Society for the Anthropology of Religion
Oral Presentation Session
In a story related to the shrine of Ghazi Miyan—the warrior-saint who embodies, in the historian Shahid Amin’s telling, the Muslim conquest of north India—the wife of a Hindu raja is excommunicated from her home for the transgression of feeding her brother, the “Turk” Ghazi Miyan. The filial bond between a Hindu woman and a Muslim warrior is posited across the boundaries of gender, ethnicity, religion, and, caste. What does it mean to posit kinship across multiple markers of difference? What are the conceptual underpinnings that make such kinship possible? What are the social, material, and ethical effects of such a claim to kinship? Despite the vast literature on kinship in India, kinship is not an analytic lens through which Hindu-Muslim relationships in India have been anthropologically studied. This is ironic, because kinship terms are the pervasive referents for relations between Hindus and Muslims in India. This ranges from the ubiquity of political rhetoric (the brotherhood of Hindus and Muslims) to the culture of Muslim saint shrines, where saints serve as father-figures related to the natal home for both Hindu and Muslim women. Through looking at the articulations of personhood and kinship in contemporary Urdu poetry, in this paper I argue that such positing of kinship is possible through an understanding of locality or watan as an integral element in the constitution of personhood. This understanding of personhood and kinship overlaps and competes with caste, religious, and national identity in the constitution of persons in an embodied agon.