Fractured identities: Comparing Muslim-ness and Shia-ness in 20th century India Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Hasnain, Aseem
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology
  • The key question that this dissertation asks is: how did a prominent Shia collective identity form and was sustained in Lucknow over the twentieth century, while a similar phenomenon failed to take place in Hyderabad, a comparable city in India. The period that I covered starts in 1904 and ends in 1998, spanning almost the whole of the twentieth century. I divided this period into three chapters, each of which focused on a specific repertoire of contention that was used in collective identity formation. The first chapter shows how public rituals, particularly their redefinition, can contextualize the formation or reinvention of collective identities. Chapter two focuses on protest campaigns to show their role in consolidating collective identities, and chapter three analyzes riots as a strategy for sustaining collective identities. However, the common thread that runs across the three chapters is the role of community based elites; elites connected with the state; their interactions and partnerships; and the role of the state, which together emphasized specific collective identities as salient in either city. My project contributes to scholarship in two broad ways. The first is by bringing together the role of the state and the elites in shaping group identities. I show that claims about new collective identities or revisions of older ones were presented not simply by community based elites or the state acting by themselves, but by the joint efforts of both. The second broad contribution is towards the scholarship on violence and collective identities. My project makes three specific contributions to this particular scholarship. First, and foremost, my project does not take group identities to be preexisting like exiting scholarship does. My project, in contrast is oriented towards tracing the formation of collective identities- it shows how a general Muslim identity split into Shia and Sunni identities in Lucknow, and how various ethnic identities fused into a Muslim collectivity in Hyderabad. The second contribution is through grounding the analysis in historical explanation, an important approach used in historical sociology. Existing scholarship on inter-group violence focuses on contemporaneous processes—demographic and economic shifts in Olzak’s work, patterns of civic relations in Varshney’s study, and electoral contests in Wilkinson’s and Brass’s analyses—to explain patterns of intergroup violence. My project shows that historical processes are more salient, and that contemporaneous factors are often a continuation of historical patterns. The third contribution is about violence. While existing research sees riots as outcomes of competition, lack of collaboration, or perceptions of threat between already existing and established groups, my project takes an opposite view. My findings show that riots—communal in Hyderabad, and sectarian in Lucknow-- are strategic tools, instead, that are utilized in the larger projects of creating and sustaining distinct collective identities that are purported to be antagonistic to each other.
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  • In Copyright
  • Andrews, Kenneth
  • Freitag, Sandria
  • Perrin, Andrew J.
  • Caren, Neal
  • Kurzman, Charles
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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