Ajam Podcast #35: Creating India, Forgetting Hindustan

Episode 35 March 08, 2021 00:42:12
Ajam Podcast #35: Creating India, Forgetting Hindustan
Ajam Media Collective Podcast
Ajam Podcast #35: Creating India, Forgetting Hindustan
/

Show Notes

In this episode, Ali interviews Dr. Manan Ahmed Asif, an Associate Professor in Columbia University’s History department, about his book, [The Loss of Hindustan, the Invention of India](https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674987906) (Harvard University Press, 2020). Before nationalism—before even the European colonization of South Asia—the term Hindustan signified a regional identity that spanned the length of modern Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. It referred both to a geography with shifting and porous boundaries as well as to a shared physical and mental space inhabited by peoples with overlapping literatures, music, food, and even dress. To approach Hindustan, Dr. Ahmed Asif focuses on the writings of the 17th century historian Firishta, who lived in the Deccan region of what is now South India. Firishta’s history is unique because, unlike many premodern histories, it focuses on Hindustan itself as a subject, not a particular family or lineage. To do this, he drew not only from Arabic and Persian sources, but also from texts like the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, melding approaches in a way that reveals a comfort with contradiction and multiplicity. It was this multiplicity, not only of place, but religion, ethnicity, genre, and language, that defined Hindustan. The afterlife of Firishta’s work is equally telling. It was rendered into English multiple times in the 18th and 19th centuries for the British East India Company, providing them not only a means of approach to the histories, kingdoms, and religions of Hindustan, but also a bibliography of its major sources. In turn, once rendered into English, it inspired the theorizations of history that came to define European modernity, such as those of Kant, Hegel, and even Gibbon. Yet that same colonial enterprise mined Firishta’s work for its own ends until, by the 20th century, his history was considered derivative in relation to older sources, and thus, largely forgotten. Dr. Ahmed Asif concludes with his reflections on the ethics of history and its repercussions for the type of future that we can imagine.

Other Episodes

Episode 17

October 14, 2019 00:36:18
Episode Cover

Ajam Podcast #17: Framing the Indian Ocean

*The Indian Ocean series explores topics related to the Islamo-Arabic and Persianate world from the perspective of the Indian Ocean littoral and the people who traversed its waters. These conversations aim to rethink narratives of history and culture, which have been traditionally boxed in by land-based territorial demarcations and regional studies frameworks. This series invites listeners to imagine the complex interconnectedness of life from East Africa to Southeast Asia and beyond. * In this introductory episode, Indian Ocean series host Lindsey Stephenson speaks with Fahad Bishara, who is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Virginia. Dr. Bishara discusses with Lindsey the contours of the Indian Ocean world and the study of it. He draws out some of the similarities between the Indian Ocean and other oceanic spaces such as the Mediterranean and Atlantic worlds. He explains that many of the places central to the Indian Ocean have been treated as peripheral to area studies regions such as the Middle East and South Asia. Dr. Bishara suggests that rather than considering researching the Indian Ocean as working on a fixed space, it is more an approach to sources that helps us follow connections across seemingly disparate spaces. Finally Dr. Bishara outlines common themes that we can anticipate seeing in future episodes of the podcast as we explore the littoral societies of the oceans rim: mobility, connectivity, and identity. ...

Listen

Episode 8

January 20, 2019 00:38:52
Episode Cover

Ajam Podcast #8: Iranian Internationalism and Student Groups in the United States

In this episode, Rustin is joined by Manijeh Nasrabadi, Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Neither Washington, Nor Tehran: Iranian Internationalism in the United States (Duke University Press, 2020). Manijeh speaks about her research on the Iranian Students Association, which was founded in 1952 by the Iranian Embassy and the CIA to support and monitor Iranian students studying at American universities. Over the course of the 1960s, leftist students maneuvered to take control of the leadership positions of the ISA, and gradually transformed the organization into a radical Anti-Shah opposition group. Within the Cold War context, members of the ISA found themselves entrenched in the anti-war, anti-imperialist, and civil rights movements of the day. Utilizing first-person interviews and archival work, Dr. Nasrabadi not only traces these intersections, but she also highlights how ISA members recall their hopes for the 1979 Iranian Revolution and their disappointments in its aftermath. Rustin closes out the episode with “[Lalai](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfZ2QkDY0ng),” a political song performed by the Confederation of Iranian Students Choir in Munich in 1969. ...

Listen

Episode 33

February 08, 2021 00:40:49
Episode Cover

Ajam Podcast #33: Muslim Narratives of the Formation of Premodern Gujarat

In this episode, Lindsey and Ali interview Dr. Jyoti Gulati Balachandran, Assistant Professor of History at Penn State, about her book [Narrative Pasts: The Making of a Muslim Community in Gujarat, c. 1400-1650](https://global.oup.com/academic/product/narrative-pasts-9780190123994?cc=us&lang=en&#) (Oxford University Press, July 2020) The Gujarat region of western India has a long role as a maritime and commercial center in the Indian Ocean, but the rich history of its Muslim community - and the important role of Sufis in developing Gujarat’s identity as a distinct region - has been overlooked. Dr. Balachandran argues that Arabic and Persian literary production among learned Muslim men was crucial to the development of Gujarat as a coherent region between the 15th and 17th centuries, plugging it in to developments across South Asia and beyond. Sufis were particularly important in this endeavor, and she urges us to seriously consider why and how different genres such as taẓkira or manāqib were chosen by these writers instead of dismissing them all under the imposed category of hagiography. Balachandran shows how textual histories and the tomb complexes of Sufi scholars contribute another source for history beyond that of the court, serving as two poles that reinforced one another’s place in time as well as a specific region. Sufis allowed Sultans to ensure that the Muslim community expanded and prospered, and just as the Sultans militarily defined their kingdoms, Sufis sketched out realms of spiritual rule through these institutions and narratives about the past. One important example that Dr. Balachandran touches on is the figure of Shaykh Ahmad Khattu, a 15th century Sufi who became the Shaykh of Ahmad Shah I of the Muzaffarids of Gujarat. While there is little contemporary writing about ...

Listen