Contested identities and the Muslim Qaum in northern India : c. 1860-1900
Zaidi, S. Akbar
University of Cambridge
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Zaidi, S. A. (2009). Contested identities and the Muslim Qaum in northern India : c. 1860-1900 (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.16011
Using primarily published sources in Urdu from the second-half of the nineteenth century, my thesis presents evidence with regard to north Indian Muslims, which questions the idea of a homogenous, centralising, entity, at times called the Muslim community, qaum, ummah or nation. Using a large number of second-tier publicists' writings in Urdu, the thesis argues that the self-perceptions and representations of many Muslims, were far more local, parochial, disparate, multiple, and highly contested. The idea of a homogenous, levelling, sense of collective identity, or an imagined community, seem wanting in this period. This line of evidence and argumentation, also has important implications for locating the moment of separatism and identity formation amongst north Indian Muslims, and argues that this happened much later than has previously been imagined. Based on this, the thesis also argues against an anachronistic or teleological strain of historiography with regard to north Indian Muslims of this period. The main medium through which these arguments are debated, is through the Urdu print world, where a large number of new sources have been presented which underscore this difference, more than this uniformity. Whether it was in religious debates, debates around the attempt to unify - as part of a qaum - or around the reasons for Muslims to be at a point of zillat - utter humiliation - the literature points to multiple and diverse interpretations, causes and solutions. Moreover, the question of who a Muslim was', was always bitterly contested by those who claimed to be Muslims themselves. The thesis also examines the forum of the munäzara, and how pre-print forms of public engagement helped in emphasising individual identity, authority and reputation. The interplay between oral representation and the subsequent written accounts after the event, also raise questions about the fixity of print'. and about sources for historians. Using this new print material, the thesis engages broadly, with notions related to the imagined community and the public sphere, arguing that in a colonial context, much of the theory based on the European experience, needs to be rethought, for the nature and development of the public sphere/s and of the formation of communities, may have been somewhat different in this context.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.16011