A Muslim Cosmopolis, Or, the Individual and the Nation in Global History: An Interview with Seema Alavi

Dr. Seema Alavi

People tend to assume the origins of contemporary events, alliances and disagreements belong to the recent if not the immediate past. Recent news articles highlight with surprise the Arabicization of Islamic practice in South Asia – most prominently with respect to the murder of several bloggers in Bangladesh. But India has a long history of intellectual contact with the Arab world. The Madrasa Saulatia in Mecca was set up by an Indian Muslim Rahmatullah Kairanwi – a key protagonist in Seema Alavi’s book Muslim Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Empire (2015) – as a “centre for embracive reformist Islam with a strong Indic tradition.” It remains a major scholarly hub, retaining intellectual contact with Sunni Muslim seminaries all over the world. It’s own orientation now can be described as a purist intellectual tradition of Islam. For example, it receives patronage “from the Abd-al Wahab impacted Saudi ruling house,” even as – Alavi is quick to remind us of this – its scholarly tradition stands in stark contrast to the violence that is often perpetrated in the name of Wahabi Islam. In this respect, Alavi’s book Muslim Cosmopolitanism is a fundamentally revisionist text that works through the category of the individual and of the nation. She draws out the history of how a modern vision of Islamic universal selfhood was articulated in the mid-nineteenth century: the processes that connected Indic reformist strands in Islam with Hamidian notions of modernity centred on jurisprudence. In her account, cities such as Cairo thus appear as more than just a site that elucidated anti-British nationalism. Importantly, the book foregrounds how modern histories of South Asia limit key protagonists in this larger global story to the territorial bounds of modern India, even as the records of imperial Britain show how they negotiated trans-imperial identities across South Asia and the Ottoman empire. Continue reading A Muslim Cosmopolis, Or, the Individual and the Nation in Global History: An Interview with Seema Alavi

Connected Anticolonialisms: The Sultanate of Mysore and the American Revolution

Surprisingly little research focuses on how the mid to late eighteenth century rise of the British East India Company’s empire in India coincided with the disintegration of British control over what became the United States. The few exceptions, moreover – most notably P.J. Marshall’s Making and Unmaking of Empires: Britain, India, and America c.1750-1783 – … Continue reading Connected Anticolonialisms: The Sultanate of Mysore and the American Revolution

CFP: Britain and the World Conference (April 2017)

The British Scholar Society is accepting paper proposals for its 2017 conference (to be held from April 6-8, 2017), which will take place in Austin, Texas: As ever, the conference is concerned with interactions within the ‘British world’ from the beginning of the seventeenth century to the present and will highlight the importance of transnational … Continue reading CFP: Britain and the World Conference (April 2017)

Thicker Than Water: Revisiting Global Connections on the Banks of the Suez Canal with Valeska Huber

Thanks to the haze of time, the first great age of globalization during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century can sometimes seem like a golden age. It’s true that we live in an age of unprecedentedly inexpensive air travel, cell phones and Skype often replacing long travel to business meetings, and financial management tools … Continue reading Thicker Than Water: Revisiting Global Connections on the Banks of the Suez Canal with Valeska Huber

Book Launch: Leslie James, “George Padmore and Decolonization from Below”

Here’s an exciting event for readers located in London: on Tuesday, February 3, Dr.Leslie James, a Lecturer in World History at the University of Cambridge, will discuss her new book, George Padmore and Decolonisation from Below: Pan-Africanism, the Cold War, and the End of Empire, which appeared recently with Palgrave MacMillan. Readers outside of the fields … Continue reading Book Launch: Leslie James, “George Padmore and Decolonization from Below”