Nile Green, An Economy of Enchantment: Markets for Islam in an Industrializing Ocean


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Interview Participants
Nile Green, lecturer (male)
It is my great pleasure to introduce Professor Green from the Department of History at UCLA. I first met Nile when I was a postdoc at UCLA almost four or five years ago now so it’s a great pleasure that you are here with us and that we are meeting again after that such a long period of time. Professor Green is a specialist in Islam on the Indian Ocean rim in fact,
he has interests and specialties that range from the Middle East to Central Asia to South Asia and of course his research focus is on South Asia as well as Central Asian Islam. He is on the editorial board of the International Journal of Middle East studies. He is the chair of the UCLA program on Central Asia and of course he has a long list of very significant and important books, most recently,
Bombay Islam: Religious Economy on the West Indian Ocean. He has a book, Indian Sufism Since the 17th Century and Islam and the Army in Colonial India and I believe particularly on this last book Bombay Islam and perhaps research that springboards from it that Professor Green will be addressing us on that theme today
his title for his lecture is “An Economy of Enchantment: Markets for Islam in an Industrializing Ocean” and before I turn it over let me just say a few words of thanks. First of all to my graduate student associate James Schmidt who has done wonderful work this semester coming in and has taken care of all of our requirements in terms of administration and it has been a great help
and it’s wonderful also to see Professor Bose, Sugata Bose from Harvard University who has joined us. Of course, it is Professor Bose who established the Center for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies when he was here as a professor at Tufts. So, after these comments let me now turn it over to you Nile, please.
Ok. Thank you Kris and well thank you very much again for inviting me, it’s a real pleasure to be here and thanks also to James Schmidt for setting up the logistics and of course thank you all of you some familiar faces and some new for turning up. Before I go can you hear me there at the back? Ok, it’s all working, very good. Well today I’ll be talking out of and around my recent book
Bombay Islam: The Religious Economy of the West Indian Ocean and what I thought I’d do today is focus more particularly on some of the problems that I’m trying to address with that, some of the historiographical issues around it and particularly also the method, the methodology I introduced and developed in that book and then move somewhat, perhaps briskly and with less detail through some slides and some of the materials and case studies
because I think really for the audience I was expecting, largely a student audience I think the historiographical and the methodological issues will be more useful and certainly more conducive for discussion afterwards. So, the two things that I am dealing with at least putting together in this project were Bombay and Islam— to recognize Bombay as being an important Muslim city
I think something which is aside from the work of Jim Masselos had never really been done in any significant way and also to make a case study through Bombay and Bombay Muslims of the contours of Islam in the 19th century more generally. So turning towards Bombay first of all, why Bombay? Well, Bombay of course is the great cosmopolis of the Indian Ocean in the 19th century,
the great cosmopolis particularly of the western Indian Ocean in parallel in some ways to Singapore. It is a center of course of trade and employment that’s very well known, it’s a key center for the development of transport and industrialized transport whether in terms of the earliest steamships to the Indian Ocean, the early steam ships to Asia or indeed in terms of the first train service in Asia as well.
And that as we’ll see becomes a very important part of the methodology and the debate later on as well. Bombay also becomes an important center for exile and diaspora communities as well. So it is cosmopolis in the sense of many people coming there not least through these new forms of industrialized communications and again of great importance for my argument,
Bombay becomes a very important, in many ways the leading printing center in the western Indian Ocean as we’ll see a little later it did the cosmopolitan printing center printing in a range of different languages a range pretty much the full gamut of Islamic languages and not only is it an important printing center, it’s a center for the reproduction of culture, the reproduction of religion
in other ways as well not least through photography and we might turn to that later as well. Well, so much for Bombay, what about Muslim Bombay? Well in many ways Bombay is a pretty much unknown quantity in the history of Islam particularly in the 19th century in comparison with more traditional centers: Cairo, Istanbul
which of course is being very thoroughly studied since pretty much the beginnings of the study of the history of modern Islam, but Bombay actually has a very significant Muslim population at least when we can compare the population, the Muslim population of Bombay to other cities at this time. By 1850 already at least according to censuses and of course this doesn’t necessarily take into account more, less registered
or more ephemeral populations in Bombay of which there are many, but by 1850 we already have a 100,000 Muslims in the city, by 1901 160,000, and by 1915 180,000 Muslims living in the city. By way of comparison I think that what’s very significant about this is that this is an industrializing city and as you see as I go into talk I think that is what is extremely significant this isn’t just a Muslim population,
this is a what becomes a Muslim proletariat or a set of Muslim working communities. When we compare this population numbers than by 1915 when my book at least finishes, a population of 180,000 Muslims in Bombay. When we compare that to the largest other industrialized region in the world at least in the Muslim world in that period, the Ottoman mining district of Zonguldak, we have a population there by 1915 of only around 60,000
and that includes various kinds of Christian groups and others as well. So, this really is a hugely important, significant by far the largest Muslim proletarian demographic in that period. Muslim Bombay is also an extremely diverse population. The Muslims of Bombay of course is a city that grows enormously in the 19th century. Bombay is largely populated, its population grows through migration and particularly labor migration
and these migrants come on the one hand from Bombay’s oceanic hinterlands from Iran in particular, particularly the merchant groups come there from east Africa and Arabia with workers lower down the social spectrum laskars in particular work in the engine rooms, in the dockyards of Bombay and work is also coming from the continental hinterlands of Bombay from the Konkan, particularly mill workers and dock workers from the Deccan and the rise of Bombay
coincides with a series of very major famines in Hyderabad and Hyderabad State. Again, so as the Hyderabad economy collapse and people move off the land a large number of those people, particularly Muslims, move to Bombay. And also of course Bombay’s well-known Gujarati Muslim populations as well.
There is a nice kind of period quotation that I would like to read to you that I think kind of sums up something of that diversity of the Muslim populations in Bombay and I think it’s very important to recognize at the start here that I am talking about Muslim communities in Bombay not a Muslim community. “There, Marque, are many Bombay Mohammedans of the lower class with their long white shirts,
white trousers, and skull caps of silk or brocade. Arabs from Syria and the valley of the Euphrates, half Arab-half Persian traitors from the Gulf, you know Arab or old Persian costumes and black turbans with a red border. Here comes again a Persian of the old school with arched embroidered turban of white silk, white abow or under coat reaching to the ankles, open grey shayer and soft yellow leather shoe
and he is followed by Persians of the modern school in small stiff black hats, dark coats drawn in at the waist and English trousers and boots. And then come tall Afghans, their hair well-oiled and the baggiest trousers, Macaronis dressed like Afghans but distinguished by their sharpened nose. Sindhis in many-buttoned waist coats, Negros from Africa clad in striped white cloths, creeping slowly through the streets and pausing in wonder at every new sight.
Malays in English jackets and loose turbans, Bukharans in tall sheepskin caps and woolen gabardines begging their way from Mecca to their Central Asian homes singing hymns in honor of the Prophet or showing plans of the Kabbah or of the shrine of the Saint of Saints Maulana Abdul Qadir Jilani in Baghdad.” So, I think we have a sense there of not only the variety of Muslim populations in Bombay but the clearly
recognizable distinctions between them through patterns of clothing and other forms of material culture, indeed of consumer culture. So, in short then what we have in Bombay then is a are very important and I think a useful case study for looking at Islam in 19th century is a true Muslim cosmopolis but what I argue we don’t find there what we do find there but not in as large a proportion as we might expect
is pan-Islam and Muslim nationalism— the familiar trajectories of Islam in the 19th century, at least two of them. Of course Bombay becomes an important center, has an important role in the history of Pan-Islamism, Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani is there before in some senses he discovers Pan-Islamism there in Bombay and the Khilafat movement too has an important chapter of its history in Bombay and ditto with Muslim nationalism.
