Dr Roy Fischel
I am a historian of early modern South Asia within the context of the Muslim world, the Indian Ocean, and the broader world system. Having studied for undergraduate and master’s degree in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, I have later turned to explore Islamicate societies and polities in South Asia. Along my studies, I have gradually expanded to reflect on Indic elements and their interaction with the increasingly dominant Muslim states and cultures in precolonial India. Having completed my PhD in History and South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago (2012), I have joined the History Department at SOAS as a Lecturer in the History of South Asia.
In my research, I focus on the formations of states, societies, ideologies, identities, and cultures, and the intersection between them in the early modern period. My first monograph, Local States in an Imperial World: Identity, Society and Politics in the Early Modern Deccan (Edinburgh University Press, 2020), challenges the totality of the category of ‘empire’ for the understating of the early modern period. Focusing on the Deccan Sultanates in south-central India in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries, I suggest that in parallel to empires, other types of state existed, in which the universalist and hierarchical order was replaced by a language of negotiation, flexibility and cultural plurality. Based on materials in Persian, Marathi, Dakhani, Urdu, Hindi, and Arabic to build on theories of empire, space, and vernacularisation, I identify components of the local state and highlight the complex, at times uneasy relations between foreign and local, Muslim and Hindu, Persianate and vernacular. With these analysis, I argue that the Deccan Sultanates were an unusual case of a self-aware non-imperial state. While maintaining their unique characteristics, some of the processes that shaped them may be applicable for empires of the time, and therefore can shed light on the imperial world as a whole.
In my current research I further explore questions relating to empire, early modernity, and political idioms. One aspect is the perpetuation of memory, local identities, and idioms across dynastic divides and regime changes. I am also interested in the institution of kingship, and in particular aesthetic and affective aspects that took part in shaping this crucial institution.
I am happy to supervise students for history projects related to South Asia, 1200-1800 (including the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire, the Deccan Sultanates, Vijayanagara, and the Marathas); post-Mongol Iran and Islamicate Central Asia; and Muslim communities in colonial India.