“South-South: Intellectual History across Middle East and South Asia, 1857- 1948” (Workshop, Columbia University, October 20-21, 2016)

For those readers interested in either transnational history, the history of the Middle East and South Asia, or Islamic history, two graduate students at Columbia University and Rice University, Roy Bar-Sadeh and Esmat Elhalaby, have organized what looks to be a terrific workshop taking place at the former institution this October. According to a recent call for papers,

Despite historiographical overtures to the global, and spirited polemics decrying area studies’ analytical limits, something called South Asia and another thing called the Middle East persistently structure—and stricture—scholarly inquiry in the academy and beyond. Accounts of Indian or Arab intellectual production in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries often confine themselves to non-European confrontations with European epistemologies, capital, and guns. With the critiques of Orientalism, modernization theory, and Westernization having complicated triumphalist narratives of this encounter, serious attention to south-south intellectual histories remains rare. Early modernists are often the most cogent critics of the modernist scholars’ Eurocentrism, tracing connections between the Middle East, South Asia, and elsewhere that bypass Europe. Yet Europe’s hegemony in the modern world’s political economy and imagination did not preclude profound inter-connections between the non- European world. In fact, the conditions of global European capital made new engagements between the colonized and peripheral world necessary.

This workshop highlights the content and conditions of South Asian and Middle Eastern thought in tandem. Reading a European archive alongside one in languages like Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Persian and Ottoman, cities like Beirut, Calcutta, Delhi, Mecca, Cairo, and Bombay and educational spaces like Aligarh Muslim University, Nadwat al-ʿUlama, Osmania University, Cairo University, the American University of Beirut and the Oxford Majlis, exposes new historical networks and challenge existing modes of analysis.

The workshop aims to raise a set of interdisciplinary historical, historiographical and theoretical questions: What kinds of significant geographies are produced, traversed and imagined in the nineteenth century and after between the Middle East and South Asia? Does the presence of a shared Islamicate past adequately explain Indian and Arab Muslim affiliations? How are the Jewish, Christian, Zoroastrian and Hindu intellectual communities part of this Islamicate? How is modernist thought or critiques of secularism or theories of anti-colonialism related in this unwritten history of Asian intellectual interaction? What role did political economy of colonialism play in restructuring the conditions of the early modern’s “connected histories”? What new networks of intellectual exchange and new patterns of racialization emerged? How do we historically recuperate these South-South histories without succumbing to the follies of the post-colonial states?

If this sounds of interest, then here’s how to apply:

The workshop will bring together early career scholars—graduate students and pre-Tenured faculty—across discipline to participate in this two day intensive workshop. We encourage applications from outside Europe and US.

We invite abstracts of 300 words and brief scholarly biography to southsouthworkshop@gmail.com no later than
15 July 2016. Acceptance notifications will be sent by 15 August 2016. We encourage faculty to seek funding from their institutions; limited travel subsidies and accommodation will be provided to graduate presenters. We will make all efforts to especially fund scholars from outside US and EU.

The workshop is sponsored by the Center for International History, and the Department of History.

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