Of course Muhammad Ali Jinnah was of course a Bombay Muslim himself and it’s actually his taking on of the Presidency of the Muslim League which terminates the end of my book in 1915. But I think more important than the modernists the pan-Islamists, and nationalists and indeed of the Deobandis— far more important than these well-known 19th century reformist figures in Bombay
I found very early on in my research, were the whole range of groups and the whole range of Islams which are grouped together as customary Islam: On the one hand Sufis and on the other hand that range of followers, of pirs and imams, Ismaili or otherwise, that promulgated an Islam based on intercession, based upon miraculous powers and not based so much upon reason and scripture,
what we are told in the historiography at least the classic evolutionary trajectory of Islam in the 19th century particularly in modern environments. I found very early on my research then that there seems to be this paradox at least a paradox in terms of the history and the historiography as we receive it.
A paradox that in the most modern that is to say the most industrialized city in the Western Indian Ocean, indeed perhaps, the most modern and industrialized city in the Islamic world or in Asia at large in this period, we find flourishing the least modern, at least according to the historiography, the least modern forms of Islam.
This then was the primary question, the primary problem that I wanted to solve. In order to solve that of course I turn to looking towards the historiography and the existing models there. And I want to talk a little bit through that historiography and how my own interests and project develops out of that.
Well as I mentioned, the 19th century is as classically and even in relatively recent terms still being seen as the great age of Islamic modernism and of Islamic reform. There is that first wave of scholarship of Aziz Ahmad, Albert Hourani, Wilfred Cantwell Smith writing between the 1940’s and late 60’s, at least their most important works, and then that second wave of scholarship through Barbara Metcalf and David Lelyveld, Francis Robinson,
and so on which were a series of case studies on Deoband and Aligarh, on other forms of Muslim, particularly reform groups of the 19th century. So we have then emerging out of that this picture of the 19th century particularly being the era of modernization, rationalization and of course that early on at least was based upon secularization theory links between
decolonization and interest in renewal and modernizing movements and ultimately I think a very strong penchant for Weberian sociology. Weberian modernity as it were of course leading to that trajectory towards religious modernity, religion and modernity equals Entzauberung, equals disenchantment.
Well it became and I think for a long time was very clear to me that I’m sure to many other people that there are a number of problems with that historiography and that trajectory of Islam in the 19th century. On the one hand of course the development of the historiography became self-fulfilling. The first wave of Aziz Ahmad , Hourani, Cantwell Smith of course
set up a kind of a self-fulfilling trajectory for the second wave of scholars who of course all did very good work but nonetheless actually focused their case studies on reformist groups. So the cumulative effect of that scholarship was it were to prove the assumptions of the first wave of a modernizing reforming 19th century.
The other issue I think that the notions of reform set up was a problem of a kind of dialogical model or a dialogue model, even a dichotomy of reform versus tradition and I think that dichotomy in particular didn’t work for a number of reasons not least because the more evidence that emerged about from this particular case studies from the second wave of scholarships actually started to show
that often there was no clear divide in terms of actual the kind of religious content in terms of doctrine between many reformists and many supposedly traditional groups. So, it set up, as it were, a model or an assumption of reformists and traditionalists that actually didn’t hold when you actually turned to scrutinize the detail.
There was then I think more recently from the later 1990’s onwards a third wave of scholarship focusing really on the application of globalization theory and I think the two most significant works of that to my mind were Chris Bayly’s Birth of the Modern World and Olivier Roy’s work on L’Islam Mondialise, or Globalized Islam, but there too I think there are particular problems because they too were still very much in that Weberian trajectory
of the 19th century modernity being identified with a Protestantizing or otherwise standardizing disenchanting process. But for Bayly of course in The Birth of Modern World it was a process of religious uniformity that he saw coming out in the 19th century and for Olivier Roy it was the evolution of an individualized disenchanted and modernized Islam particularly in globalized diasporas.
Well clearly what do we do when we’re looking at that ultimately now the best part of the 60 or 70 years of historiography? Clearly there were large and significant, well, there were clearly significant reform movements in modernizing Muslim movement in the 19th century but I think particularly for South Asia it becomes only from even a sort of a cursory glance across the religious landscape of South Asia even in the 21st century makes us realize that
the reformists were ultimately a minority and that begs the question of course of how do we understand the rest if the reformists were a literate modernized minority linked particularly with certain middle class groups, what do we do with the history of the rest, particularly the rest in the city of Bombay, the very large industrialized proletarian population of Muslim that talked about what do we do with them?
And of course the terms we’ve inherited from the historiography, some are problematic. We are left with ideas ‘these are the Muslims of carrying on an Islam that’s traditional, or it’s an Islam of custom.’ In other words their Islam is seen as rather as static. The key movers and shakers of the 19th century remain the modernists and the reformists.
They make things happen they have a history whereas the inheritors of custom and tradition remain static, in other words they don’t really have a history, they don’t do much, they just receive what was passed on from before. Well that in some sense seems as somewhat of a historiographical dead end for me
so I wanted to move on to looking to see whether in terms of more concrete terms moving away from in a sense the abstraction Islam were moving towards particular context of Muslims in Bombay and particularly this issue of the working class Muslims and then I turn towards the historiography of labor and particularly insofar as there is one the historiography of labor and religion.
And of course for South Asia the history of Indian labor being a very significant part of the study of South Asian history we have important and well known studies, particularly in Calcutta and Lucknow so Bengal and UP with Dipesh Chakrabarty, Nandini Gooptu and others also a number of significant works from Bombay as well, Dickumen and Rajat Chandavarkar and a series of others in their way too.
But here too I think there were kind of two waves, one of which was working at least through, if not actually kind of working in, a certain teleology as well if not Weberian then Marxist so I think this first wave of work on the labor history of South Asia and particularly in these industrializing cities or these port cities, Bombay, Calcutta which were very much looking for modernism as well,
looking for the kind of classic signs that scholars were, at least scholars of an early generation, were taught to look for—trade unions of course and forms of workers’ consciousness and these kinds of expressions. And while those trade unions did come about, they seem to come about really in the 1910’s or even 1920’s, so actually pretty late on the scene and of course that historiography too
even though it was I think working through and responding to in some cases with a high degree of sophistication, it was really working through a course of Marxist teleology of how of course labor consciousness and labor groups evolve. The second wave of scholarship of course with Chakrabarty in particular was more influenced by postcolonial theory and therefore
became more interested in culture and custom and not really, not necessarily just the organization and workers’ consciousness but the actual kind of cultural work and particularly in this colonial setting, but the problem with that was as Dipesh himself wrote in his study of Calcutta and workers in Bengal, but there is a problem with the sources.
There were seem to be no sources, at least no written sources, so this in turn seemed to be at least in this kind of tradition of labor historiography something of a dead end. More importantly for my purposes this work although of course it is influential in various other ways in terms of my basic questions of trying to address what happens to Islam, what happens to Muslims in the 19th century
with this experience of industrialization and industrialized modernity, that whole trajectory of scholarship had pretty much completely ignored religion. So there was a turn towards as it were cultural and a certain amount of religion but by and large religion had been ignored in scholarship and certainly Islam had. There are one or two I think exceptions Hugh Urban’s work on the Kartabhajas of Calcutta, but broadly speaking it wasn’t really helping me with my interests in Muslims.
Scholarship on Anglo-American labor history then, this seemed to be more fruitful, certainly there were not very promising beginnings with E.P. Thompson’s work of course he is a very reductive picture of Methodism which was influential for a certain while but then again there was this was kind of second and third wave of scholarship of Anglo-American labor history.
