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From Early Modern Indo-Persian Travels to the Crisis of Postcolonial Culture

From Early Modern Indo-Persian Travels to the Crisis of Postcolonial Culture

A look at some of the recent and forthcoming publications by UCLA Faculty working on India and South Asia

Enlightenment in the Colony: The Jewish Question and the Crisis of Postcolonial Culture by Aamir R. Mufti, Department of Comparative Literature

Enlightenment in the Colony opens up the history of the "Jewish question" for the first time to a broader discussion--one of the social exclusion of religious and cultural minorities in modern times, and in particular the crisis of Muslim identity in modern India.

Aamir Mufti identifies the Hindu-Muslim conflict in India as a colonial variation of what he calls "the exemplary crisis of minority"--Jewishness in Europe. He shows how the emergence of this conflict in the late nineteenth century represented an early instance of the reinscription of the "Jewish question" in a non-Western society undergoing modernization under colonial rule. In so doing, he charts one particular route by which this European phenomenon linked to nation-states takes on a global significance.

Mufti examines the literary dimensions of this crisis of identity through close readings of canonical texts of modern Western--mostly British-literature, as well as major works of modern Indian literature in Urdu and English. He argues that the one characteristic shared by all emerging national cultures since the nineteenth century is the minoritization of some social and cultural fragment of the population, and that national belonging and minority separatism go hand in hand with modernization.

Enlightenment in the Colony calls for the adoption of secular, minority, and exilic perspectives in criticism and intellectual life as a means to critique the very forms of marginalization that give rise to the uniquely powerful minority voice in world literatures.

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Indo-Persian Travels in the Age of Discoveries, 1400–1800 by Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Department of History (co-authored with Muzaffar Alam)

A groundbreaking work based on detailed and sensitive readings of travel accounts in Persian, dealing with India, Iran, and Central Asia between about 1400 and 1800. This is the first comprehensive treatment of this neglected genre of literature (safar nama) that links the Mughals, Safavids and Central Asia in a crucial period of transformation and cultural contact. The authors’ close reading of these travel-accounts help us enter the mental and moral worlds of the Muslim and non-Muslim literati who produced these valuable narratives. These accounts are presented in a comparative framework, which sets them side by side with other Asian accounts, as well as early modern European travel-narratives, and opens up a rich and unsuspected vista of cultural and material history. This book can be read for a better understanding of the nature of early modern encounters, but also for the sheer pleasure of entering a new world.

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India by Design: Colonial History and Cultural Display (forthcoming) by Saloni Mathur, Department of Art History

India by Design: Colonial History and Cultural Display maps for the first time a series of historical events--from the Raj in the mid-nineteenth century up to the present day--through which India was made fashionable to Western audiences within the popular cultural arenas of the imperial metropole. Situated at the convergence of discussions in anthropology, art history, museum studies, and postcolonial criticism, this dynamic study investigates with vivid historical detail how Indian objects, bodies, images, and narratives circulated through metropolitan space and acquired meaning in an emergent nineteenth-century consumer economy. Through an examination of India as represented in department stores, museums, exhibitions, painting, and picture postcards of the era, the book carefully confronts the problems and politics of postcolonial display and offers an original and provocative account of the implications of colonial practices for visual production in our contemporary world.

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The Anthropology of the State: A Reader by Akhil Gupta, Department of Anthropology (co-edited with Aradhana Sharma)

This innovative reader brings together classic theoretical texts and cutting-edge ethnographic analyses of specific state institutions, practices, and processes and outlines an anthropological framework for rethinking future study of "the state". The book focuses on the institutions, spaces, ideas, practices, and representations that constitute the "state"; promotes cultural and transnational approaches to the subject and helps readers to make anthropological sense of the state as a cultural artifact, in the context of a neoliberalizing, transnational world.

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