Thomas Blom Hansen - When the Past is Tense: a Democratic History of Monuments in an Indian City

Monday, February 11, 2019

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall

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Debates about history, collective memory and monumentst have become more prominent in India since the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992. In western India, the quest for distinct, often heroic, historical memories have for more than a century been driven by a desire for recognition in public spaces and in electoral politics by different communities.

In this talk, I trace multiple and antagonistic rituals of commemoration in the city of Aurangabad in western India among the city’s three main social formations – the Muslim community centered in and around the old city; the sprawling Hindu communities that are tentatively united around the narrative of ‘liberating’ the city and the region from the rule of the Nizami state in 1948; and the evermore powerful and historically numerous Dalit community in the city. The ‘memory work’ within each of these formations is focused on erecting, or recuperating, physical monuments that reference past events, conflicts and deaths as sites of victory or martyrdom.

Thomas Blom Hansen is the Reliance-Dhirubhai Ambani Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University. He has written on Hindu nationalism, Hindu-Muslim conflicts, and urban politics in India, as well as melancholia, memory and cultural politics in post-apartheid South Africa. He is the author of The Saffron Wave. Democracy and Hindu nationalism in modern India (Princeton University Press 1999); Wages of Violence. Naming and identity in postcolonial Bombay (Princeton University Press 2001); Cool Passion. The Political Theology of Modern Convictions (Amsterdam University Press 2009) and Melancholia of Freedom. Social Life in an Indian Township in South Africa. (Princeton University Press 2012)

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