Logie Barrow working on spiritualism and English plebeians. David Hempton looking at Methodism and particularly Methodism as a transatlantic phenomenon and Klaus Hanson’s work on the Mormons and all of this kind of body of scholarship in this sort of second wave after Thompson looked towards industrial modernity in a way that didn’t identify a clear Weberian or Uniformist trajectory—the kind of thing that we have seen I think on the scholarship on South Asia,
on the scholarship with regards to Islam and in fact quite the opposite. That those studies of the nexus of industrialization and religion in the American and the British context, the context of the industrial revolution, both sides of the Atlantic identified is in fact a series of millenarian and charismatic movements and indeed a process of religious pluralization, a process of new types of religious productivity.
So, we neither have a narrowing nor a standardizing phenomenon when we look at the historiography of labor and religion for these other contexts, for the US and for Europe. More recently from the 1990’s, there is also an increasing level of sophistication with regards to developing an Atlanticist picture of the history of religion and the history of religion and to some extent religion and labor across the Atlantic.
Jon Butler’s work of course, probably pretty well known in these parts, Awash in a Sea of Faith, Susan O’Brien’s work on a Transatlantic Community of Saints, Carla Pestana's work for an earlier period on exchanges across the Atlantic, so we start to see in fact the importance of complex exchanges and activism across these transoceanic in this case transatlantic pictures. So, where did this lead me?
Well I think it led me towards an exercise, I guess, in comparative historiography and in fact in some ways applied historiography I guess. Because in many ways the literature on European and American rather than South Asian labor history and indeed on religion as well in the Americas and in Europe was more fruitful for me than the work I had read for South Asia and indeed
the history of Islam in the 19th century. So, in the end towards the Indian Ocean Muslims what do we see there? Of course, we see there’s been developing in the last ten, twenty years very rich historiography on Islam in the Indian Ocean but there too we found, and again, this is changing more recently, but the original framing of that too was on reformist activism,
so the reformist being again the key activists, the key history makers across the 19th century. And again even where this wasn’t true with regard to the work of people like Anne Bang, Sean O’Fahey, Scott Reese and Engseng Ho more recently, and Torsten Tschacher in Southeast Asia this work was actually being done with regards to Africa and African Muslims in the Indian Ocean or Southeast Asian Muslims in the Indian Ocean
rather than Indian Muslims in the Indian Ocean and insofar as there was a historiography of Indian Muslims in the Indian Ocean, a kind of an oceanic modeling of South Asian Islam, it was a largely in orientation of the Hajj or the rise of the Hajj in the 19th century and of course that too has its own historiographic trajectory towards the Hajj as kind of the making of Pan-Islamism
and the kind of standardizing Mecca-centric phenomenon. So, the South Asian literature on the Indian Ocean too was really kind of building on that series of expectations that well, there’s a more standardized Islam therefore we look actually at Hajj narratives and look towards the Hajj as the expression of that. So, again, it becomes somewhat self-fulfilling.
But nonetheless I think what is useful and what’s certainly useful for me and my project about the Islam in the Indian Ocean work is that we do see that with the work of as I said at least more recently of Michael Laffan, of Anne Bang, Scott Reese, Sean O’Fahey, that really makes it very clear that in the 19th century and indeed through into the 20th century these various customary religious formations, Sufi groups, Sufi brotherhoods,
Sufi organizations and other forms of charismatic leadership and authority, they were as active in the 19th century indeed in many ways became more active and more interconnected than they did before. So, of course that raises a very basic question there and I move towards my kind of conclusion from the historiography at least.
Well, I think by looking at this comparative historiography of the Indian Ocean it taught me of something, I think, the provincialism of the Indian reformist debate both as a historical activity and historiographical one, because after all it seems somewhat unlikely that the reformists and modernists would be uniquely successful in India if they weren’t uniquely,
if they weren’t especially or overly successful, for example in Southeast Asia rather comparable colonial oceanic contexts. The historiography on industry and religion made it very clear that there in fact is if not a whole series of non-Weberian, non-modernist trajectories and that the persistence of custom in fact and the persistence of custom conceived as in the later E.P.Thompson’s work in Customs in Common,
persistence of custom as seen as a diverse pool of resources that can be a plight for many different ends, so custom as not being static but customs as a pool of resources, a pool of cultural resources— that became I think for me a useful way of thinking through that whole historiography on Weberianism, on Protestant Islam and of modernist Islam.
And then the oceanic work then allowed me to conceive of Bombay in particular as part of an oceanic arena somewhat similar then if you like to the Methodist Atlantic. But more importantly as I’ll talk about in a moment then when I start to develop a particular methodology not just an arena but an Indian Ocean market place. So what do we have so far then?
I am starting to conceive that in Bombay as being ‘modern,’ well ‘modern’ in inverted commas for my own terms industrialized and oceanic, in other words then it becomes a place where one can apply all of those kind of historiographical issues of modernity, of industrialization, of cross-oceanic exchanges so Bombay emerges
then as a very important kind of place where one can do a case study to test, as it were, these various historiographical debates. Well, how to do that in practice. Well, clearly by writing in the 21st century all of us we are standing on the shoulders of giants in many cases and we’re working through, we have inherited a very rich historiography on South Asian Islam
which I’ll turn to more particularly now on South Asian Islam and the Indian Ocean, a very rich historiography, a very rich series of case studies. So what does one do? Well one can of course add more case studies and more case studies are always useful. But what I thought was more pressing and important now was to develop a model, a model of interactions, and of holistic analysis
in which those different case studies could be related and indeed the new material I would bring too, could relate to those other case studies. In other words then rather than just adding another separate study of a particular group here or there I wanted to develop a model which could bring in my own case studies as well as other case studies and to see the ways in which they interact and as I’ll argue, in fact, compete.
So we have, what we have inherited then is a model largely of debate between tradition and reform and I think this for various reasons some of which I have already mentioned I think is not helpful to create a dichotomy, it creates a picture of two-way debates and in many ways a picture that doesn’t actually fit the material itself.
As already mentioned, when we look at what actually is supposed reformist or traditional more Sufi groups actually teaching, it’s very often doctrinal in much of the same thing. Deoband is, as further studies have shown isn’t after all, it might be reformist but after all it’s extremely Sufi as well. So, this kind of dichotomized model doesn’t seem to work.
The other problem as well is that non-reform, as I mentioned earlier, non- reform seems to be rendered static— that it’s really the modernist and the reformist movements with a sole focus, the sole locus of religious differentialization. So, in other words, tradition and custom, again the Islam of what seems to be the much larger demographic, is largely static and doesn’t seem to have a history.
Now there is a problem there in many ways of actually falling for the rhetoric of modernist critiques, of actually the rhetoric of the sources of the reformist movements. So what do we need then this is well, what kind of solutions do I try to look for? The solution I thought, one based on and drawing out of that comparative historiographical exercise, that comparison of those different types of
the problems treated in different regions and through different models, the solution I thought was that we need a holistic model, that is able to map multiple interactions, as it were a multi-logue rather than a dialogue between two different distinct groups, a multi-logue of many different voices interacting. We also wanted I think a solution to, that would put an equal footing and an equal stake of all actors
and to take away that idea that the modernists seem to be the real as it were men of the moment and they did of course they are called by some of the modernists themselves, but it should be able to put all the different groups including the traditional or customary groups on an equal footing. And counter to the trajectories I think of Weberian modernity,
I think that kind of sociology that’s so deeply inflected the study of modern Islam, I think it’s very important to have a model or to find a solution that has the ability to map multiple outcomes rather than as it were to work towards that kind of trajectory of Protestantization of reform, of uniformity and so on. And finally then a model that would encompass transnational and oceanic flows
and not largely to, this is particularly important I think for the study of South Asian Islam compared to the way which the different fields are developed for the study of Islam in Africa and the study of Islam in Southeast Asia, a model that would encompass transnational and oceanic flows.
