2014: Participants and Abstracts

Cultures – Past and Present

Friday and Saturday April 11-12, 2014
219 Aaron Burr Hall, Princeton NJ

Faculty Sponsor: Professor Isabelle Clark-Decès. Director, Princeton Program in South Asian Studies.

Organizers:
Ritwik Bhattacharyya, Comparative Literature
Joppan George, History
Ninad Pandit, History

Event Sponsors:
Princeton Program in South Asian Studies
Princeton Council of the Humanities
University Center for Human Values
Princeton Program in Law and Public Affairs
Keynote co-sponsor: Princeton Center for Collaborative History


Friday, April 11, 2014

8:30-9:00 AM                      Breakfast
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9:00-9:15 AM                      Opening remarks
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9:15-10:45 AM

Panel 1: Liberalism and the Left in South Asia

Dinyar Patel Harvard University, History
The School Master Abroad: Liberalism and Education in Mid-Nineteenth Century Bombay

Ammar Ali Jan Cambridge University, History
Event, Knowledge, Universality: The Singularity of M.N. Roy’s Thought.

Atiya Khan University of Chicago, History
The Limits of Cultural Democratic Politics: The Aftermath of the Defeat of the Communist Movement, 1950s

Discussant: Ninad Pandit, Princeton University

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10:45-11:00 AM      Coffee
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11:00-12:30 PM

Panel 2: Poetics and Piety: Cultural Idioms of the Islamicate World

Vivek Gupta Columbia University, Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies
Translating Hindi aesthetics from Arabic into Persian: Āzād’s The Coral Rosary of Indian Traditions (1763-64) and The Gazelles of India (1764-65)

Adeel Hussain Cambridge University, History
Iqbal and the Aesthetic State

Max Stille University of Heidelberg
Islamic Sermons in South Asia: Audio Dimensions and Listener Identification in Bengali wa’ẓ maḥfils.

Discussant: Faez Syed, Princeton University

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12:30-1:30 PM        Lunch
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1:30-3:00 PM

Panel 3: Law and Cultural Governance

Rotem Geva Princeton University, History
Press Charges: Taking Censorship to Court in Post-Partition Delhi

Udit Bhatia Cambridge University
Minority Educational Rights in the Supreme Court of India

Rama Srinivasan Brown University, Anthropology
Terms of Endearment: Debating Choice in Marital Relations

Discussant: Sandipto Dasgupta, Harvard University

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3:00-3:15 PM          Coffee
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3:15-5:15 PM

Panel 4: Culture in the Urban Milieu

Ranu Roychoudhuri University of Chicago, South Asian Languages and Civilizations
“Giving face to the Faceless”: People of Calcutta and the Making of a Scopic Regime

David Boyk UC Berkeley, History
A History of the Mofussil: Provinciality in Colonial India

{Coffee Break}

Swati Chatterjee Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta
Smelling Power: Notes on the Brewing of the Olfactory Culture in a Colonial City

Anar Parikh Brown University, Anthropology
Inclusion and Evasion: The Politics of Heritage Preservation in Ahmedabad

Discussant: Nabaparna Ghosh, Princeton University

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5:30 PM

Keynote: Gyan Prakash, Princeton University

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6:30 PM

Dinner Reception

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

8:45-9:15 AM                      Breakfast
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9:15-10:45 AM

Panel 5: Popular Culture

Salma Siddique University of Westminster
A Certain Tendency of the Muslim Social Film, 1940-47

Isabel Huacuja Alonso University of Texas at Austin, History
King of the Airways: Radio Ceylon and Hindi Film Songs

Andrea Wright Brown University, Anthropology
Negotiating Spaces, Negotiating Faces: Beauty Producers and Consumers in Contemporary India

Discussant: Joppan George, Princeton University

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10:45-11:00 AM      Coffee
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11:00-12:30 PM

Panel 6: Rethinking Cultural Pasts: Icons, Events and Archives

Jaclyn Michael University of Wisconsin, Madison, Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia
Bringing Religion Back Into the Archive: Islamic History as the Dramatic History of the Indian Nation

Ahona Panda University of Chicago, South Asian Languages and Civilizations
Towards an Impermanent Art: Or, the Value of Doodles and Murals at the Kala Bhavan in early and mid 20th Century

Anil Chandiramani University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature
Gandhi’s Image and Practice in Cracking India

Discussant: Benjamin Conisbee Baer, Princeton University

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12:30 PM      Workshop concludes.

