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Sufism and Liberation across the Indo-Afghan Border: 1880-1928

Caron, James (2016) 'Sufism and Liberation across the Indo-Afghan Border: 1880-1928.' South Asian History and Culture, 7 (2).

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Abstract

How do we understand links between sufism and pro-egalitarian revolutionary activism in the early twentieth century; and how did upland compositions of self and community help constitute revolutionary activism in South Asia more broadly? Using Pashto poetry as my archive I integrate a history of radical egalitarian thought and political practice to a holistic study of self-making; of imperial spatiality; and of shifting gradients of power in the regions between Kabul and Punjab. Amid a chaotic rise of new practices of imperial and monarchic hegemony around the turn of the twentieth century, I argue, older sedimentations of ‘devotee selfhood’ in the high valleys of eastern Afghanistan gave rise, in social spaces preserved by self-reflexive poetic practice and circulation, to conscious desires for avoidance of all forms of hierarchy or sovereignty, in favour of a horizontal politics of reciprocity. Such inchoate drives for freedom later played a role in constituting anti-statist revolutionary subjectivities across great geographical and social distance. From upland sufi roots they rippled outward to intersect with the work of transnational socialist and anti-imperialist militants in Indian nationalist circles too; and even influenced scholars at the heart of the nascent Afghan nation-state.

Item Type: Articles
Additional Information: First published online: Published online: 19 Feb 2016.
Keywords: Islam; sufism; radical politics; resistance; socialism; communism; revolution; Afghanistan; Pashto poetry; empire
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies
Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of the Languages and Cultures of South East Asia
Institutes and Regional Centres > Centre of Contemporary Central Asia and the Caucasus
Institutes and Regional Centres > South Asia Institute (SSAI) > Centre for the Study of Pakistan
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DOI (Digital Object Identifier): 10.1080/19472498.2016.1143667
Depositing User: James Caron
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2016 11:40
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/21861

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