This is then when I turn towards the model of religious economy to try to answer these needs, therefore holistic model one that would equalize different actors, multiple outcomes and also be transoceanic. Well what is religious economy? Well I can give you a short definition written by Rodney Stark, the sociologist who was the most important figure in developing the model of religious economy
in the 1980’s and 90’s. According to Stark religious economies are like commercial economies in that they consist of a market of current and potential customers, a set of firms seeking to serve that market and the religious product lines offered by the various firms. Now what’s important in that is that key word “like.”
Religious economies are ‘like’ commercial economies in that they consist of a market, of current and potential customers, a set of firms and the religious product lines offered by the various firms, and one might add to that of course also the religious consumers or customers as well. They are like, religious economies are like, commercial economies but they are not the same.
In other words, the literature of religious economies and the model of religious economies are products of sociological thought. It is not a product of economics nor of economic reductivism. So a religious economy then, ultimately is concerned with mapping complex social interactions, as it were, tracing interactions of a religious kind,
whereas of course a financial economy is concerned with tracing interactions of a financial kind. So in the sociology of the study of religion and the historical sociology of religion in particularly in the United States and then South America where the literature on religious economy developed, this model was used to chart complex and pluralistic religious environments, well of course the US in the 19th and 20th century
where much scholarship of this scholarship is focused and it is of course, perhaps the great example of a productive religious economy but of course it is a model that I think can be used elsewhere and it’s one that I think I found very useful for Bombay and its larger Indian Ocean arena as well, because of course it can map multiple interactions and differentiation.
In its most basic terms then all religious organizations need followers. Firms and producers then need their consumers. It creates then a religious economy, an analytical vocabulary of firms and entrepreneurs, of markets and consumers, of production of products and services. Products might be books, ideas, rituals, talismans. Services might be healing rituals, networks of identity or affiliations or indeed doing business.
Miracles are whole series of miraculous services, forms of entertainment but I think what is useful about this vocabulary is that it’s an analytical vocabulary. It enables us to map social relations and interactions in a way that familiar vocabulary— believer, teacher, group, community—
these words don’t often, I think, have a great deal of analytical value for us and particularly when they are brought together as sort of separate mix-up of terms. Terms then, the vocabulary of religious economy are at least kind of coherent, methodologically coherent, within a model of an economy as a whole. Clearly there are weaknesses in the model of religious economy.
We are not dealing here we are not able to assess here truth claims. That’s obviously the job of the phenomenology of religion or the job of theology, so religious economy cannot address and cannot measure truth claims, it has no interest in that, it cannot measure or even assess in many ways the internal, as it were, character or the quiddity of religion.
It doesn’t necessarily deal with finances either. Though, of course, that can and, in the case of my book, is part of the analysis though only part of it. But what a religious economy does do, as I’ve said, is to map complex interactions between all of the participants in a given environment. In other words the model or the ideal of the model is to be able to map holistically all of the religious activity
in a given environment and of course that bringing together different groups which is a very different methodology than the case study at least the cumulative effect of case studies which are always of course can be kept separately. Finally, I think what is helpful about this model is on the one hand that it starts to put into the center ground the interaction between producers and consumers, between supply and demand,
which is familiar we read in the scholarship about someone who founded a religious organization or someone who wrote a particular book but aside from the relatively underdeveloped sphere of tracing reception histories we are often left with very little idea what happened after someone opened a school or someone wrote a book.
We’re often left in the dark about the demand side and of course we are certainly left in the dark about whether demand itself constitutes a kind of agency which shapes religious productivity. So, religious economy model is very important in bringing together holistically the dynamic of supply, of entrepreneurs and firms and of demand religious consumers on the other side.
It is then a generative and a transactional model. We start to look at religion then not through the lenses of custom or tradition, something that simply— traditio—handed down, but something like the scholarship of course of 30 or 40 years ago on cultural production, the idea to trace new moments rather than coming back to a canon or classical age literary production like religious production enables us
to see religion as a generative sphere rather than the sphere mere of tradition that gets handed down or perhaps occasionally diverted by large movements such as modernity and reformation. We have then no linear trajectory in distinction I think to the Weberian sociology and indeed Marxian sociology of labor we have no clear trajectory, no clear set of outcomes.
The outcomes of a religious market place are outcomes of religious economy are defined by market conditions— the nature of demand and the nature of supply. So, the outcome then, the actual outcome of any religious economy and religious economy in its environment can be multiple, they can change so I think that’s something very different from the way the literature has developed and of course we can have different types of market
and different type of market conditions—controlled or closed religious economies: Roman Catholic Europe before the Reformation. The Roman Empire for example is being studied by Stark himself. Safavid Iran with that creating of a couple of centuries of a very successful Shiite monopolistic religious economy. So one can have controlled and closed, monopolistic religious economies or more liberal or open religious economies:
The post-independence United States or Latin America is being recently studied or South Korea in which foreign Evangelical and Pentecostal firms have moved into what were largely previously closed Catholic dominated religious economy such as Latin America. So, there are many different types of religious economy then.
The question is: What kind of religious economy is Bombay in the particular period I am interested in? Well, I argue in the book that Bombay is a highly liberal pluralizing competitive and productive religious economy and that this liberal pluralizing competitive productive religious economy is due to a series of contextual factors of course, political factors, social and demographic factors and industrial and technological factors.
In short, political factors are colonial policy of stepping back as if it were in the terms of religious economy, the deregulation of religious marketplace, the State isn’t a major player in patronizing or suppressing religious forms. So the State steps back from the religious economy, so this major enabling action as I talk through a bit more in a moment
the role of foreign Evangelical missionary firms that enter the market as well are clearly part of the colonial context which are extremely important. So we have these political factors, we have important social and demographic factors particularly urban immigration patterns and what I have talked about in terms of the movement of large numbers of Muslim workers to Bombay to create this large working class, largely illiterate,
partly literate demographic which of course becomes the major locus, the major, constitutes a major demand within the market place and we have as well as these political and socio-demographic factors, industrial and technological factors and that’s when the importance of what I talked about earlier which is the industrialization of communications
becomes particularly important for Bombay, industrialization not only of communications by way of travel communications of trains and steamships, Bombay of course is the steamship hub of the Indian Ocean, the West Indian Ocean in the 19th century, not only those but also the industrialization of writing and again we have here the creation of a liberal economy
of print particularly through the Metcalfe Press Act of 1835 and of course that closes off, part of the reason my book closes in 1915 of course that’s the period when one gets the implementation of newer more repressive press acts, so has a less liberal economy of print by the 1910’s with of course the move towards independence. So one has these different factors.
Let’s look at the first of them that I mentioned: Missionary catalysts. How important then are these missionaries and why are the missionaries important in the market place? Well, I argue that the missionaries which arrive in Bombay from around the 1810’s of course after 1813, the missionaries serve as catalysts within the market place. How does that work?
Well a number of different ways. It’s important to recognize I think that the missionaries that move into Bombay of course aren’t clearly part of the colonial apparatus at all. Some of them are British, many of the earliest actors in Bombay are American missionaries, Baptists and the ABCFM, The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and of course they are there, the very fact that they are there
is in some ways in tension with the State in that the new role of the State of stepping back from the religious market place, the very act of deregulating of the State not banning or not promoting any religious groups at least in its kind of official self-representation, one of the outcomes of that is indeed that foreign missionary firms start to move in
and the most active important early of these foreign missionary firms, of course later there will be Iranian- Muslim and various other religious firms operating in Bombay, but the earliest and most active of these foreign religious firms are the various missionary groups.