 

Abstracts

Dinyar Patel Harvard University, History

The School Master Abroad: Liberalism and Education in Mid-Nineteenth Century Bombay

In the past few years historians have devoted particular attention to the development of the liberal intellectual tradition in South Asia. This paper attempts to complement such literature by examining the emergence of liberalism in western India, particularly Bombay city, and thereby contextualizing Dadabhai Naoroji’s (1825-1917) foray into public life in the 1850s. Contemporaries such as Dinsha Wacha described Naoroji as a “pioneer” in particular educational and social, religious, and political reform movements in Bombay city. I argue that it is better to see Naoroji’s early public career as the product of a particular liberal tradition that was already well entrenched in western India. Perhaps due to the widespread nature of “indigenous” education, Indians in the Bombay presidency were active agents and patrons in the spread of western educational institutions and western knowledge from the 1820s onward. The western Indian liberal tradition emerged, to a large degree, both inside and around the classroom, shaped both by individuals who had been through new schools as well as those who had only limited vocational and vernacular training. Western Indians were, in particular, drawn to two academic disciplines, broadly defined, that were taught at new institutions: political economy and oriental studies. Both disciplines were useful in understanding and responding to the colonial predicament. Liberals in Bombay city thoroughly engaged with these two disciplines while developing their ideas and early public institutions. This engagement produced a wide variety of responses among liberals ranging from Anglophilia to anti-colonialism and—in Naoroji’s case—a middle position that advocated harnessing western ideas and British colonial institutions for religious, social, and political reform.

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Ammar Ali Jan Cambridge University, History

Semblance and Destruction: The Singularity of M. N. Roy’s Thought

Much of contemporary South Asian scholarship primarily focuses on the role of culture in nationalist politics, without examining the place of the concept in forms of anti-colonial politics that operated outside conventional narratives of Indian/Pakistani nationalism. Communist thought provides an ideal site to examine the place of culture in anti-colonial politics that were hostile to dominant narratives of nationalism. Through a close reading of interventions by Indian communists (particularly M.N. Roy) in the debates on the “colonial question” in the Comintern during the 1920s, I posit that the singularity of Indian communism during this period rested on its distancing from what was viewed as an ‘inward looking’ nationalist politics. In contrast, communist thought aimed to formulate a politics specific to the Indian context, yet with a universal register aimed at realizing a generic “humanity.”

Further, I argue that Roy articulates a communist thought premised on what Alain Badiou has called “Passion for the Real,” the possibility of a “new beginning” resulting from a rupture from existing reality. Yet this “Real” could only be accessed through the “Destruction” of the “Semblance,” the latter denoting existing cultural and national symbols. It is this negation of existing predicates (race, nation, religion) in the pursuit of a novel political community that, according to Roy, sets communism apart from nationalist politics. The tying together of “Semblance,” “Destruction” and “The Real” provides us with a new methodology for examining the antagonistic relationship between culture and politics in communist thought.

Finally, I examine the limitation of this political sequence by studying Roy’s expulsion from the Comintern due to differences with Soviet authorities over political strategies in India and China. I argue that the emphatic focus on “Destruction” proved inadequate for understanding the specificity of the colonial situation, as well as for the sustenance of global communist organizations.

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Atiya Khan University of Chicago, History

The Limits of Cultural Democratic Politics: The Aftermath of the Defeat of the Communist Movement, 1950s

In the aftermath of the defeat of the communist-left in Pakistan in the mid fifties, leftist politics imbibed the idioms of cultural politics in order to wage a struggle against the dominance of the authoritarian government headed by the Muslim League. In contrast to the vision espoused by the old communist party and its strategy, the leaders of the new movement for the attainment of democracy self-identified as a radical voice of opposition excavating a range of cultural shibboleths to capture the attention of the masses. This change in the outlook of the communist-left entailed a departure from the socialist framework, one that envisioned a revolutionary overthrow of the existing national government. Contrary to the early perspective, the new cultural democratic movement of opposition sought to build a movement of resistance by stoking the issue of linguistic nationalism. Faced with the urgency to form a democratic state, the young intelligentsia of Pakistan took the initiative to voice its demands on a national platform. The beginnings of this movement were, to an extent, indicative of the demise of the old communist legacy, but it was also not quite the advent of something new, it signaled the resuscitation of cultural nationalism conceived by the left in terms of national economic self-sufficiency and political independence. This paper seeks to examine the limits of cultural nationalism reflected in the parochial character of the opposition movement in Pakistan in the mid fifties. By examining the cultural idiom of nationalism espoused by the progressive left, this paper will argue that the defeat of the preceding communist movement meant that political regression came to be expressed among other things in the re-emergence of cultural and linguistic nationalism.

