanga, some of its inhabitants became even more convinced of the indigenist interpretation of their history and position vis-à-vis others, whereas others started explicitly rejecting the idea of belonging to an “adivasi” culture and sought other venues of emancipation.
A. Wati Walling (Indian Institute of Technology):
Politics of Land Ownership and Customary Practices in Contemporary North East India: Issues and Challenges Confronting the Landless Among the Naga Tribe
The value of land tends to be priceless, more so, when it comes to an agrarian community whose identity, status and livelihood centers on land. This article maps transformational change over the last five decades (1959-2009) in India’s North-East tribal village of Nagaland. The land owning practice of the Naga tribe is unique. The tribals are the custodians of over eighty nine per cent (89%) of the total land mass of Nagaland. The paper discusses the customary land ownership practices and its impact on the identity formation across different categories within households, clans, gender, religious institutions and organizations. The existing customary land ownership practice is perceived as one of the agents which has brought about land alienation and thus a massive out-migration in Yimjenkimong village in 1964 and division lately within a church in the 1990s. Credibly, a sense of separate identity formation between the land owners, custom practitioners and the landless tribals is created. By and large, the tribal communities in the North East India retain its uniqueness through the ongoing oral tradition. Therefore, with its rather elusive written history, a description of some critical events helps form an ethnography which makes an incision upon institutions of the past. Implications from such events through life history analysis and in-depth interviews are fore grounded in this paper.
Samuel Wright (University of Chicago): The Political Cultures of the Nadia Raj and Malla Dynasty in 17th Century Bengal
This paper discusses some of the values that informed the
actions of polities in 17th century Bengal. Since time and
space are limited, I confine my remarks to examining a major
medium through which polities publicly conveyed their values,
namely, temple inscriptions. During the 17th century, temple
construction in Bengal was a major activity of polities—much
more so than in the 15th and 16th centuries. This is evident
from the sheer number of temples built during the period. In
the 15th and 16th centuries, we have evidence of only fourteen
temples being constructed. However, in the 17th century we
have evidence of ninety-seven temples being constructed. As I
cannot examine the entirety of this activity here, I limit my
remarks to the temple inscriptions of two polities: the Nadia
Raj in the Nadia district and the Malla dynasty in the Bankura
district—both zamindari lands in Mughal Bengal. Despite the
fact that we have a large corpus of temple inscriptions from
these polities in this period, a sustained analysis of these
records is lacking in secondary literature. Through lexical
choices, śleṣa (double entendre), and textual references,
these inscriptions shed much light on the values that informed
the activities of these two polities. This paper analyzes
these communicative techniques in order to highlight the
values of each polity and the ways in which rulers of these
polities craft a political language. I conclude by offering
some thoughts on how to understand these polities in the
context of their inscriptions.
Mehreen Zahra-Malik (University of Wisconsin-Madison): Discursive Repertoires: Radio and the Rise of the Taliban in Swat Valley
This paper will examine the discursive repertoires of mobilisation and fear employed by the Swati Taliban in their attempt to take over Swat Valley, Pakistan from 2006 to June 2009. I will analyse a popular Islamic media form, the radio sermon, which became the Taliban’s paradigmatic mechanism of mobilisation and instrument of fear. The sermon, a discursive vehicle traditionally used to disseminate religious-moral ideas in the Valley, was monopolised by the Taliban to engage in a specific form of “meaning work”; a well-established tradition of sermonising through the radio and communicating a distinct religious and moral vision thus transformed by 2007 into a radical project aimed at communicating the ‘justness’ of imposing Shariah law, the ‘duty’ of launching war against infidels, the ‘honour’ of death in the name Islam and the ‘dishonour’ of living under an ‘infidel’ government. What extant discourses did the Taliban draw upon; how did the Taliban’s frames serve to extend and amplify extant discourses and ideologies, and how did the relationship between the Taliban’s frames and the existing ideologies effect the resonance of these frames? In sum, what repertoires of discourses did the Taliban’s radio sermons draw upon? The rationale for acquiescence with the Taliban’s mission and for active participation in Jihad, I argue, took place within a field in which the discourses of justice, duty and death were ubiquitous. In this paper, I will argue that the Taliban were successful in their campaign because their frames resonated within the phenomenological life world of the average Swati; also, that the existing discourses produced new frames in the process of working within received mimetic systems. As one of the accepted sites of communal reflexivity considered necessary in the Swati context for perfecting and sustaining the totality of practices upon which an Islamic society depends, the radio sermon became the discursive instrument par excellence of the Taliban’s moral, political and ultimately violent project. In this paper I will chart the discursive field traversed by the Swati Taliban and examine the main discourses that constituted this movement’s field. This discussion will draw upon the content of radio sermons themselves to undercover the particular framing tasks the Taliban engaged in, and the discursive repertoires they drew upon. All diagnostic, prognostic and motivational framing, I argue, was carried out using discursive repertoires enabled by the discourses of justice, duty and death.