Why are they important? They are important for a number of reasons. One of which is that they start to create for the first time vernacularized printing. They become the most important early promoters of printing in different Indian vernaculars, in some cases for the first time. Not only are they printing in vernaculars, they are also of course printing texts which are highly polemical,
texts which are polemical not only of course towards Muslims but also towards Zoroastrians, Parsis and other groups in Bombay and John Wilson who I have in here is a key example of that. So the processes which I am tracing here I think can be applied to all other groups in Bombay, but of course I am looking really at the Muslim side of a much larger more complex and pluralistic religious economy
with obviously Jews, Hindus, Christians, Zoroastrians and others within Bombay as well. So these missionary catalysts are tremendously important. They are important because also they not only bring this new technology of religious production, that is to say vernacular printing, they bring with them a new form of religious organization.
Their very conception, their very organization, the organization of their religious firm is itself new. Ok the idea of a mission and of course the very word “mission” starts to get adopted into Indian languages, particularly Urdu, as well as the organization of religion and the reproduction and distribution of religion through this new form of organization, the mission, as an example of a religious firm.
So they organize religion differently, they produce religion differently. They start to supply religion differently as well because the missionaries are among I think the earliest, the Christian missionaries are the earliest to start spreading their religious products, to start preaching to the urban proletariat and of course this is something that other groups start to copy.
They are also catalytic in terms of bringing with them a new ideology and the spread of a new ideology of religious freedom, religious exchangeability, religious choice. It’s of course the whole notion of a mission, the Christian missions cannot work unless, without that ideology that individuals are personally individually free to choose for themselves, to make their own religious identifications and affiliations.
So with this combination then of new technologies, new forms of organization, new ideologies of choice and religious exchange, of religious freedom and of their critique of existing religious forms, argue that this creates a catalytic effect in the market place— a catalytic effect that starts to bring about new responses. Of course we see here John Wilson and Mohammad Hashim,
people respond to the missionaries and then they start to imitate the missionaries. Vernacular printing starts to spread, new forms of the organization and distribution of religion, Muslim missions in my case start to spread as well. So they are important figures, but ultimately they are not very successful.
They convert relatively few people but their forms of organization, their forms of production, forms of religious firm are copied and transferred for alternative purposes.
Ok, so after this catalyst in the market place, what else is an important factor in the creation of this missionary market place? Well, as I have talked about then,
we have the colonial enabling context then of the stepping back of the State from religion and of course we know from a considerable literature that it’s not always true to its word. I wrote a book myself on Islam in the army in colonial India, the army as a colonial institution that did indeed shape religion, but I think broadly speaking this is a State in which,
which is much more in this sense of the religious economy, more liberal in terms of not being a major player in the economy and at least in the literature of the sociology of religion, the smaller the role of a State in the religion, the more diversity of religious productivity there will be and I think that’s something that we find there in Bombay.
Well, ok, so the missionaries and the colonial State at least in a kind of negative sense, the State, and in a positive sense the missionaries as models and as catalysts have a role but they have a limited role of course. More important I think overall is the demographic, the demand side and what ultimately emerges from the demand side, the interplay of the supply side, the Muslim supply and demand in Bombay.
Both the supply and demand of forms of Islam— the organization, the supply, the creation of religious firms, the activity of religious entrepreneurs in Bombay, emerge from the process of Muslim migration to Bombay. And of course this migration to Bombay comes from many different quarters. We have already heard we have Konkanis, Hyderabadis, Gujaratis, we have Muslims
visiting or residing in Bombay from Iran, we have the moving out to various parts of Africa, we have African Muslims in Bombay in large numbers, particularly on the ships and dockyards, we also have visiting Malay Muslims. So the migration to Bombay then, the demographic that comes is extremely diverse. As one Bombay Muslim or Bombay residing Muslim wrote in the Times of India in 1908,
“The most essential factor we learned about the Mohammedan, the Muslim community of Bombay, is that there is no such community. There are various communities in the city which profess this religion, which profess Islam.” So this diverse sets of migration to Bombay then creates a diverse body of religious consumers and a diverse body of religious suppliers and religious firms and religious entrepreneurs.
In many cases what we can see and what we can actually see and then trace in a detailed way through the various Persian travelogues, in particular of Bombay in the 19th and early 20th century, is that this creates a sequence, a process of comparison, and ultimately of competition. Different Muslims coming to the city, what is then a Muslim cosmopolis, are very much aware.
They can actually see very clearly that there are these very various different Islams in the city. We have a process of comparison that comes about then, acts of comparison and acts of comparison that in turn are related to, within the logic of the market place, competition, imitation, differentiation— the logic then of the market place. So what is already then a diverse set of religious consumers and suppliers
in terms starts to create then increasing competition, imitation, differentiation, increase their religious productivity and increased diversification of religion. In other words we are looking at a very different set of processes than the historiography has led us to believe, the uniformity of Bayly, the standardized global Islam of Oliver Roy, just to name two.
Ok , well what then of the organization of religion that I talked about in terms of increased production? We can move around now to some new slides. Well, I create then through the analysis that’s there in the book a model of four different types of firms in this religious economy. And of course that is the usefulness of a religious economy model, there can be various types of firms as well or suppliers,
which according to the actual character of the demographic of the market place. But the one side I talk about in the book Anjumans, brotherhood, Jama’ats, and shrines. So four different ways of organizing, producing, distributing religious products and religious services. Well the ones that we are most familiar with then are then are the Islamic modernists.
The example I have here is Bahruddin Tyabji a very significant figure in the history of Islamic reform— he founds the Anjuman-e Islam of Bombay, a key figure in founding it and running it in this period and indeed through the school that Anjuman-e Islam of Bombay sets up in 1893 an importance were the machine for the reproduction of custom, for the education of custom, the creation of the education,
the creation of modernized reformist Muslims. So they are certainly there. There’s no doubt that the reformists, the modernists are there in this modern industrialized environment as the traditional historiography would lead us to suspect. The issue is though that they are of course a very small part of that market place. Why are they a small part of the market place?
Well, for one reason is that there key institutions such as the Anjuman-e Islam High school are only capable of course of dealing with, of enrolling in the school a very small drop in the ocean of that large demographic that by 1893 was was in the region of 150,000 Muslims. The school would hold about 600 pupils at any one time. So certainly they are important and they maybe indeed in some ways
influential as of course the demographic that was there was the middle class and upper middle class merchants of Bombay, but nonetheless they only have a very limited outreach. It’s the same with their schools, with their texts as well. Indeed when we look at the actual types of book printed in Bombay, when we look as it were the printing economy of Bombay Islam which is one part of the analysis in the book,
we find that the textual products of reform— Qurans, Quran portions, scripture commentaries are actually only a very limited and small part of the overall print productivity of Bombay Islam. So it’s certainly the modernists are there and indeed the modernist firms, the reformist firms, the Anjumans are indeed there but they have a limited role in the economy.
In terms of print, as I mentioned before, we have a much larger set of printed texts rather than Quran translations or Quran sections (i.e. the literature of Protestant Islam). We have the literature of what I call a print economy of enchantment texts, like this one here the “Enter the Dragon,” “The Adventures of Hatim Tai,” but also a series of miraculous and hagiographical texts
and indeed it is the hagiography that is, as it were, the master genre of Bombay’s printed economy. What we can see here in this example I put here on the screen the text which is actually in Urdu but has one cover partly in English, we can see the, capture the, the print economy in process. We have here a book which describes the miraculous deeds of Syed Pedro Shah
himself a figure, of course you can guess by his name, the story is that he is supposed to be a Portuguese convert to Islam, so very much echoing the religious cosmopolis, the Muslim cosmopolis of Bombay, but the story in the hagiography here is based around an event that is supposed, well indeed did happen in 1906, but a particular reading of that event.