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Rotem Geva Princeton University, History

Press Charges: Taking Censorship to Court in Post-Partition Delhi

In this paper, I explore the interface between the public sphere and state power in the aftermath of India’s independence and partition. I focus on the Urdu press in Delhi and the state’s attempts to regulate it.

During this politically charged period, Delhi, a stronghold of Indian Muslim political and cultural life for centuries, underwent demographic transformation as hundreds of thousands of Hindu and Sikh refugees from what had become West Pakistan poured into the city while a considerable portion of its Muslim population fled in the opposite direction.  In the following decade, conflicting visions of the Indian nation and polity, and the status of Muslims in it, divided Delhi’s administration and its people. Ongoing struggles over evacuee Muslim property became a persistent feature of city life.

These tensions and conflicts were played out on the pages of the Urdu press. It is well known that partition brought about the triumph of Hindi over Urdu, the marginalization of the latter, and its exclusive association with the Muslim minority in India. However, I show that the immediate impact of partition was rather to render the Urdu press more politically relevant than ever—the Hindu and Sikh refugees, who were Urdu literati, transplanted an enormous number of Urdu newspapers, magazines, and printing establishments and, along with them, the acerbic and combative style of the late-colonial Punjabi public sphere. Indeed, contrary to the impersonal and cosmopolitan tone of English newspapers, the Urdu press possessed a more personal, emotional, and even sensational voice, which often granted it the dubious title of “a gutter press.” The Delhi Urdu press, complained Prime Minister Nehru, was out of control, and he pressed the Delhi administration to curb it.

Attempts to curb the press relied on the colonial laws, especially the press (Emergency Powers) Act 1931, which invested the executive arm with the power to demand and forfeit security money. I examine the negotiation between an authoritarian colonial legacy and new democratic values as it unfolded in a 1949 court case between Delhi’s administration and an Urdu newspaper of the refugee Hindu community known for its inflammatory communalist language. My analysis will trace the power struggles between the administration, the courts, and the press in a court case that helped to redraw the boundaries of freedom of expression in postcolonial India.

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Udit Bhatia Cambridge University

Minority Educational Rights in the Supreme Court of India

By approaching landmark judgments of the Indian Supreme Court as texts of a deliberative process, I seek to examine their treatment of religious minority educational rights. In particular, I am concerned with the court’s interpretation of Article 30, which as Ansari (1999) has argued, was an ambiguous Constitutional provision to begin with. I argue that the Court’s position on this subject across its various judgments is marked by an attempt to reach an intermediate position between competing positions, and yet, indeterminacy as to the precise nature of this position.

Next, I argue that the Court’s judgments on minority educational rights draw upon a conceptual vocabulary similar to that found in the Constituent Assembly Debates, which emphasized national unity, democracy, justice and secularism. (Bajpai 2008). I argue that the key to understanding the intermediate and indeterminate position of the Court lies in examining the often conflicting conceptions of these concepts that the Court simultaneously draws upon. I also argue that in doing so, the Court often attempts to synthesize positions that form the fault-lines of debates on multiculturalism and minority rights in western political theory. For instance, in examining the political significance of a ‘minority’, the Court simultaneously holds views found on either side of the Kymlicka-Kukathas debate on cultural rights.

I conclude by defending the utility of Rajeev Bhargava’s conception of ‘political secularism’ for analyzing the Court’s judgments. By approaching secularism as a multi-value doctrine, rather than one dominated by a single goal like national unity, it provides, at the same time, a better analytical tool for understanding the Court’s stand, and a subtler approach to its normative evaluation.

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Rama Srinivasan Brown University, Anthropology

Terms of Endearment: Debating Choice in Marital Relations

Most anthropologists today consider cultural knowledge as inherently incomplete but there is also acknowledgement that gaps are key sites for making theoretical leaps. The instability of definitions and concepts gives us an opportunity to interrogate key cultural issues in Indian past and present beyond causality and experience. One such site for interrogation is the State and the arena of legal interventions that sought to traverse the precarious boundaries between community customs and national laws.

