Postcards from the Archives: Goodbye 2017

2017 started grim, and stayed so. Here, at CM, we started with a few pieces on the new wave of xenophobia, with guest essays  on the Spencer phenomenon  and on fake news. Sepoy responded to the ‘Muslim ban’ and reminded us that “[t]he law is not an ally,” that “the Executive power that Trump is wielding to destroy families here and abroad, has a long and checkered history that stretches back to the very foundation of this nation.” Meanwhile Sepoy also published an op-ed in NYT (ha) on FATA, and in Dawn on the colonial myths of Muslim Arrival in Sindh. He also posted his talk on Richard Eaton and Phillip Wagoner’s Memory, Power, Architecture: Contested Sites on India’s Deccan Plateau, 1300-1600Your humble servant’s favorite for the year is the post on Eqbal Ahmad.

The XQs series continued with conversations with Sarah Besky, and  Sanjeevini Badigar Lokhande, and Julie Billaud. We also published an exclusive prologue to the Chinese language edition of Sarah Besky’s Darjeeling Distinction. There was also this interview with Deepak Singh.

We hosted our second book roundtable, this year on Saba Mahmood’s Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report with an introduction by Durba Mitra and essays by Schirin Amir-MoazamiSarah Eltantawi, and Humeira Iqtidar.

From the Michigan tandoor, here are the reports on the teach-ins on Disappeared activists in Pakistan, on the racist violence against Desis in the U.S., and on the Indigenous Peoples’ Day rally.

CM friends Francesca Recchia and Sarover Zaidi contributed as well: here, here.

Lapata was, well, lapata.

Welp, thus ended 2017 and this, the 8th postcard. Let’s see what 2018 has to offer!

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Postcards from the Archives: Goodbye 2016

2016 began with statements of solidarity with JNU (this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this), and ended with the dawn of the Age of Orange and our renewed commitments to not-survive, to not-surrender, and to always throw shad at power. In 2016, we bid farewell to beloved colleaguesmentors, writers, scholars.

2016 was a fairly busy year at CM. The highlight surely was the publication of Sepoy’s A Book of Conquest: The Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia. Here are some reviews: linklink, link. Sepoy shared his thoughts on the writing process, here. Lapata graced CM with her art and essay on Aleppopoetic translation, and thoughts on the art of translation. We continued our XQ series with an interview with Eric Beverly and Nayanika Mathur; featured an interview with Sheldon Pollock (see also, Sepoy’s Why Sheldon Pollock); organized a roundtable on Kamran Asdar Ali’s Communism in Pakistan: Politics and Class Activism 1947 – 1972 (IB Tauris) / Surkh Salam: Communist Politics and Class Activism in Pakistan 1947–1972 (OUP – Karachi), featuring reviews by Ahmed Kanna, Sarah Besky, Junaid Rana, Arvind Elangovan, and Atiya Singh; and maintained a focus on city-writing: Lahore: Marks It Bears IIRickshaw diaryThe City and the City*: Space and Semiotics of Muslim Bombay**,  Musings on Absence: Planning, Policies, and Conflict in the Indian Administered Kashmir. Other notable guest pieces are Zirwat Chowdhury’s The Conditional World of the Refugee, Sahar Ishtiaque Ullah’s Nanu’s Poetry, and Taimoor Shahid’s Meditation on Borders. Yours truly also said some things, about Zindagi Gulzar Hai.

If I were to pick, my favourite chapatis were Lapata’s Lessons Learned: Susanne and Lloyd Rudolph, in memoriam, and Sepoy’s The Work of Humanities.

PS. A rogue splinter group of “artists of all stripes: painters, dancers, musicians, poets, etc., to share their art of protest and come for inspiration. Scholars and other savvy individuals are also welcome[…]”

PPS. Thinking about the Last Hindu Emperor

Previously: 201520142013201220112010

A Book of Conquest

Gentle Readers,

It has been a while since we last spoke and much has happened– good and notgood– and I have been remiss with my absence. In a few short weeks you will be able to buy my book, A Book of Conquest from your online or retail bookseller in US, EU and South Asia.

