Category: South Asia

Articles on contemporary and historical India as well as pre-modern Swat.

Reclaiming Karbala: Nation, Islam and Literature of the Bengali Muslims (Routledge, 2023)

The new book by Epsita Halder, former fellow of the ‘Religion and Urbanity’ group, is titled ‘Reclaiming Karbala: Nation, Islam and Literature of the Bengali Muslims’. It was published in 2023 and studies the emergence and formation of a viable Muslim identity in Bengal over the late-19th century through the 1940s. Beginning with an explanation of significance of the martyrdom of Hazrat Muhammad’s grandson Husayn in the battle of Karbala (680 CE) for the Muslims, this book explores how this particular historical episode was recurrently reclaimed and reinterpreted by the Bangla-speaking ulama and Muslim literati to define what it meant to be Muslim in colonial Bengal.

Woad and Indigo: A Story of Two Cities, Two Continents and Decolonisation

Our former fellow Shail Mayaram on the two colours blue: Having lived with indigo for some four decades in India, I delighted in Erfurt’s own blue colour, called woad. Woad is a very distinct blue, as in the napkin that graced my table of my IBZ (the University’s International Guest House) flat, a Christmas gift from my friend, the KFG Fellow, Raminder Kaur.

Hanafi Law and Urbanization in Mughal India

Hanafi law, one of the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence, which was widely practiced in the Ottoman Empire, was also the imperial legal system of the Mughal Empire (1526-1857) in South Asia. Hanafi law governed property rights of Muslims and non-Muslims alike in the rural and the urban spheres of the Mughal Empire. Unfortunately, research on Hanafi law in Mughal India, in its theoretical and practical perspectives, remains virtually inexistant in current historiography. In this blogpost, I sketch the salient features of the relation between law and Mughal urban practices.

Changing Religious and City Images of Goa under the Habsburgs (1580-1640)

Pius Malekandathil on how the city branding of Goa changed with Hapsburg rule in the 16th and 17th century. The Hapsburgs resorted to different mechanisms during this period to mask the internal contradictions within the city and to fill up the “hollowness” of the urban enclave of Goa and to prevent the Portuguese and Luso-Indians from moving away from the power centre of Goa to other enclaves. The fabrication and circulation of pride-evoking epithets like “Goa Dourada“ (Golden Goa) and religious metaphorical usages like “Rome of the East”, and the creation of ‘relic-loving’ devotees within the city were some of the mechanisms sought by the Hapsburgs not only to camouflage the harsh urban reality of Goa, but also to give a positive, if inflated, imagery of the city.

Water as an Urban Technology in Medieval India – An Introduction by Sara Keller

Podcast of a lecture by Sara Keller in which she examined the question of the wide-ranging effects of global mobility and exchange on Indian societies and cities. The audio was recorded at the lecture series on “Global Exchanges”, organised by Elisa Iori and Mateusz Fafinski.

Walking along Prince Anwar Shah Road, Kolkata

Prince Anwar Shah Road, stretched between Jadavpur Police Station to the east and Tipu Sultan Shahi Masjid to the west, where Anwar Shah Road meets Deshapran Shasmal Road, has a unique demography consisting of multiple neighbourhoods, economic zones and a complex juxtaposition of urban deliberations…

Sacred City Intersections: Superiority-Inferiority Complexes in Sites of Amritsar, India

Be it Mecca, the Vatican City, Varanasi, or Amritsar: even while cities acquire the status of sacrality particular to a specific religious group, they continue to harbour pronounced inter- and intra-religious dynamics within and outside their circumscribed boundaries. Such phenomena require a multiscalar and intersectional lens of analysis…

From Mining Site to Mining City: the Case of Mes Aynak, Afghanistan

If I asked you to describe a mining city, the picture you will paint would be probably that of a dusty, smoky, ugly and polluted city dominated by a somehow melancholic atmosphere due to both the poor and dangerous conditions of the mining workers and the predictability of the city’s decline once resources are exhausted or extraction unviable…

Walking through the streets of Calicut (III)

It’s been a while since I wrote about Calicut. Since my departure at the end of March I haven’t returned to India. Until further notice, my research visa is still suspended. But the situation is now also completely different than in March…

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