The Special Marriage Act of 1954 (a form of civil union), one such intercession, was exhaustively debated in the two houses of Indian Parliament for over three years. It is clear from the records of parliamentary proceedings that some lawmakers of that time harbored aspirations of crafting a law that would facilitate the creation of “stronger race” – one capable of building a modern nation-state.

Feminist studies on Indian State have focused on how it controls sexual beings through its discourses and these debates could render themselves to such an analysis. But my paper follows the recent shifts in feminist engagement with archives in that I don’t mourn this law as a missed opportunity. Instead, I intend to cast the debates as a historical moment that afforded at least some Indians an opportunity to imagine an ‘alternate futurity’. Through this paper, I will delineate how this Act introduced new ways of conceptualizing marriage with religious/social discourse entering legal parlance and the legal discourse on choice becoming a cultural trope. That is, close examination of the debates will reveal how the idea of choice in intimate relationships permeated public discourse with the authoritative backing of juridical language and caused several productive slippages in cultural understanding. I will use key anthropological concepts to discuss how these key historical texts have subtly influenced repeated debates of inter-caste and/or love marriages.

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Vivek Gupta Columbia University, Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies

Translating Hindi aesthetics from Arabic into Persian: Āzād’s The Coral Rosary of Indian Traditions (1763-64) and The Gazelles of India (1764-65)

Ghulām ‘Alī “Āzād” Bilgrāmī (d. 1786), one of the few known Indian Arabic poets, used Arabic as a space for experimentation. In light of Āzād’s knowledge of languages including Arabic, Persian, and the Classical Hindi vernaculars, his corpus of scholarship lends itself to a close study of the genealogies of Indo-Arabic production in a distinctly multilingual milieu. Following the work of Carl Ernst, Shawkat Toorawa, and Allison Busch, I trace Āzād’s connoisseurship of Indic, Persian, and Arabic aesthetics in his four-part composite Arabic text Subḥat al-marjān fī āthār Hindūstān (The Coral Rosary of Indian Traditions, 1763-64). As a whole, Subḥat subverts generic categorization as it includes analysis of the Hadith, a literary biography of Indian Arabic writers, descriptions of Arabic and Sanskrit rhetoric, and the system of lovers and beloveds in Indic literature. I argue that Subḥat renders Indic aesthetic systems such as the nāyikābheda, to fit within the broader framework of Arabic literary culture. Subḥat emerges as a multilingual text as it describes Indic literary innovations in an Arabic language with certain Persian sensibilities. I elucidate this aspect of Subḥat by comparing it to its Persian adaptation Ghizlān al-Hind (Gazelles of India, 1764-65). In addition to opening up local literatures for a wider Arabic readership, Subḥat leads to broader questions on the role of Arabic belles-lettres (adab) in South Asia. As the second section of Subḥat unveils Āzād’s awareness of Arabic literary and religious scholarship in South Asia during Early Modernity, it provides some evidence of the Indian production of Arabic adab. At the core of this engagement with Subḥat, I question the rhetorical function of writing in Arabic, a primarily Islamicate idiom in South Asia.

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Adeel Hussain Cambridge University, History

Iqbal and the Aesthetic State

Muhammad Iqbal’s envisioning of ‘Muslim culture’ has vastly been regarded as an ontological binding force amongst Indian Muslims transcending socially constructed cultural norms, values and linguistic barriers and culminating in the concept of a united ‘ummah’. My paper will delineate from this view and reconstruct Iqbal as proposing an ‘ideal’ image of culture deeply embedded in the concept ‘aesthetics’. I will argue that by introducing aesthetics as the key trope into the discourse on culture, Iqbal imagined a new space that serves as a matrix for his conceptualization of a ‘new man’, and a new way of conceiving the concepts of state and ethics. This novel way of perceiving ‘culture’ and ‘aesthetics’ as a central dialogue in the political sphere, particularly in the process of nation state formation, shows structural as well as conceptual similarities to the ideas which developed around the ‘aesthetic state’ – vehemently articulated by the intellectual movement of the ‘Sturm und Drang’ in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century in pre-unification Germany – as opposed to the purely utilitarian state of the British Empire.

