South Asia Across the Disciplines

Published by: University of California Press

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South Asia Across the Disciplines

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Body of Victim, Body of Warrior

Refugee Families and the Making of Kashmiri Jihadists

Cabeiri deBergh Robinson

This book provides a fascinating look at the creation of contemporary Muslim jihadists. Basing the book on her long-term fieldwork in the disputed borderlands between Pakistan and India, Cabeiri deBergh Robinson tells the stories of people whose lives and families have been shaped by a long history of political conflict. Interweaving historical and ethnographic evidence, Robinson explains how refuge-seeking has become a socially and politically debased practice in the Kashmir region and why this devaluation has turned refugee men into potential militants. She reveals the fraught social processes by which individuals and families produce and maintain a modern jihad, and she shows how Muslim refugees have forged an Islamic notion of rights—a hybrid of global political ideals that adopts the language of human rights and humanitarianism as a means to rethink refugees’ positions in transnational communities. Jihad is no longer seen as a collective fight for the sovereignty of the Islamic polity, but instead as a personal struggle to establish the security of Muslim bodies against political violence, torture, and rape. Robinson describes how this new understanding has contributed to the popularization of jihad in the Kashmir region, decentered religious institutions as regulators of jihad in practice, and turned the families of refugee youths into the ultimate mediators of entrance into militant organizations. This provocative book challenges the idea that extremism in modern Muslim societies is the natural by-product of a clash of civilizations, of a universal Islamist ideology, or of fundamentalist conversion.

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I Too Have Some Dreams

N.M. Rashed and Modernism in Urdu Poetry

A. Sean Pue

I Too Have Some Dreams explores N. M. Rashed’s career as a poet, which spans the last years of British India and the early decades of postcolonial South Asia. A. Sean Pue argues that Rashed’s poetry carved out a distinct role for literature in the maintenance of doubt, providing a platform for challenging the certainty of collective ideologies and opposing the evolving forms of empire and domination. This finely crafted study of Urdu's renowned modernist poet N.M. Rashed offers a timely contribution to global modernist studies and to modern South Asian literary history.

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The Powerful Ephemeral

Everyday Healing in an Ambiguously Islamic Place

Carla Bellamy

The violent partitioning of British India along religious lines and ongoing communalist aggression have compelled Indian citizens to contend with the notion that an exclusive, fixed religious identity is fundamental to selfhood. Even so, Muslim saint shrines known as dargahs attract a religiously diverse range of pilgrims. In this accessible and groundbreaking ethnography, Carla Bellamy traces the long-term healing processes of Muslim and Hindu devotees of a complex of dargahs in northwestern India. Drawing on pilgrims’ narratives, ritual and everyday practices, archival documents, and popular publications in Hindi and Urdu, Bellamy considers questions about the nature of religion in general and Indian religion in particular. Grounded in stories from individual lives and experiences, The Powerful Ephemeral offers not only a humane, highly readable portrait of dargah culture, but also new insight into notions of selfhood and religious difference in contemporary India.

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Receptacle of the Sacred

Illustrated Manuscripts and the Buddhist Book Cult in South Asia

Jinah Kim

In considering medieval illustrated Buddhist manuscripts as sacred objects of cultic innovation, Receptacle of the Sacred explores how and why the South Asian Buddhist book-cult has survived for almost two millennia to the present. A book "manuscript" should be understood as a form of sacred space: a temple in microcosm, not only imbued with divine presence but also layered with the memories of many generations of users. Jinah Kim argues that illustrating a manuscript with Buddhist imagery not only empowered it as a three-dimensional sacred object, but also made it a suitable tool for the spiritual transformation of medieval Indian practitioners. Through a detailed historical analysis of Sanskrit colophons on patronage, production, and use of illustrated manuscripts, she suggests that while Buddhism’s disappearance in eastern India was a slow and gradual process, the Buddhist book-cult played an important role in sustaining its identity. In addition, by examining the physical traces left by later Nepalese users and the contemporary ritual use of the book in Nepal, Kim shows how human agency was critical in perpetuating and intensifying the potency of a manuscript as a sacred object throughout time.

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The Social Space of Language

Vernacular Culture in British Colonial Punjab

Farina Mir

This rich cultural history set in Punjab examines a little-studied body of popular literature to illustrate both the durability of a vernacular literary tradition and the limits of colonial dominance in British India. Farina Mir asks how qisse, a vibrant genre of epics and romances, flourished in colonial Punjab despite British efforts to marginalize the Punjabi language. She explores topics including Punjabi linguistic practices, print and performance, and the symbolic content of qisse. She finds that although the British denied Punjabi language and literature almost all forms of state patronage, the resilience of this popular genre came from its old but dynamic corpus of stories, their representations of place, and the moral sensibility that suffused them. Her multidisciplinary study reframes inquiry into cultural formations in late-colonial north India away from a focus on religious communal identities and nationalist politics and toward a widespread, ecumenical, and place-centered poetics of belonging in the region.

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