Action Filename Size Access Description License


Abstract,‘Democracy on a Minor Note: The All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul'Muslimin and its Hyderabadi Muslim Publics’,This dissertation is a historical and ethnographic study of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimin (Association for Muslim Unity), a Muslim political party based in the southern city of Hyderabad. In a political universe where democracy is understood through popular conceptions of religious minorities and majorities and behaviors appropriate to both, I show how the Majlis articulates an oppositional stance on behalf of its constituents while conforming to the terms laid out for its functioning. Its ability to hold these contradictions together makes the party a felicitous site for a study, and a reckoning of the ‘cruel optimism’ that characterizes collective life in secular democracies today. ,‘Democracy on a Minor Note’ is divided into two parts. The four chapters in Part I lay out what I call a performative history of the Muslim public in the princely state of Hyderabad, a state bound to the British colonial establishment by that notoriously ambiguous relation of subordination called paramountcy. Using material as diverse as memoirs, novels, reportage, colonial documents, even an old unpublished dissertation, these chapters deal with the period roughly coinciding with the reign (1911- 1948) of the monarch, Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last Nizam of Hyderabad. They show how the internal contradictions of the state’s drive toward administrative modernization coupled with political stability generated in the late 1930s new kinds of sites and sociality for a Muslim public to evolve. The growing gap between the eponymous capital city and the districts that sustained its vibrant political life, as well as the influence of nationalist politics on the subcontinent manifested, I show, in the growth of the Muslim political party known as the Ittehad-ul-Muslimin and rival forms of politics such as the Hyderabad State Congress, Hindu Mahasabha, Arya Samaj and Communist Party. By attending carefully to the imbrications of these rivalries and their socio-historical location within Hyderabadi society, I argue that the rise of the Ittehad in reaction to the politics of Hindu majoritarianism, was based on a secularized space of historical understanding that enabled the reification of Islam and of Muslim history of which Hyderabadi Muslims became subjects. With the waning of monarchical charisma, this space was defined and made visible by charismatic individual leaders, like Nawab Bahadur Yar Jang, the first president of the Ittehad, whose ability to inspire love and devotion mediated between the old aristocratic sociality and the new publics of the city, and eventually, the districts. The inauguration of the nation-state changed radically the terrain of this political space, however, culminating in the 1948 invasion of Hyderabad by the Indian army, provoked both by a successful Communist insurgency and by the increasingly violent rhetoric and action of the Ittehad leader, Qasim Razvi. Through my analysis, I demonstrate the thoroughly historical logics of charismatic authority, attached by the force of history and politics to what can be called the compulsions of rhetorical finesse.,The three chapters comprising Part II track the resilience of the Muslim public in Hyderabad city, allowing it to sustain the profound social and political transformations entailed by minoritization in a democracy. Beginning with its ‘revival’ in 1958, the MIM strengthened its base in Hyderabad city by reanimating the events, urban locations and forms of sociality rooted in the 1930s. I argue that functioning within an ‘all India’ frame and an impoverished, ghettoized and politically weakened urban constituency the MIM is a party distinct from its genealogical ancestor, the Ittehad. Articulating an oppositional discourse of unity and self-reliance in the face of majoritarian violence and state neglect, the party’s imagination of a Muslim public functions now more than ever within the logic of numbers—demographics, spatial concentrations, voting statistics as well as indices of development. Being squarely placed within the problem space of secularism as a Muslim party, the MIM’s institutional life and legitimacy unfolds in the cracks of the rhetorical opposition between Indian secularism and communalism. The necessity of political representation for an embattled minority is thus manifested in two ways: its discourse is both determined by factors outside its control (necessity as imposition) and indispensable to survival as subject-citizens (necessity as need). Within the sites nurtured by and supportive of the politics of the MIM in the city, at once located in an older princely geography and in new urban chronotopes of ‘backwardness’ and ‘underdevelopment’, its electoral presence allows for the imbrication of an older male sociality centered on the ‘jalsa’ or public meeting, with another, less visible (though public) space of interaction populated mainly by women, at the party office at Darussalam. I show how the contradiction between the collective energies of the jalsa and the cynical humor, suspicion and distrust of political power at the party office is mediated by the charisma of the MIM leadership, heirs to the professional classes that established the Ittehad as a platform for popular politics. ,In conclusion, I reflect on the futures of the MIM, opened up by a new national visibility but grounded in its durable regional pasts. My work is about the nature of social inheritances and legacies of the past that animate present forms of collective action and subjection to political authority. These, I suggest, are the questions raised by a serious engagement with minority politics articulated within the constraints and possibilities provided by the norms of secular democracy.


Additional Details


Download Full History