1st Edition

Imagining the Public in Modern South Asia

Edited By Brannon Ingram, J. Barton Scott, SherAli K Tareen Copyright 2016
    186 Pages
    by Routledge

    186 Pages
    by Routledge

    In South Asia, as elsewhere, the category of ‘the public’ has come under increased scholarly and popular scrutiny in recent years. To better understand this current conjuncture, we need a fuller understanding of the specifically South Asian history of the term. To that end, this book surveys the modern Indian ‘public’ across multiple historical contexts and sites, with contributions from leading scholars of South Asia in anthropology, history, literary studies and religious studies. As a whole, this volume highlights the complex genealogies of the public in the Indian subcontinent during the colonial and postcolonial eras, showing in particular how British notions of ‘the public’ intersected with South Asian forms of publicity. Two principal methods or approaches—the genealogical and the typological—have characterised this scholarship. This book suggests, more in the mode of genealogy, that the category of the public has been closely linked to the sub-continental history of political liberalism. Also discussed is how the studies collected in this volume challenge some of liberalism’s key presuppositions about the public and its relationship to law and religion. This book was originally published as a special issue of South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies.

    1. What is a Public? Notes from South Asia
    J. Barton Scott and Brannon D. Ingram

    2. Rethinking the Public through the Lens of Sovereignty
    David Gilmartin

    3. How to Defame a God: Public Selfhood in the Maharaj Libel Case
    J. Barton Scott

    4. Crises of the Public in Muslim India: Critiquing ‘Custom’ at Aligarh and Deoband
    Brannon D. Ingram

    5. Contesting Friendship in Colonial Muslim India
    SherAli Tareen

    6. Booklets and Sants: Religious Publics and Literary History
    Francesca Orsini

    7. Ambedkar, Marx and the Buddhist Question
    Ajay Skaria

    8. Jurisprudence of Emergence: Neo-Liberalism and the Public as Market in India
    Ritu Birla

    9. A Different Kind of Flesh: Public Obscenity, Globalisation and the Mumbai Dance Bar Ban
    William Mazzarella

    10. Commissioning Representation: The Misra Report, Deliberation and the Government of the People in Modern India
    Rupa Viswanath

    11. Postscript: Exploring Aspects of ‘the Public’ from 1991 to 2014
    Sandria B. Freitag


    Brannon D. Ingram is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Northwestern University, USA. He specializes in the study of Islam in modern South Asia and South Africa, focusing particularly on Sufism and traditionally educated Muslim scholars (ulama). Brannon’s publications can be found in journals such as Modern Asian Studies and The Muslim World.

    J. Barton Scott is Assistant Professor of Religion and Historical Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada. His work puts religion in colonial India in transnational perspective by approaching modern Hindu thinkers as theorists of religion who can be read alongside their North Atlantic contemporaries. Scott’s current research interests include print culture in colonial India, the legal regulation of media publics, and the reception of liberalism among colonial Hindu reformers. His book Spiritual Despots: Modern Hinduism and the Genealogies of Self-Rule is forthcoming in 2016 as part of the series "South Asia Across the Disciplines."

    SherAli K. Tareen is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall College, USA. He received his PhD in Religion/Islamic Studies at Duke University and his BA at Macalester College. His work centers on Muslim intellectual thought in modern South Asia with a focus on intra-Muslim debates and polemics on crucial questions of law, ethics, and theology. He is currently completing a book project entitled "Polemical Encounters: Competing Imaginaries of Tradition in Modern South Asian Islam" that explores polemics over the boundaries of heretical innovation (bid‘a) among leading 19th century Indian Muslim scholars (‘Ulama’). His articles have appeared in the Journal of Law and Religion, Muslim World, Political Theology, and Islamic Studies.