I was invited to speak on Richard Eaton and Phillip Wagoner’s 2014 (already seminal) book Memory, Power, Architecture: Contested Sites on India’s Deccan Plateau, 1300-1600. It was awarded the 2016 Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize at the Association for Asian Studies. Alongside Cynthia Talbot’s The Last Hindu Emperor (2015)– about which I wrote here— and Shahid Amin’s Conquest and Community: The Afterlife of Warrior Saint Ghazi Miyan (2015), this book represents a significant turn in South Asian studies towards ‘memory studies’ broadly speaking. Due to the travel EO, I chose not to attend the festivities in Toronto but Professor Nile Green (the Chair of the panel) was gracious enough to read my comments. I post here a shortened version for your edification.
Two of the works that were significant in my own intellectual formation belong to Phillip Wagoner and to Richard Eaton. Wagoner’s Tidings of the King: A Translation and Ethnohistorical Analysis of Rāyavācakamu (1999) taught me the invaluable lesson that historical texts can pretend a pre-textual history as its own– and that any prima facie reading of such texts can compound historiographic errors over generations. Wagoner’s effort in re-situating Rāyavācakamu as an early-seventeenth century text, as opposed to it’s own claim to be an early sixteenth century text, and in thinking about the genre as a source of historical emplotment, gave me a method to interrogate my primary concern– a thirteenth century Persian text claiming to be a translation of an eighth century Arabic work– anew. Eaton’s landmark study Sufis of Bijapur, 1300-1700: Social Roles of Sufis in Medieval India (1978) was itself methodologically innovative in considering texts emerging from within or about Sufi households alongside legal declarations and historical narratives. In my own research on thirteenth century Sindh, I was guided by Eaton’s example of creating a social network for a distant past by tracing textual and material networks that continuously cross borders enacted by historical or historiographic sensibilities.
I want to start with this particular perspective– of thinking about method for studying Indian medieval pasts. It is my contention that Power, Memory, Architecture: Contested Sites on India’s Deccan Plateau, 1300-1600 (2014) invocation and use of “Memory” begins from their methodology of walking the secondary regional centers to compile their GIS maps. In effect, walking provided the means with which the authors ‘see’ the landscape– both in its contemporary form and in its historical context.
Continue reading “How to See”
My op-ed in NYT on the recent FATA/administrative developments that connects the history of spatial politics and territorial otherness.
The nearly 40-year war in Afghanistan has produced its own idea of the “tribal” in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas — one that took the British colonial emphasis on “Pashtun” militancy and layered on top the American enemy, the Afghan Taliban. The Tribal Areas went from being a base for Pakistan and American military operations against Soviet troops to a platform for Taliban militancy against the United States and Pakistan. Deemed a geography outside the laws of the nation, the Tribal Areas were found by both the militant and the anti-militant forces a region where violence could be meted out with little regard to its inhabitants.
Pakistan has kept the frontiers in place, legally and spatially. Continuing the colonial practices, the president of Pakistan appoints a “political agent” in the Tribal Areas to keep power centralized. The political agent is the sole arbiter of law and order and one without any responsibility toward the people. The ethnic stereotyping and animosity has deliberately deprived the Tribal Areas of schools and hospitals. The war on terrorism has instead turned it into a landscape covered in police and surveillance stations.
Disappeared: The word does not directly refer back to the person who’s vanished, or at least, doesn’t entirely capture her experience. The disappeared knows where she is during her disappearance, even as she knows that they are displaced. In the case of state-enforced disappearances, the state denies any knowledge of their whereabouts. Poof! Vanished! She’s disappeared to others: loved ones, family, friends, and comrades. Her absence leaves behind a cavity, a question mark, and a world made incomplete in one blow.
I do not disappear to myself. I disappear to others. They notice that I am gone–or so I hope. I hope that they will respond to the cavity I left behind as I was violently extracted from amidst them, that they will raise hell, that I will be missed, remembered, that my memory will live on (if only for a while), that I will leave behind a trace, that I might die but it won’t be a social death.
One of the words for ‘disappeared’ is ghayab: absent. Remembering and witnessing is an act of making present those who are made to be absent.
Given below are the remarks by three of the panelists at the teach-in on Pakistan’s disappeared activists/bloggers (who have since been returned) that took place at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor on January 16, 2017. The teach-in was organized by South Asia Solidarity in Michigan (SASMi), and sponsored and hosted by the Center for South Asian Studies. At the teach-in, the panelists provided an overview of the specific cases of the five disappeared activists/bloggers. They addressed the broader trend of enforced disappearances of people in Pakistan and the victimization of political activists, placing the trend in a global context of repression of dissent. They discussed the history of state-civil society relations in Pakistan, and focused on what the disappearances and securitization of cyber-spaces meant for intellectual and political freedom in Pakistan and elsewhere. The teach-in ended with an open discussion of practical ways of furthering our solidarity politics in these troubled times across the globe.
Continue reading “Teach-in on Disappeared Activists in Pakistan”
[The XQs (Ten Questions) series is a conversation with the author of new and exciting works in South Asian Studies, whose aim is not to “review” but to contextualize, historicize and promote new scholarship. We thank Yogesh Chandrani for conducting this interview. Previously: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII.]
Sanjeevini Badigar Lokhande teaches comparative politics at Temple University’s Department of Political Science and was previously assistant professor of politics at the University of Mumbai. Her book, Communal Violence, Forced Migration and the State: Gujarat since 2002, examines the forced displacement of Muslim communities of Gujarat due to the pogrom of 2002. In the aftermath of the violence, the Hindu nationalist government of Gujarat represented the state as a model of good governance. In the book, Lokhande draws on extensive field research and government documents to examine the politics of forced migration and relief and rehabilitation in order to interrogate the neoliberal state in India.
(Interview conducted by Yogesh Chandrani, September 2016 – January 2017).
1. Can you describe how you came to this project and the central questions that inform your inquiry?
The research for this book grew out of my doctoral studies at the Center for Political Studies, JNU where I was initially interested in the category of internally displaced persons in India and I was advised to focus on Gujarat. The central question that I began with and that is at the heart of the book is: how does displacement affect the experience of citizenship rights in a democratic setup where there is no evident large scale or regime changing conflict but where the democratic processes continue and such events are seen as aberrations. In Gujarat for instance the debate went from violence to good governance and that is what the book engages with. Continue reading “XQs VIII: A Conversation with Sanjeevini Badigar Lokhande”