I finished writing the book in earnest last August (2015) and submitted it to the Press. It took until around May for copy-editing and indexing and other things to get set– and almost exactly a year to the date, I have the physical book in my hand. That feels amazing (and actually it is amazing given usual publication schedules are 18 months).

What can I say about the book: It is mostly the history of a Persian text, Chachnama which was written around 1220s. It is mostly a history of the region of Sind from the 9th to the 13th century. It is mostly about a political theory that existed before the Mughals and about which we know little (in general). It is mostly about the notion that Muslims are outsiders to South Asia. It is mostly about how we seek answers in origins (wrongly). It is mostly about a method of doing history as post-partitioned subjects. It is mostly what I wanted to say and I am glad that I was able to say it and I am grateful that you will be able to read it.

I was planning on writing some short posts about the mechanics of the book writing and publishing and whatever I learned from it. I say “was” mainly because I am drowning in other writing assignments and classes are about to start so I don’t know how/when I will get to it. Yet, it is a priority and I will.

In the meanwhile, this note is meant to say:

There will be some more book-related news in the next few months.

The City and the City*: Space and Semiotics of Muslim Bombay**

By Sarover Zaidi

Anthropologist, architecture obsessed, studied philosophy, worked in rural India ten years.

[This text was commissioned as a guest column in The Funambulist Magazine 4 (March-April 2016): Carceral Environments. The issue is available in printed and digital versions on The Funambulist’s website.]

 

jj flyoverThe JJ flyover was built in record time with pre-fabricated concrete blocks in 2002 over what is known as the ‘native’ ‘Muslim’ town of Bombay. The narrative dominating its quick construction was explained as ‘decongestion’, an easy freeway over the old Muslim town, leading one to the financial centre of south Bombay with ease. Seen as an architectural feat the flyover running at 2.4 kilometres in length asserted what Eyal Weizman terms as a ‘sovereign verticality’ over the area below it. Covering all of Muhammad Ali road, the spatial aorta of the native town of Bombay, the JJ flyover set a new horizon of surveillance over the Muslim ‘ghetto’ of the city. What else did it do in a city already entrenched with vegetarian buildings, arbitrary arrests of Muslim boys, firing and rioting in Muslim areas and mosques, and a generally discriminatory everyday life for the Muslim populace? A swift bureaucratic decision solved not just the issue of congestion, but also provided a bypass to the ‘Muslim problems’ of Bombay.

The area below the flyover, historically dominated by different Muslim trading communities, was strongly reconstituted as a ‘problem zone’ after the Bombay riots (1992-93) spread across the different neighborhoods of this area. The stigma of the riots and the presence of the underworld involved in the Bombay bomb blasts (1993), saturated this area with a signification it could never really escape. Hence the Musalman, the outsider, the terrorist, the rioter, the anti-national came to form a metonymic chain, contrasted and highlighted heavily by the then right wing ruling party, the Shiv Sena — the Shiv Sena emerged as a Hindu right wing political party at the time and was involved in orchestrating the riots and looting in Muslim neighborhoods. If neighborhoods bear the weight of these historical events of the city, then bodies participate in this narrative through everyday locations of living with violence. Recently a public intellectual of Bombay exclaimed: “Look at these Muslim boys speeding across town, no respect for rules, civic space, probably a hangover of riding camels.” He was referring to the Muslim boys who ride their bikes between the old Muslim neighbourhood and the colonial city, today the elite financial area of Bombay. These boys due to the festival are made allowances to transgress city spaces, beyond the old Muslim neighbourhood and venture into the zones of the elite colonial city. On other days they are usually stopped, checked and fined by the traffic police, speeding or not.

The city functions as a doppelganger on itself, with different sets of rules applying to different areas, and of course to different religiously affiliated communities. Continue reading “The City and the City*: Space and Semiotics of Muslim Bombay**”