I argue that Iqbal’s desire to establish a new form of politics required him to break from history to formulate a distinct culture of affirmation, which was paramount in his thinking about the state, politics and the political subject. Furthermore I will elaborate on the different ways in which cross-cultural encounters can transcend the notion of an ideal-dialogue as put forwarded by the philosophers of the Hermeneutic tradition and in the case of India argued by Wilhelm Halbfass and the dangers of Orientalism, where the power-knowledge dichotomy is constantly shaping a new subjectivity and rendering any dialogue impossible.

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Max Stille University of Heidelberg

Islamic Sermons in South Asia: Audio Dimensions and Listener Identification in Bengali wa’ẓ maḥfils.

Given that Islamic sermons are held in most South Asian languages and are often an integral feature of the public sphere, they have been remarkably rarely studied. While written transcripts of sermons have sometimes been used to answer questions of theology, politics and identity, the most striking aspect of this archive has often gone unmentioned: the immediate sound-dimension which forcefully affects the listener long before he understands what he hears, and which reaches back historically to long-developed reception histories in which preferences for certain sound-styles in certain genres developed.

Another imbalance in the dealing with this subject so far has been to predominantly equal Islamic preaching with the Friday sermon (khutba), while other genres like wa’z or bayān received less scholarly attention. Interestingly, it is particularly these neglected genres which provide manifold variations in relation to sound, often including different sets of languages and sonic expressions. To tackle this two-fold neglect of a historically as contemporarily important archive of South Asian culture, this contribution will focus on the multifaceted Islamic soundscape of Bangladesh. Contemporary as well as historical examples show that it is often specific sounds which are the defining moments of whole genres of Islamic sermons, specific ideological carriers as well as means for aesthetic response. By thus including the semantic value of sound and the audible realization in speech, Islamic sermons can be analyzed beyond common paradigms in the direction of popular aesthetics, linking with narrative and performative traditions. Such an empirical insight sheds light on the important role of aesthetics in the public sphere as well as in Islamic discourse of South Asia.

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Ranu Roychoudhuri University of Chicago, South Asian Languages and Civilizations

“Giving face to the Faceless”: People of Calcutta and the Making of a Scopic Regime

This paper explores the ways in which People of Calcutta (PoC) – a still photo-documentation done by the Jesuit social communication organization Chitra Bani  – created the possibility of an alternative scopic regime for understanding Calcutta and its people. Inheriting myriad ideological and visual traditions PoC began in 1977 and continued till 1991. It was a time when “the people” and non-elite experiences of the everyday were the focus of critical attention among the Bengali cultural elite. PoC contributed to the peoples’ struggle through a counter-practice of making “non-commercial” and “socially-committed” documentary photography whose avowed goal was to “give faces to the faceless.” The photographers projected themselves simultaneously as “iconoclasts” and as “iconographers”. Their objective was to break away from the popular perception of Calcutta as either the palatial, imperial city of Victoria Memorial Hall or a Third World city of helpless beggars. At the same time the photographers were inspired by “the ‘iconographers’ of old, like Andrei Rublev, whose art was totally in the service of their societies.”  PoC was intended to demonstrate visually – through symbolic images of the everyday – that the underprivileged and marginalized people of Calcutta were not helpless, but that on the contrary poor Calcuttans had the power to struggle, and could fight back against social injustices to sustain their lives in the city. Although the documentation project was part of a long lineage of photographing the city, it was distinct in its representational strategies.  The project self-consciously avoided voyeurism and sensationalism as it sought to depict lives of Calcuttans on the street and in their homes. Paradoxically however the photographers’ intentions did not always determine the meaning of photographs that acquired their own “destiny” in the eyes of the beholder.

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David Boyk UC Berkeley, History

A History of the Mofussil: Provinciality in Colonial India

Two centuries ago, Patna flourished as one of India’s largest cities, bustling with trade and intellectual ferment. For many years, though, that world has been hard to imagine. Like other Indian cities, Patna shrank in size and prominence over the nineteenth century, as political and economic activity shifted away from river towns and toward colonial port cities. Like Bihar as a whole, Patna has become an emblem of “backwardness,” redolent of feudalism, poverty, and crime. Past observers and present historians have compressed a variegated landscape of local solidarities and meanings into a stereotyped dichotomy between the traditional, static, simple, agrarian country, and the modern, tumultuous, sophisticated, capitalist city.

