Modern and early modern South Asia; Islam in South Asia; the performing arts in northern India; cultural and intellectual history; sound studies; colonial and anti-colonial thought.
Music, Sound and the City: Listening Practices and Muslim Identities in Colonial North India, 1830-1930
My dissertation explores transformations in listening practices, musical patronage, and performance spaces vis-à-vis negotiations of (religious) identities over the long nineteenth century in colonial North India. While the impact of increasing colonial economic and political dominance over this region as well as that of technical innovations and changes in the social stratification of Indian society is a well-studied field of Indian social and cultural history, I argue that a holistic approach to cultures of listening and musical transitions that includes explorations of the "spatialization" of music and sound adds complexity to our understanding of the transformations in regional identities and of the formation of "classical" Hindustani music. Beginning with the complex developments of musical knowledge and practice in the decades leading up to the Rebellion of 1857 through the establishment of public radio broadcasting in the early 1920s, my dissertation focuses on developments in the city of Delhi and the princely state of Rampur while loosely following a chronological timeline. I hypothesize that this period of great cultural transformation was also a time of important innovation in musical performance and epistemology (shifting from Persian to Urdu). Each of my five chapters explores ways in which sound and music were experienced and discussed from a distinct thematic angle. Drawing on a range of sources in Arabic, English, Hindi, Urdu, and Persian that have not yet been studied conjointly, I analyze representations of the sonic landscape (musical and non-musical sound) in urban spaces. The epilogue focuses on "imperial entanglements" and the altered musical landscape in the 1910s and 1920s with the introduction of new recording technologies. My research expands current debates on "colonial modernity" and "Islamic reform". It showcases the multiple ways in which people interacted with music and why it was a contested field in public life.
Arabic, French, German, Persian, Portuguese, Urdu/Hindi