State of the Field

in univerCity

update: On FRIDAY, JANUARY 2, there will be a roundtable discussion of the state of the field, moderated by David Ludden and possibly others. The event will be held in THE HILTON NEW YORK, NEW YORK SUITE (4TH FLOOR), FROM 5-7PM.

I will be there. See you all there, too.

Thinking out aloud about the historiographical landscape of current South Asian studies is a pretty silly thing to do at Medici’s coffee shop (“Obama Eats Here!”). You get all kinds of unsolicited advice – what do you mean Burton Stein’s History of India is under-appreciated?

If most of the 80s and all of the 90s can be given over to Subaltern Studies in particular and Postcolonial Studies in general, than how will we look back on these 00s?

Since 2000, I think these four titles are significant and merit (ed) widespread attention (in chronological order):

1. Dipesh Chakrabarty. Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial thought and historical difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

2. Velcheru Narayana Rao, David Shulman, and Sanjay Subrahmanyam. Textures of time: writing history in South India 1600-1800. New York: Other Press, 2003.

3. Richard Eaton. A Social History of the Deccan, 1300-1761: Eight Indian Lives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

4. Sheldon Pollock. The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

It is instructive that the latter three are concerned largely with the pre-modern. But maybe, this shows my bias more than a trend. Casting widely, I think the following would have to be on, again, my list of “significant” works on South Asian history since 2000.

  • Ronald Inden, Daud Ali and Jonathan Walters, Querying the Medieval: Texts and the History of Practices in South Asia (2000)
  • Ayesha Jalal, Self and Sovereignty: Individual and Community in South Asian Islam Since 1850 (2001)
  • Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, Refashioning Iran: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and Historiography (2001)
  • Cynthia Talbot, Precolonial India in Practice: Society, Region, and Identity in Medieval Andhra (2001)
  • Nicholas Dirks, Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India (2001)
  • Romila Thapar, Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300 (2004)
  • Muzaffar Alam, The Languages of Political Islam: India 1200-1800 (2004)
  • Manu Goswami, Producing India: From Colonial Economy to National Space, 2004

Romila Thapar, Somanatha, the many voices of a history (2004), Partha Chatterjee, A Princely Impostor?: The Strange and Universal History of the Kumar of Bhawal (2002) and James Laine, Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India (2003) are of special interest to those of us who dabble in questions of memory and history.

Most recently (and this may very well be controversial), I think William Dalrymple and his The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857 is going to leave a mark on the field. Hopefully, a positive mark. Looking ahead, Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History is going to be monumental.

What would you add?

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