South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Moving Between the Ummah and the Qaum: Muslim Political Identity in North India in the 19th Century

Saturday, July 7
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Gulmohar, First Floor

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were simultaneously a period of great political and social tumult in North India, and one of a cultural effervescence. This paper will trace how poetry was deployed by Muslims in North India in order to think creatively about ideas of belonging and rootedness. Through colonial and imperial networks, ideas of nationalism, the nation-state, community, and citizenship fundamentally reshaped the manner in which identity and indeed belonging was conceived of. This paper will illustrate how a variety of Muslim poets in North India sought to grapple with and in turn reconfigure ideas of the transnational Muslim community (ummah), nascent ideas of nationality (qaumiyyat) and indeed rootedness in India. Beginning with the genre of Shahr Ashob in the eighteenth century and ending with the arrival of the Nazm as a relatively newer popular form of poetry in the late nineteenth century, the paper will seek to illustrate how specific poetic genres and styles helped establish how Muslim identity was essentially a ' traveling identity'. The paper will be based on primary source research that draws attention to the multifarious ways of imagining Muslim identify in our period. Poetry, it will argue, acted as a vehicle that allowed thinkers to go beyond binaries and transcend the fundamentally limited notions of geographic boundaries that are inextricably tied to the very idea of nationality.

Mohammad A. A. Khan

Ashoka University, India

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