In 1906 the Sita Ram building collapsed suddenly in a big cloud of dust, this was where the first skyscraper of Bombay, the tallest new building of Bombay. At the bottom of the building there was a bar, the Windsor bar, which is popular with boozy British sailors.
Unfortunately for them for the proprietor of the bar in that building opposite the Sita Ram building in the bar was the Shrine of Pedro Shah. He was very unhappy with this and certainly the mujahid, the person who run the shrine, was very unhappy and complained to the all the various colonial authorities and nothing happened so Pedro Shah took the matter in his own miraculous hands and there we have it.
On one night, I think it was the 31st of May, I’m not sure if its recorded on there, the building collapsed in dust. So we can see here that we have a real, as it were, business economy overlapping with a religious economy. Competition here in the market place between the morals of the groups surrounding, of the Muslim morals, of the Muslims of the Bhindi bazaar here
who are linked to the shrine of Pedro Shah and a different kind of morality, a different kind of moral economy of soldiers and of the Hindu and Parsi entrepreneurs who actually built the building. So we have a kind of clash of the religious economy, the moral economy, and indeed the financial economy of Bombay there. And also then what steps into it is the print economy.
Abdul Karim Munshi who writes the book of course it’s a big event its followed up in all of the Bombay newspapers for weeks and weeks and weeks and of course our Muslim print entrepreneur here the writer of the book is himself the owner of a bookshop who distributes the book himself. So you can see here that this book captures quite nicely
not just the kind of key classic genre of the religious marketplace but also the way in which we have this overlapping of the print economy, the religious economy, the financial economy, and the moral economy. Well let’s turn towards to some other examples then of religious firms: The Shrine of Hajji Ali, a classic example then of a shrine firm of the kind that I have talked about.
Well the shrine firm, of course the Shrine of Hajji Ali is the most famous of many Bombay shrines, many of these shrines that do emerge coterminously with the industrialization of the city itself as we’ll see quite graphically in a moment and the shrine of Hajji Ali supplies certain kinds of services and indeed specialized services. It’s specialized in providing blessing and, as it were, miraculous insurance,
a very important type of service to not only ordinary travelers or ordinary hajjis but also to Muslim businessman as well. And indeed there is certainly a financial element to that too. One of the hagiographies I look at in the book actually details the price one has to pay, small amounts of rupees, just a few annas for this and that, but the price one has to pay for a certain type of miracle, a certain type of blessing.
And that’s important because these shrines become important then in this larger demographic, the larger demand locus in the market, the demographic of working class Muslims who have for the first time a small cash surplus, they have a small amount of money, maybe only a few annas per week or whatever it is, but they have a small surplus of cash they can invest in the religious economy
and these kinds of shrines and their services are what they choose to invest in. What are the services? Well, certainly they are partly miracles, but they are also entertainment. Shrines such as the Shrine of Hajji Ali or others in Bombay, the Shrine of Makhdoom Ali Paro in northern Bombay, become very important places of fairgrounds, of industrialized religious festivals
and again here I think we capture here what’s often lost within the language of custom and of tradition. What is celebrated in these shrines are ‘urs rituals that are being celebrated in India for seven, eight hundred years by this point but what the actual constitution of these ‘urs shrine rituals is, is again entirely industrialized. We have accounts from the period that describe mechanized Ferris wheels,
the goods on sale there, again small cheap industrialized goods from Birmingham, from Manchester, imported goods. So once again the shrines are important, the shrine firms are important in addressing that working class, that mass demographic not only in terms of miraculous services, cures and whatever else it might be supernatural insurance, but also in terms of the supply of entertainment
and enjoyment within the religious marketplace. As I mentioned before these shrines are not somehow separate, they are not some kind of detritus of tradition, whatever is just handed down or left over to Bombay. Bombay is interesting in it doesn‘t have hardly any, of course the Muslims tried to claim it in this period, but it doesn’t really have a significant precolonial Muslim history.
Bombay Islam in its topographic and concrete sense is coterminous then with the industrialization of the city and we see that as I mentioned very graphically here with the Shrine of Bismillah Shah, which is located inside that, inside the Victoria terminus. Again, in any highly competitive religious market place one will find the specialization of services.
The specialized service then of Bismillah Shah is blessing and protecting travelers who went off on a train. Well that might not seem such a big deal but many of the vernacular texts from the 19th century do indeed describe train travel as something which is very worrying to people, they are away from home, they are away from people they know or trust and indeed many of the miracles
described in the hagiographies from Bombay and elsewhere in this period actually do take place on trains. How am I doing for time? Okay. So, moving forward. Other types of shrine then, do we find only shrines of Indian Muslims in Bombay? Well, we find various types of shrines. It’s an oceanic market place and there are then oceanic entrepreneurs.
We find then a range of Afro-Indian shrines such as what I call here the franchise Shrine of Bawa Gor. It’s a franchise shrine, a franchise religious firm insofar as the original shrine of Bawa Gor is up there in Gujarat of an Afro-Indian saint, of which there are a considerable number along the coast of Gujarat, but what happens here in Bombay is the setting up by religious entrepreneurs, you can trace this in detail,
a Gujarati Muslim who moves from Gujarat to Bombay and sets up as it were a satellite shrine or what I call a “franchise shrine” of the original shrine of Bawa Gor. That then, that franchise there of course is immediately recognizable, as franchises are, that’s the whole logic of them, originally recognizable to a certain demographic in the market place— a demographic that is partly
low caste Guajarati Muslim urban migrant workers to the city and also whether with this shrine in particular one or two others that I look at in the dockyards of other Afro-Indian shrines linked to the African, East African in particular, workers on the steamships. So one finds again that the actual type of Islam that comes around the religious services they provide,
particularly the Afro-Indian dockyard shrines, are shrines that provide forms of Islam, recognizable services that are recognizable to East African Muslims, particularly musical forms which of course kind of classically represent the cultural forms of this non-literate lower class, not text then but music and rituals and healing and exorcism
that can appeal to this very different demographic than the Anjuman-e Islam and their printed religiosity. One sees that of course on a much larger scale one of the elements of Bombay Islam that has been studied in detail before of course the Muharram processions and these Muharram processions themselves were organized by particular religious groups, particular religious firms
i.e. certain shrines in particular which have of course this very mass buy in them so there’s a very kind of, the processions and these great carnivals create for the shrines forms of advertisement and forms of outreach to the masses as a whole. So these are services, religious services that ultimately provide for ultimately in the 100,000 mark of consumers at any one time.
Well, okay, that’s all something about the more successful religious firms, the kind of religious organizations, but what about the individual entrepreneur? Well, we find various types of religious entrepreneurs in the market place, some which leave a paper trail, some of whom of course don’t. What’s certainly clear from the literature of the paper trail of Bombay Islam in the 19th century
and indeed from the reformists in particular is what the reformists or what was the problem of these begging barbars, the problem of these wondering fakirs and holy men who were there it seems in very large number. Of course there is a whole kind of critique against which the reformists level of course we have a sense of that today, but nonetheless these individual begging holy men who we have accounts of,
the ethnographic accounts by various Indian police inspectors and others of the period which actually describe the kind of transactional logic and the services that they provide within the religious economy particularly in terms of, and of course this is familiar in parts of India and Pakistan to this day, circumcision times or wedding times or funerals, that’s when the fakirs turn up to bless or curse and of course to be paid accordingly.