I inquire into the idea of the “mofussil,” an Indian English term (borrowed from Urdu and ultimately from the Arabic “mufassal,” or “separated”) locating the “provinces” in relation to imperial authority. In colonial discourse, the mofussil was an undifferentiated, vaguely barbaric, purgatorial backwater cut off from the institutions of rule. Indians, in contrast, saw in it a wide variety of settlements, not all of them provincial in the usual sense.

The mofussil offers ways to rethink urbanity, provinciality, and the relationship between the two. In particular, I explore the ways in which Patna’s provincial position shaped its intellectual and public cultures and inflected its residents’ spatial and temporal imaginations. Even as Patna seemed to decline from its earlier heights, elements of its intellectual and public culture remained vital. Urdu literary culture, in particular, expressed a self-confident urbanity that saw no need to defer to big cities. When Patna became a provincial capital in 1912, at the same time as it grew in size, wealth, and political importance, its public life became less distinctive, less connected to this network of publics, and ultimately less vital.

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Swati Chatterjee Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta

Smelling Power: Notes on the Brewing of the Olfactory Culture in a Colonial City

In trying to historicize a series of disparate odors in the evolution of urban planning of the colonial Calcutta (the capital of the British India till 1911) in the nineteenth century, my paper tries to understand how and why the process of reorganizing urban space became crucially entwined with reconfiguring the sensorial registers of the embodied subjects. Both the official and the vernacular sources are replete with references to myriad kinds of odors, both the pleasant and the ghastly. Be it the stinking odors of the miasmas, the putrefaction of jute bales, the ‘disturbing odors of the streets’ emanating from the gas lit street lamps, night soil, the ‘stench’ of the low-class drunkards, Muslims and prostitutes or the balmy freshness of the ‘natural smell’ and flowers, the loud stink of shoes or the ‘assuring’ odor of the ‘newly sacred’ Phenyl, this paper attempts to trace how sensorial experience acted as a legitimate source of knowledge in carving out the urban life. Senses were not simply conduits of such experience; they had to be drastically re-conceptualized (and re-arranged in relation to each other) in order to be semantically productive. My paper offers the narrative of the very materiality of power by showing how the urban and the sensorial continuously re-oriented, re-constituted and re-formed one another. In such a capacity I propose that the olfactory registers of the colonial city space cannot be translated into a linear strategy of odor management of the population living in it. Rather its history needs to be understood through the very slippages and fissures of this discourse.

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Anar Parikh Brown University, Anthropology

Inclusion and Evasion: The Politics of Heritage Preservation in Ahmedabad

Interest in, and concern for, cultural heritage preservation has been proliferating in urban India for the past two decades. Since the ratification of the Heritage Regulations for Greater Bombay in 1995, citizens and municipal corporations alike I have been actively working to preserve heritage, and ensure that heritage receives the attention it deserves from urban publics. With Ahmedabad as a specific example, this paper, within the parameters of “heritage” interrogates what constitutes “culture,” and how it is employed as an exclusionary device, in Indian cities that desire to keep sight of their past, while simultaneously positioning themselves as “aspiring cities of the global-South” (Ong 2011). So committed are Indian cities that three of them—Ahmedabad, Mumbai, and Delhi—have compiled and submitted dossiers to India’s UNESCO delegation to be considered for the “World Heritage” designation and earn win the honor of being the first city in India to do so. Despite the clear evocation of “culture” implied in “cultural heritage,” the public discourse on the matter can be surprisingly ambivalent. Often used as a synonym for culture, heritage has the ability to ostensibly include, while simultaneously setting the forces of exclusion in motion. Rather than asking whether or not culture is a tool for exclusion, I propose an investigation of the specific ways in which “culture” is both addressed and evaded in urban heritage movements. In doing so, I hope to expose the ways in which heritage is an articulation of urban anxiety about the past and an articulation of urban aspirations for the present and future. In light of Ahmedabad’s contentious history of communal violence, and given Narendra Modi’s national and international ambitions, an unraveling of the city’s heritage movement enables us to expose the ways in which past, present, and future are negotiated vis-à-vis heritage and culture.

