Investigator(s): Dr Sarah Ansari and Dr William Gould (University of Leeds)
Post-doctoral Researcher: Dr Taylor Sherman
Affiliated Students: Daniel Haynes (Royal Holloway) and Catherine Coombs (Leeds)
Funding Source(s): AHRC
Funding Amount: £390,522
Start Date: October 2007
End Date: September 2010
This research, a three-year collaboration between the History departments at Royal Holloway and the University of Leed, explores the shift from colonial rule to independence in two former provinces of British India - Uttar Pradesh (formerly the United Provinces) and Sindh - with the aim of unravelling the explicit meanings and relevance of 'independence' for the new citizens of India and Pakistan in the two decades immediately following 1947. The history of this transition has been very much neglected, with both 'imperial' and 'nationalist' scholars preferring to conceive of 1947 as a fundamental watershed: little work has hitherto looked at the development of popular, public cultures surrounding the state in South Asia at this time, and none has been comparative. However, and obviously, there were powerful continuities as well as short-term and unanticipated developments operating at this time, which together set the terms for the foundation of both major states in their first generation after independence. While the histories of India and Pakistan have come to be conceived separately and assumed to develop along divergent paths, they in fact both developed out of much the same set of historical experiences. In addition, the focus on the 'high' levels of politics and government in much historical writing on both countries both has arguably distracted attention away from the functioning of the state in 'everyday' life where it is actually experiences by ordinary people. This project thus sets out to correct these imbalances by contributing a (timely) empirical analysis of political developments in a part of the world in relation to which considerable debate is currently taking place both on the nature of the state in general, and on that of so-called 'failed states' in particular.
A key focus of the research will be citizen experiences of the 'everyday state' during the crucial formative period from the mid-1940s to the mid-1969s, the gap between the rhetorical, ideological platform set out in New Delhi and Karachi (Pakistan's capital for most of this period), and the interpretations of these agendas in the locality. Its principal argument will be that the South Asian state was, during this period, re-moulded in local political arenas, through social strategies for influencing, controlling or approaching state agencies. These were, in turn, linked into changing discourses about the nature of Indian and Pakistani governance. The project will research, specifically, the forms of cultural capital used by ordinary Indians and Pakistanis in their attempts to make sense of the state, and how this in turn shaped the new states' operation. In particular, the project seeks to explore three critical themes: 'Religion and the state'; 'Governance, "corruption" and the state'; and 'Class/caste dominance and the state'.
The AHRC award includes the appointment of a Post-doctoral Researcher, Dr Taylor Sherman, whose related research project entitled 'The making of post-colonial India: democracy, development and nation-building in Hyderabad, 1948-1958' explores the ways in which the 'everyday' practices of the state evolved during the first decade after independence. There are also two research postgraduate studentships. Daniel Haynes, based at Royal Holloway, is studying the relationship between the 'everyday' state and ordinary Sindhis from the 1930s to the 1970s, through the prism of major irrigation projects that dominated the province's economic, political and even socio-cultural landscape over this period. Catherine Coombs at Leeds is exploring dimensions of the scramble for government recruitment among particular socio-economic interest groups in North India, again during the decades that straddled independence.
A workshop of this research, which took place on 12 August 2009 at Royal Holloway, with Ornit Shani,Vazira Zaminda,William Gould,Ravinder Kaur, Sarah Ansari and others, has been recorded and is now available to listen to (and download) as a series of podcasts.