So again we can trace the trickle down even at this kind of smaller level of individual relatively small scale, small fry, religious entrepreneurs in the market place but still there is a role of them not only in the religious economy but also in the cash economy. Other religious entrepreneurs then who are perhaps, were certainly more successful and left a larger paper trail that allow us to reconstruct their ideas,
their activities, their organizations, and indeed their success. One of these figures that I look at is Habib Ali Shah. Like many of the entrepreneurs in this marketplace, again this cosmopolis, this interconnected marketplace with its oceanic and its continental hinterlands, he too is a migrant to the city, in his case a migrant from Hyderabad.
Like many of the other Hyderabadi Muslims who moved to the city in the 19th century then he has an automatic, as it were, a demographic that he can appeal to but his demographic, as it were, more class based it seems rather than regional based. He does have many Hyderabadi followers in Bombay but his followers are particularly among the dockyards. Now, how does that work?
Well, it works partly because he sets up his shrine, it’s still there today, in fact it’s large, he ends up being buried, his body is taken by train there’s a whole story of the movement of his body through a procession and then through a train back to Hyderabad but he sets up his lodge as it were, the distribution point, the meeting point for his own Bombay Islam right next to the PNO dockyards in Mazagaon in Bombay.
It’s also just next to the dockyard railway station in Bombay as well. That’s very important because this, through the considerable amount of hagiographical and doctrinal texts that surround Habib Ali Shah and by himself and by his followers we can actually trace his use of the communications of Bombay both maritime from the PNO dockyard
and both in terms of the railroad through the dockyard road railway station, how he distributes, sets out his khalifas, his followers to distribute his firm, its products and services throughout the hinterland, on sea and in land. What’s particularly interesting about Habib Ali Shah though I think is that we can actually start to trace and I think this is indeed something new,
we can start to trace the genuine internal religious and doctrinal contours of Bombay Islam. What’s very key to, at the center of his teaching, the center of Habib Ali Shah’s teachings to the workers of the dockyard, the workers of the mills, is the doctrine of “tawassul”, of intersession. Indeed the key practice that he teaches to his followers is that of tawassul-e shaykh, of imaging, of picturing the master.
Now this is an interesting issue and it’s arrived because again the literature on Islam in the 19th century, particularly the literature on Sufi Islam in the 19th century, is recognized that there is this rise of this doctrine and this practice of picturing the master, tawassul-e shaykh, but it hasn't previously been explained how or why.
Well , I think what we have going on here is a connection of several different things. One of them is the spread of photographic images like the one we see here of Habib Ali Shah himself. Why does one picture the sheikh? One pictures the sheikh in order to bring in his miraculous power to help one in any particular hazard. Of course there are religious purposes as well, for the destruction of the self but least as we have it in the paper trail,
in the hagiographies, in the rich sequence of stories about Habib Ali Shah’s miracles, his miraculous services to his followers, it’s picturing the sheikh which enables the sheikh to rescue from the train, from the attack in the street, whatever it is. But how can one actually do that, particularly in a very widespread religious marketplace where as it were these products and services,
affiliations with the sheikh, is being very widely distributed. How can one do that if you’ve never seen the sheikh, unless you have been able to travel to meet him. Well in some cases we do certainly know that various people did come to Bombay of course where his lodge was, it was of course very conducive to that. We also know that through the reproduction, the spread of these photographs of the master,
then one can actually picture the master, one can do tawassul-e shaykh anywhere whether you've actually met him or not. So, we see here then not only the role of the reproduction of religion through printing or the printed word, but also the importance in this industrialized religious economy of the importance of photography as well, of the reproduction of the image.
This becomes particularly important in the dockyard context of Habib Ali Shah where his doctrine of himself being the barzakh and his doctrine of tawassul, of intersession seemed really to mirror and again this is based upon the narratives we have of how he interacts with his social demographic of followers in the dockyards, that he seems to be, he seems to introduce himself between the jobless,
the people who are seeking jobs in the dockyards and in the mills around Mazagaon and these figures, the mukhadams, the jobbers, figures who are kind very well-known from the historiography of labor, the people, the key middlemen who give people jobs. And it seems that various of Habib Ali Shah’s key followers or khalifas are indeed these mukhadams, these jobbers who supply jobs.
So we have here in a sense a mirroring as above so below, a mirroring of intercession as if it were, as a spiritual or disembodied or a miraculous process, an intercession of very concrete social socioeconomic process in which the sheikh mediates between some of his followers who don’t have jobs and those followers who can supply jobs. So again we see the kind of overlapping of different types of economy,
the economy of work and the economy of labor and the economy of religion. We find various in Bombay as well, various other entrepreneurs not only from the continental hinterlands of Bombay but also from its maritime hinterlands. You find in Bombay a large number of Iranian merchants, also Iranian print entrepreneurs, many important Iranian books are printed in Bombay in the 19th century
and again this doesn’t only pluralize the religious economy of Islam and the religious economy of India but also the religious economy of Iran and the religious economy then of that pluralizing Iran of Baha’ism and Zoroastrians and Christian products there in the 19th century. So although the book concerns largely Bombay Islam, the case studies that I look at in there, is the case that is being made for the
impact of Bombay Islam across this oceanic hinterland and the case studies I look at are Iran on the one hand and South Africa on the other. So with Iran we see it’s not only Bombay Muslim printing, Bombay Muslim religious firms but also, Bombay Baha’i and Parsi religious firms that are truly important. It’s the Parsis of Bombay that of course persuade Naser al-Din Shah to lift the jizya
as it were to start to deregulate the religious economy of Iran. It’s also from Bombay that the key books and the first printing of key scriptures, key books of Baha’ism, indeed the production of Baha’ism as a textual product happens in Bombay. The printing of the Kitab-i-mukin- and the Kitab-i-Mubin in 1882 and 1890 take place in Bombay and are exported to Iran.
So Bombay is pluralizing the religious economy, formerly more closed of Iran, but increasingly competitive and diverse in the 19th century. That happens with the Zoroastrians and the Parsis and also with Muslims such as Safi Ali Shah whose travelogue and writings and the printing of his books in Bombay, the reinvention of himself in Bombay and his return to Iran to become the most important Sufi,
the most important controller of a brotherhood firm of Iran in the 19th century. The same process can be shaped with the Agha Khans as well of course Agha Khan first moves to Bombay in 1848 and from there again reproduces through this family firm, reproduces an Islam of custom, of hierarchy, of intersession which again through sending missionaries to back, as it were, back to Iran starts to pluralize the religious economy there
and leaves a very significant mark in the landscape of Bombay. Although Ismailism of course had its post-Bombay trajectory in the 19th century period I am interested in, as we can see here by this shrine to the first Agha Khan, it’s a classic product of the religious market place.
The final case study I look at then is South Africa at the other end of the West Indian Ocean from Iran and the way in which a Bombay religious entrepreneur Ghulam Muhammad moves out to Durban and there to that market place of indentured laborers, again provides the types of religious products and services that match that demographic of indentured laborers.
Printing for Africa then, here we have literally an ishtihar, an advertisement for the saints, an advertisement for the festival, the shrine, the shrine firm that Ghulam Muhammad prints in Africa. So, to conclude, where does this leave us?
Well I think what we find in Bombay and Bombay’s religious economy which I think as we have glimpsed at least is related not only to India but this cross oceanic market place across the western Indian Ocean, indeed reaching beyond as well Bombay’s printing includes works in Malay as much as it includes work in Swahili and Arabic, Gujarati and Persian.