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Salma Siddique University of Westminster

A Certain Tendency of the Muslim Social Film, 1940-47

Existing scholarship on the so-called Muslim Social in South Asian cinema has tended to focus on a small body of films produced in Bombay in the 1940s and the post-independence era in India (see Bhaskar & Allen, 2009). This has resulted in the characterization of the Muslim Social as a product of India’s nationalist unity project and as consistent with modern social reform. Questioning both these assumptions, this paper pursues the dislocations brought about by Partition of the subcontinent, and focuses on the émigré team of filmmaker brothers, Hasnain and Sibtain Fazli, who in the 1940s were considered ‘the pioneers of Muslim social subjects in India’. Making films like Qaidi (1940), Masoom (1942), Ismat (1945), Dil (1946) and Mehendi (1947), the Fazli Brothers worked exclusively within the Muslim Social genre before migrating to Pakistan after Partition.

Drawing on the Fazli family collection, popular film magazines and newspapers, in conjunction with other Muslim Socials of this period, this paper identifies a certain tendency in the genre, which destabilizes a straightforward link between the Muslim Social and secular nationalist agendas. It examines previously unused and rare transcripts of Ismat and Dil, together with one surviving complete film, to gain insights into the ideological structure and representation of ‘Muslim culture’ in the Fazli films. Particularly striking is the gendered address of these films, evident in the publicity as well as the films’ narratives.  While the Fazli films best represent this tendency of Muslim exceptionality, it is also evident in other films in which the identity of the genre and its practitioners appear interlinked. Emerging in a historical context when the idea of Pakistan gained momentum, a number of Muslim filmmakers actively engaged in the cultural production of Islamic revivalism and politicised difference, thereby complicating the genealogy of the genre.

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Isabel Huacuja Alonso University of Texas at Austin, History

King of the Airways: Radio Ceylon and Hindi Film Songs

In 1952, All India Radio (AIR) stopped broadcasting film music because the then minister of Information and Broadcasting, B.V. Keskar, believed film songs had become vulgar, erotic, and westernized. Not only did AIR’s popularity plummet, but the ban also spurred the growth of Radio Ceylon’s Hindi Services, a commercial radio station based in present-day Sri Lanka that mostly played Hindi film song programs. This paper tells the story of Radio Ceylon and analyses its role in making film songs an integral part of daily life in the subcontinent. I first briefly trace the history of Radio Ceylon’s predecessor, Radio SEAC. I explain how and why the government of Ceylon, after acquiring independence in 1948 and using their former rulers’ broadcasting equipment, launched a commercial station that targeted listeners in India and Pakistan. I then turn to Radio Ceylon’s actual programs, their broadcasters, and their listeners, and explain how this station’s programs integrated film songs into the fabric of listeners’ everyday experiences. My aim here is to move beyond the notion that in India film music is ubiquitous and to proceed toward an understanding of how that actually happened. Throughout the paper, I emphasize radio’s role in crafting culture and demonstrate that radio was not an incidental technology, but that it had an important effect on the way people experienced music in the subcontinent.

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Andrea Wright Brown University, Anthropology

Negotiating Spaces, Negotiating Faces: Beauty Producers and Consumers in Contemporary India

The personal product market in India is estimated to grow by 15-20% annually a stark contrast to the slowing economic growth of the country as a whole. If this growth holds true, India will be the largest consumer market for cosmetic products in the world. More specifically, the increased focus on the Indian beauty industry is partly a result of the changing socio-economic status of Indian consumers, especially women. This increase in salary and women’s status, coupled with greater exposure to the Western world and beauty standards, has resulted in drastic divergence in the beauty regimes and expectations of the average woman. The overarching theme of my research is related to the Western cosmology of health and beauty and its effect on the beauty industry in India. I examine how this massive growth in the personal product market affects owners, employees, and customers of local beauty establishments. My research focuses on the growing divide between the beauty parlor and the beauty salon. The parlor is a small family owned business while the salon is often a large multinational chain that has established a presence in country. The parlor may be understood to represent a traditional, historic India while the salon may represent a global, modern India. Through participant observation, semi-structured interviews, informal interviews, life histories, focus group discussions, and textual analysis, I explore how beauty is used to make explicit and implicit claims regarding morality and the characteristics of the individual as well as the nation. More specifically, I examine how women’s bodies and beauty are used as representations of modernity and development, and how these representations are constructed through the beauty industry.

