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SOAS South Asia Institute

Unruly Subjects and Freedom Imagining: Transborder Connections in Colonial India

Professor Yasmin Saikia
Professor Yasmin Saikia (Arizona State University)

Date: 7 May 2014Time: 6:15 PM

Finishes: 7 May 2014Time: 8:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College BuildingsRoom: Khalili Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Annual Lecture

Series: SSAI Annual Lecture


In this paper, engaging the concept of “uncolonializability,” as argued by the Algerian theorist Malek Bennabi, I focus my attention on three “middle actors” of the colonial period: Fazal Illahi – a revolutionary mullah, Obaidullah Sindhi - a Deobandi-Bolshevik, and Iqbal Shedia - a self-styled middle class rebel.  I probe the connections between Muslim India and popular politics in Central Asia, Japan, Russia, Germany and Italy in the period between the two world wars. These dialogues between multiple partners crisscrossing the transborder region connecting present day Pakistan and Afghanistan with India and Nepal, fomented a freedom narrative for imagining Hukumat Illahi or a ‘Republic of God.’ The great feat of this moment is the alliance making between disparate groups and the capacity of the oppressed subjects, i.e., colonial slaves, to imagine a kind of governance that is at once good and just, a place of freedom beyond British colonialism. The differences and distances between the varied groups that come together are not erased or undone, but this human voice of freedom by entering into dialogue with others became empowered for generating an imagination of utopia. Through this investigation I aim to increase our knowledge of the agency of transborder people and take it a step further to engage in dialogues on the concept of freedom and utopia generated from the position of the colonized slaves whose ideas are sourced from a South Asian Muslim context.

Professor Yasmin Saikia - Unruly Subjects and Freedom Imagining: Transborder Connections in Colonial India


Dr. Yasmin Saikia (Ph.D. University of Wisconsin at Madison) is the Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies and Professor of History at the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Arizona State University. Her research and teaching interests invoke a dynamic transnational and interdisciplinary dialogue situated at the intersection of history, culture, and religion. With a specific focus on contestations and accommodations in South Asia between local, national, and religious identities, she examines the Muslim experience in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, and the discourse of nonviolence alongside the practice of violence against women and vulnerable groups. She is the author of three books and numerous articles and book-chapters. Her recent book Women, War and the Making of Bangladesh: Remembering 1971 (2011) has won numerous awards and been the subject of an international speaking tour. Prior to joining ASU in 2010, she taught at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill and Carleton College, Minnesota. She has strong ties with the academic community in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Malaysia. She hails from Assam, India.   

Organiser: SOAS South Asia Institute

Contact email: ssai@soas.ac.uk

Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4390