A talk by Manan Ahmed Asif, Associate Professor of History at Columbia University on his new book, The Loss of Hindustan: The Invention of India, a field-changing history of how the subcontinent lost its political identity as the home of all religions and emerged as India, the land of the Hindus.
About the Book
Did South Asia have a shared regional identity prior to the arrival of Europeans in the late fifteenth century? This is a subject of heated debate in scholarly circles and contemporary political discourse. Manan Ahmed Asif argues that Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Republic of India share a common political ancestry: they are all part of a region whose people understand themselves as Hindustani. Asif describes the idea of Hindustan, as reflected in the work of native historians from roughly 1000 CE to 1900 CE, and how that idea went missing.
This makes for a radical interpretation of how India came to its contemporary political identity. Asif argues that a European understanding of India as Hindu has replaced an earlier, native understanding of India as Hindustan, a home for all faiths. Turning to the subcontinents medieval past, Asif uncovers a rich network of historians of Hindustan who imagined, studied, and shaped their kings, cities, and societies. Asif closely examines the most complete idea of Hindustan, elaborated by the early seventeenth century Deccan historian Firishta. His monumental work, Tarikh-i Firishta, became a major source for European philosophers and historians, such as Voltaire, Kant, Hegel, and Gibbon during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Yet Firishtas notions of Hindustan were lost and replaced by a different idea of India that we inhabit today.
The Loss of Hindustan reveals the intellectual pathways that dispensed with multicultural Hindustan and created a religiously partitioned world of today.
This is an in-person event. Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result is required for attendance.
Manan Ahmed Asif is an Associate Professor of History at Columbia University. He is a historian of South Asia and the littoral western Indian Ocean world from 1000-1800 CE. His areas of specialization include intellectual history in South and Southeast Asia, and critical philosophy of history, colonial and anti-colonial thought. He is interested in how modern and pre-modern historical narratives create understandings of places, communities, and intellectual genealogies for their readers. His first monograph, A Book of Conquest: Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia (Harvard University Press, 2016), is on the intellectual life of an early thirteenth-century Persian historyChachnama also known as Fathnama-i Sind (Book of the Conquest of Sindh). The book delves into how Muslim polities in Sindh addressed sacral differences, created new ethics of rule, and articulated a political theory of power in the thirteenth century Indian Ocean World. His second monograph, The Loss of Hindustan: The Invention of India (Harvard University Press, 2020), tells a history of the historians of the subcontinent from the tenth to the early twentieth century. The book is a concept-history of Hindustan, focusing specifically on the work of the seventeenth century Deccan historian Firishta (fl. 1570-1620). Broadly, this book is doing a concept-history of Hindustan, a political and historiographic category that was subsumed by the colonial project of creating British India and the subsequent polities of Republic of India and Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It is also a broad examination of philosophy of history for the Muslim historians of the subcontinent.
He is the co-founder of the Group for Experimental Methods in the Humanistic Research, which focuses on mobilized humanities and innovations in scholarly methodologies. One of the recent projects, Torn Apart/Separados focused on the humanitarian crisis on the southwestern border in Summer 2018.
He has broad interests, and projects, in the history of archives in the global south and the problems of access and control to digitized materials. He is working on a project of spatial visualization in medieval Arabic and Persian histories including Mapping Mughal Hindustan, 1500-1600 and Delivering Post by Foot in Medieval North India. He is one of the faculty conveners for the five year supranational project funded by Mellon, Decolonization, the Disciplines and the University (2019-2024) and the Manuscripts of the Muslim World.
The event is FREE and OPEN to the public.