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Jaclyn Michael University of Wisconsin, Madison, Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia

Bringing Religion Back Into the Archive: Islamic History as the Dramatic History of the Indian Nation

Drama and theatre are an under utilized cultural archive for South Asian historiography. These materials participate as an intertext in the construction of alternative histories, and in particular they offer different imaginings of being Indian as also being Muslim. My paper will show how including drama within the historiographical archive changes the conclusion of Indian nationalism as Hindu, which is often assumed by secular, statist approaches. I focus on Munshi Premchand’s 1924 drama “Karbala,” a dramatic rendering of a historical and paradigmatic event for Shi’i Muslims. Published first in Hindi and later in Urdu, “Karbala” revisits the history of a 7th century battle between the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Husayn and his rivals over the leadership of the young Muslim community. Yet Premchand’s “Karbala” is unique because it develops a new sub-plot based on a historical legend of Hindu assistance in the Muslim fight for social justice. As evidenced from personal correspondence, Premchand’s intentions for this play were political: it was to be a vehicle for promoting national unity between Hindus and Muslims. Comparison with other major historical plays emphasizes how in Indian drama the role of Muslim histories occupies an important imaginative space for Indian national history. Set within the broader political context of a nationalist presentation of Hinduism as the religion of the nation, “Karbala” is part of a dramatic alternative that uses historical fiction to instead present Islamic histories as symbolic of, if not integral to, Indian history.

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Ahona Panda University of Chicago, South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Towards an Impermanent Art: Or, the Value of Doodles and Murals at the Kala Bhavan in early and mid 20th Century

In this paper, I shall look at the artistic practices of the Kala Bhavan, or the School of Art and Craft, set up by the poet and educationist Rabindranath Tagore. This sub-institutional space of the Kala Bhavan was part of the larger Visva Bharati University established by him in the 1918 and was the site for a new pedagogy and understanding of art. Artists who lived and worked here during its early decades were Asit Halder, Nandalal Bose, Benode Behari Mukherjee, Ramkinkar Baij et.al. Others associated with it broadly were Rabindranath Tagore himself and his nephews Abandindranath and Gaganendranath. Existing studies of the Kala Bhavan and the Shantiniketan aesthetic have explored the influences of pan-Asian (especially Japanese) art, Western art forms, techniques, and have also looked at the revivalist aspect of its nationalist premise by tracing influences to terracotta sculpture, folk art such as patacitra and Mughal Miniature paintings. Therefore the study of Kala Bhavan has been through the dual prisms of nationalism and modernism.

In this paper, I want to examine some lesser and more ephemeral forms of art produced within this space. I argue that while the importance of Kala Bhavan might have lain in creating new forms of nationalist and modernist art, it also had a far more important project in mind. By art practices such as outdoor murals and ephemeral postcards, sketches and doodles, Kala Bhavan went against the very premise of a Western artistic praxis based on durability and permanence. Instead, it focused on the creation of a non-utilitarian and non-instrumental artistic idiom, which was not premised on the questions of ends and means/artistic longevity, but instead tried to establish art as a process within the sphere of everyday life.

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Anil Chandiramani University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature

Gandhi’s Image and Practice in Cracking India

This paper examines the critique of nationalism offered Bapsi Sidhwa’s 1988 partition novel Cracking India.  More specifically, it analyzes how the novel draws on the quotidian—dietary regulation, in this case—to adequate Gandhi’s practice and influence.  While other novels, like Mulk Raj Anand’s masterful Untouchable, explain Gandhi’s divine-like quality through his lofty and progressive ideals or through the warmth and intimacy of his gaze, Cracking India’s representation of Gandhi, keeping in line with the historical origins of the novel form, deploys humor within the semantic field of the everyday to offer its own explanation: It is precisely by appropriating the role of a homeopath, of a traditional, non-Western medicine man who discourses on diet and stool consistency that Gandhi becomes transcendent, simultaneously capable of subduing his followers and exercising a gravitational pull on them.  Juxtaposing traditional medicine, via Gandhi, with modern medicine, via Colonel Bharucha, a character in the novel who is both a medical doctor and a political spokesman, this essay moves to consider how Cracking India gives content to the peculiar intermingling of the rational and extra-rational dimensions of nationalism—an intermingling that is common to both strains of nationalism identified above, to both the Gandhian one and the parliamentary democratic one.  The essay concludes with an analysis of how Cracking India’s representation of Gandhi utilizes the alimentary aspects of everyday life to determine the specific nature of Gandhi’s relationship to women. The novel foregrounds the peculiar and contradictory exaltation and suppression of women enabling Gandhi’s practice.

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