This past weekend, I was on a panel at the annual historian’s shindig, the AHA: Contested Pasts and Constructed Presents: Memory in the Local. It was the last panel on Sunday afternoon – colloquially termed the “Luggage Panel”. And yet, it still managed to be a good one – with up to 6 attendees!
Dresner’s presentation on the re-entry of Japanese diasporic population from Brazil was eye-opening for me. And our commentator, Baumler gave me very useful comments for framing my work further into biography and gender. Not to mention that in audience was a scholar of South Asia whom I have long respected, Richard Eaton and it was great to hear his remarks and speak with him afterwards. [Eaton's Social History of the Deccan (2005) is certainly one of the best books to have come out in the last 5 years - and, to me, an indication of the ways in which our field is moving out of the postcolonial cul-de-sac.]
The panel on memory, then, was an attempt to extend such conversation across geographical boundaries – and in that it was only partially a success. Robinson was unable to join us and my hopes of doing an online component was also unable to take off the ground. Largely for reasons that had nothing to do with technology (all the authors on the panel had unusually busy winters). Oh well.
The interplay between memory, history and biography continued even on my way back. At the airport, I learned of the just published The Many Lives of a Rajput Queen: Heroic Pasts in India, C. 1500-1900 from Ramya. I look forward to reading it – as it reminds me of Robert Morrissey’s Charlemagne and France: A Thousand Years of Mythology (2006), and Abdelmajid Hannoum’s Colonial Histories, Postcolonial Memories: The Legend of the Kahina, a North African Heroine (2001). Also, at the airport, was Cornell Fleischer – whose Bureaucrat and Intellectual in the Ottoman Empire: The Historian Mustafa Ali (1541-1600) (1986) is a classical work of biography unsurpassed in sophistication so far.
AHA, in general, went well. I didn’t go to any panels – except for the South Asia Caucus – since, I was one of the hordes hovering around the screens. I did see the Cliopats, met TR, PH, and ADM and hung out with dear friends late into the night. Good times.
also, also: I bought the sunday NYT with the special Islam book review – a rather horrendously anti-Islamic piece of editorial action – starting with the cover (shadow of a man with arms raised to ward off (?) the vaguely arabic letters falling from the sky). The Tariq Ramadan and Rashid Khalidi pieces felt like affirmative action. The only thing I can recommend is Dalrymple’s review of Hamza-nama.