South Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - "The New Wine of Life": Registering Novel Commodities and Urban Change in Colonial Bengal through Persian Poetry and Urdu Prose

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Virginia Suite C, Lobby Level

This paper explores how the Bengali Muslim poet and colonial bureaucrat Abdul Ghafur Nassakh (1833-1889) creatively used Persian poetry and Urdu prose in his autobiography to discuss new commercial goods and urban changes in British colonial Bengal. During his career as a deputy collector in the expanding British administration, Nassakh recorded his travels from district-to-district across the vast Bengal Presidency in his autobiography in Urdu and Persian. In the nineteenth century, the Persian and Urdu languages usually were associated with Muslim princely courts. In contrast to this princely lineage, the small-time bureaucrat Nassakh recorded his observations of changes in the commercial goods, flora, and fauna of the Bengal Presidency in Urdu and Persian in the decades surrounding the British introduction of plantation-based tea agriculture and expanded jute production. In his autobiography, Nassakh reworked classical tropes from Persian poetry related to wine drinking and naturalism to celebrate the transformations wrought by colonial tea plantations on the geography of northeastern Bengal. In turn, he criticized Muslim religious practices in the rural districts of the Bengal Presidency in comparison to the orthodox ways of urban Muslims in Calcutta, the British colonial capital city. Therefore, Nassakh’s autobiography illustrates how upwardly mobile urban Muslims in the nineteenth century re-imagined the new colonial city of Calcutta through classical literary themes of princely Indo-Muslim culture. More broadly, this paper investigates how an Indo-Muslim bureaucrat reinvented older Persian and Urdu literary forms to engage and critique novel commodities, new agricultural practices, and urban change in colonial Bengal.

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2 - "The New Wine of Life": Registering Novel Commodities and Urban Change in Colonial Bengal through Persian Poetry and Urdu Prose



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Send Email for "The New Wine of Life": Registering Novel Commodities and Urban Change in Colonial Bengal through Persian Poetry and Urdu Prose