Journal Name: Modern Asian Studies: Volume 36 - Issue 01 - February 2002
Print ISSN: 0026-749X Online ISSN: 1469-8099
Thomas Walker Arnold and the Re-Evaluation of Islam, 1864-1930
Katherine Watt (pp1-98)
Katherine Watt (St John's College, Cambridge University)
Islam has commanded European attention ever since Muhammad first preached his message of submission to the will of God. Scholars, theologians, travellers, politicians and theorists have produced a multiplicity of judgements on Islam as religious, political, cultural, social, economic, military and historical phenomenon, and continue to do so in the present. In 1978, Edward Said proposed a new historical paradigm for understanding post-Enlightenment Western conceptions of Islam, whereby orientalist ideology provided 'a way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the Orient's special place in European Western experience'. 'Orientalism', once simply the academic study of 'the East', was thus defined as a composite set of Western methods for dominating the Orient. Said's challenge to the Western humanist tradition has provoked fierce historical and historiographical debate over both his theoretical framework and intellectual techniques. His opponents have condemned his binary discourse as ahistorical and monolithic, accused him of imprecise analysis and narrow literary focus, and pointed out theoretical inconsistencies, while supporters have hailed his work as an emancipatory prototype to transcend 'the politics of difference'. As a result, the orientalist paradigm has been carried beyond literary analysis into multiple historical disciplines.
Introduction Srngara, [Iota, accent]shq, Love: The Many Meanings of Love in South Asia (pp99-102)
Francesca Orsini (Cambridge University)
Love has many meanings. The papers published in this issue and first presented at an interdisciplinary workshop in Cambridge were based on this simple premiss; yet if one starts exploring it, one encounters a host of methodological, historical and generic questions that considerably complicate matters. What relationship do concepts of love have to their own societies? What happens when concepts live on in different socio-historical contexts? Do concepts overlap (srngara, [iota, accent]shq, 'love'), or do they occupy different areas of meaning? What happens when authors play with a voice of the opposite sex? And when the gender of the author or performer changes, do, for example, female voices reproduce male discourse or introduce elements of heterogeneity? What happens when contexts change, when commercial entertainment and print replace the court or an exclusive circle of connoisseurs? Have pre-modern concepts and tensions survived in modern society, or have new ones arisen? How do modern authors and individuals, female and male, react to and use traditional idioms? Has the modern state and its promise of individual rights made 'love' easier or more difficult? What are the actual possible spaces for love in contemporary South Asian society?
Anxieties of Attachment: The Dynamics of Courtship in Medieval India (pp103-139)
Daud Ali (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London)
The copious literature on love in early India has most recently been interpreted as a variant of the universal experience of human sexuality. Studies have rooted the uniqueness of Indian ideas either in theological conceptions of the immanent and transcendent, or in the particularity of the parent-child relation in India. Whatever the insights of such scholarship, two major problems relevant to this essay are its positioning of a 'civilizational' backdrop as its subject of analysis—either 'India' or 'Hinduism'—and, particularly with the former approach, the subsequent application of what has been called the 'repressive hypothesis' to the Indian material, which poses the 'transcendent' principles of Indian civilization in a restraining role over those deemed life-affirming or immanent. This essay will offer an alternative to these interpretations by placing conceptions of romantic love in medieval India within their social and discursive contexts, and connect up the discourses on self-discipline in medieval India with those of love in a more historically specific and illuminating way.
Sex, Social Critique and the Female Figure in Premodern Punjabi Poetry: Varis Shah's 'Hir' (pp141-171)
Jeevan Deol (University of Cambridge)
Varis Shah is the lord of poetry: who can criticise him?
I am not worthy enough to point a finger at his verses.
When anyone understands the Chuh[rudot]e[tudot]i he wrote completely
It has fragrance in its every word, just like a basket of flowers. (Miail; Muhammad Bakhsh)
Varis Shah is the lord of poetry and never stumbled or got stuck-
Like an unroughened millstone, he crushed both big and small.
A man filled with compassion and feeling, he everywhere expressed himself indirectly:
But even the wise don't understand what he described and thought. (Ahmad Yar)
'Thumri': A Discussion of the Female Voice of Hindustani Music (pp173-193)
Lalita Du Perron
Can we find different levels of meaning in the term 'the female voice'? From a straightforwardly narratological perspective, a female voice indicates that the narrator in the art form under discussion is a woman. Could it also suggest a female perspective, and is a female perspective distinguishable from female narration: do we assume the former is built on language that is feminized, using a different vocabulary and a different expression? Does it matter whether a female voice is created by men or by women? When a woman creates art that has a female narrator, and yet through that narrator expresses woman's experience as constructed by an overarching patriarchal ideology, is the voice nevertheless female? Is the voice of a genre contingent upon its real-life audience, or upon the implied audience within the narrative itself? These are some of the issues that I want to tease out in the present paper. As is often the case in academic enquiry, more questions may be raised than answered. At this juncture it is my aim to establish a dialogue between the study of text and the study of performance, not only to add to a well-established discussion of how text is used in performance but to incorporate into that existing discourse the relevance of the contextual dimension.
(Im)possible Love and Sexual Pleasure in Late-Colonial North India (pp195-221)
This paper explores how unconventional love was written about and expressed in late colonial north India, with special emphasis on Uttar Pradesh (then known as the United Provinces, hereafter UP), in literary genres, print media and in actual practices. It focuses on male-male sexual bondings in an urban climate, relationships between the younger brother-in-law and elder sister-in-law and inter-religious love. Historians of colonial India have emphasized the moral and sexual worries of the British and the aspiring indigenous middle classes, coupled with a coercive and symbolic regulation of women, which helped in replenishing colonial authority, updating indigenous patriarchy, and proclaiming a collective identity. In UP too, endeavours were made particularly by the Hindu publicists to redefine literature, entertainment and the domestic arena, especially pertaining to women, and to forge a respectable, civilized and distinct Hindu cultural and political identity. Less, however, has been said on how a rich variety of literary practices and complexities of cultural imagination were at the same time placing limits upon projections of respectability and homogeneity. As a result, I will argue, there was no single code of Hindu middle-class morality and no final triumph of sexual conservatism in this period. The efficacy of disciplinary power was considerably diluted. Feminists have also pointed out that though women are often victims of violent crimes and aggressive patriarchal displays, the persistent fore-grounding of pain and political correctness marginalizes women's sexual pleasures and desires.
Love and the Law: Love-Marriage in Delhi (pp223-256)
Perveez Mody (University of Cambridge)
In the late 1860s, the colonial state received a petition signed by Keshub Chandra Sen of the Brahmo Samaj to legislate for marriages amongst their members, such that they could freely marry according to their 'rites of conscience'. Paying little attention to the specific demands and circumstances of the Keshubite petition, the Governor General's Legislative Council began to consider the introduction of a civil marriage law for all Indians, so that those choosing to dissent from the religious practices of their marriage rites could find state sanction for their acts even if they were disowned by their families, castes or ethno-religious communities. The debate that followed the publication of this intention, presented 'native' society in a state of anxious turmoil, eager to represent itself as both morally and culturally superior in matters of marriage and kinship relations as opposed to the degenerate 'Europeans'. Using archival petitions from Indians appealing against the legislation of the first civil marriage law in the late nineteenth century ('Act III of 1872'), in this paper I detail some of the ways in which love-marriage couples have historically come to inhabit a social space of extreme moral ambivalence. Despite the enormous significance of this nineteenth-century debate, as well as the importance of civil marriage legislation in a country with contradictory and conflicting 'personal laws', there has been virtually no academic work (historical or anthropological) that addresses the import of 'Act III of 1872' and its legacy to post-independence India. However, the law for civil marriage was nonetheless passed (albeit in a truncated form), thus opening up a theoretical space within which any two Indians could legitimately marry out of choice and love rather than by the dictates of 'birth'.
Modern Asian Studies (2004)
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