What we see there is I think the striking persistence of custom, the persistence of a customary Islam of a hierarchical vision of both society and of the cosmos in which patrons and intercession are of key importance. This is an Islam organized around imams, pirs, figures who claim to be the barzakh, these barbars, these awliyas, these saintly figures, these are the most successful entrepreneurs
in the religious market place who are patrons both in this world and in the afterlife and crucially effective as patrons in this world with that uprooted deracinated proletarian migrant worker demographic that constitutes the biggest factor of demand in the religious economy then. Custom then is much stronger than reform, even if this is custom that’s been constantly reinvented and redeployed,
that customer seen from the later E.P. Thompson, a customer as a pool of diverse resources that can be deployed towards various ends. I think what is also important about the model is we get for the first time of course after, well I won’t say the first time, that’s overstating it, but I think in a very significant way even after twenty odd years or so of subaltern historiography,
I think we are really seeing the collective, and in some cases the individual role, of that mass working class demographic in shaping the contours of religious productivity. This is in many ways the demand driven economy and that demand of course is the larger demographic I’ve mentioned of working people. Of course the supply of course has somewhat a different social trajectory,
an elite history of Iranian elite, of Arab and Iraqi big men who come, the Gilani family from Baghdad who visit Bombay to much applaud, figures like Habib Ali Shah, Ghulam Ali Shah from elite sharif families. And of course what they are reproducing then of course has that kind of element of class interaction between different groups.
Of course what we see in the classic kind of production in doctrinal terms of intercession and hierarchy, so although we are actually kind of mapping and hearing the voices of that working class demographic, what in fact in many cases they’re as it were buying into is still a Islam of religious hierarchy and of social hierarchy. Overall then I think to what we have seen is a religious economy
which three factors of, which is created by three factors. This was a highly cosmopolitan oceanic port city, an industrialized economy for the reproduction of print and of photography and of an industrialized economy of communication, of trains and steamships for supply and distribution of religious products and the religious economy enabled by a certain form of colonial governance
based upon deregulation of the religious economy and missionary catalysts. And I think that religious economy maps onto the commercial economy of Bombay with of its hinterlands economically as well as religiously, out Iran of course, the Iranian financial economy in the 19th century in many ways disseminated by cheap products from Bombay
and I think the pluralizing of Iran’s religious economy again, Bombay has a large role in it, of course not the only role of course there is also the role of Russia as well. But I think Bombay plays an important role in Iranian history too, as well as indeed in South African history. Finally, then in terms of addressing the basic question I was most interested in,
that I raised at the start of my project and the start of this talk, where does this leave us with the picture of 19th century Islam more generally? Well, I’d argue that what we don’t have then from this case study of the most modern industrialized cosmopolitan environment for Muslims in the 19th century, we don’t have the religious uniformity we hear about from Bayly
and we don’t have the globalized Islam we hear about from Oliver Roy, nor do we have the well-known trajectory of modernist Protestants reformist Islams we hear about from Aziz Ahmad through Francis Robinson. We have on the contrary then not uniform or global Islams, but fragmenting, diversifying and competitive Islams. I think a picture that not only reflects what we can see at a very kind of level of simple observation of South Asia
to this day, the persistence of customary forms of Islam but also I think a picture that, of an oceanic economy that sets the stage for what we know of in the 20th century of that anarchistic plethora of rival Islams, not then a trajectory towards a singular global Islam, but I think something that the most elementary level kind of observation will show us was the case
for South Asia as well as the wider world world to this day— an Islam that has been fragmenting, diversifying, and competitive through modernization qua industrialization. I’ll leave it there. Thank you for staying with me.
Thank you very much Nile and as is our tradition here the individual who chairs gets to ask the first question, so I will enjoy that privilege. I was struck by your use of a spatial analogy to perhaps structure the lecture which was surveying and to survey an area. And I wondered whether in your approach, which is to use the notion of the market to understand religion,
we are really getting enough of the sense of the topography of the different levels that we are dealing with. I am sure this is a question you get often, but you know it’s interesting to me that you are using the grand metaphor of the market when perhaps some other ideas of social competition, social interaction seem quite obvious, like the field for example, and thinking of Weber of course,
there’s a kind of neo-Weberian interest in the field and the field as a way of thinking of similar questions would certainly bring in the question of authority, the question of status, these kinds of different levels within society and I wonder how authority plays or does not play into your account. It seems to me, you know, what the great, one of the good things that Weber did for us when he was writing
at the turn of the 20th century in the midst of a kind of Marxist Europe in which there was industrialization, there were all of these firms particularly in continental Europe coming up at the time, was to say, “Look there are lot more similarities between the early modern world and the modern world than we perhaps initially think,” and so to think in terms of charisma and how charisma is produced
and whether the idea of the firm can really get us a deep understanding of how is charisma produced in society and the role that charisma plays in religion and the role for Weber of descent and lineage and constructions of descent and lineage in producing charisma. I wonder whether plays that into the story particularly when the notion of the sayyid, the notion of the saint,
and tracing a lineage through time and tradition in that way, it seems to be such an important part of these life worlds that you are investigating.
Yeah, very good question. So to focus on the elements of space or authority and of charisma. Certainly I think that the spatial construction of the market and the spatial location of particular firms is very important, of course a model of a marketplace can’t succeed as a model I think without really, in historical terms, without that kind of concrete rooting.
And I make it clear, I mean you know although I’ll stick by my guns and say, “This is a model, it’s not a method I am dealing with.” I think you can kind of call it a metaphor, it gives me an opt-out clause, but I am going all the way and saying, you know this is an analytical model. And of course to be an analytical model that works for at least the kind of history I am interested in,
the history of concrete lives as well as more ephemeral spiritual lives, the actual concrete spacial location is tremendously important and I think that’s also one of the ways, one of the reasons, why these shrine firms, at least if you can still call them that with relation to your question, are so successful.
Because of their in-built location within very kind of key and high populated regions within the city, we saw ones, for example on the edge of Haji Ali just on the edge of the coast or in the railway, the railway station itself, that of course enables them to be really, have maximum outreach and maximum access. I think that wasn’t really the case with reformist firms and it wasn’t of course also the case with individual entrepreneurs
who might be wandering through the streets but have no location for the distribution of their product and their services so the emergence of these shrine firms or just the shrines more concretely in the landscape of Bombay in particular market areas such as Pedro Shah in the heart of Bhindi bazaar, the most important, literally the most important market for Bombay Muslims in Bombay still to this day is tremendously important
and I think the argument or the model couldn’t succeed without that. I think that there might be, I think a most sophisticated reading of Weber, the possibilities of Weber might well open up other options I think haven’t been pursued in the historiographies, perhaps something more diverse than has come out, say, of the work on Protestant trajectory within South Asia, but I think what I found compelling about the usefulness
of the religious economy model was the importance of competition and the way in which competition creates an incentive and a dynamic and a sort of impetus towards increasing reproduction and increasing differentiation. So I think that’s what I wanted from the religious economy because it helps to explain how in fact the armor, and I do believe this, the armor Islam is by 1900
in terms of when we are looking very concretely at forms of organizations, firms, entrepreneurs, texts, doctrines, rituals there is more differentiation about than there was before, so there is this process of diversification but I think competitiveness, copying, imitation, the logic of the marketplace the logic of competitive interaction with the market, I think to me explains that.
It also explains I think sort of something within the historiography that we know about, we’ve been told now for 20, 30 years that, you know, 19th century Indo-Islamic or 19th century religious environment in India more generally was highly polemical. So what do we do with that? And what do we do with that observation? And I think again that’s when the usefulness
of a market for these purposes comes in because it says well, well that kind of polemical stuff actually does something in turn. The missionary polemics acts as a catalysts and they start to create these new forms of copying of competing and indeed the process of increasing self, product differentiation which creates diversity. The question of authority within the market place I think that comes into more of a perhaps
more kind of Hobbesian picture of kind of the role of subalterns and so on within this period is that, as I sort of mentioned towards the end, this does remain a very hierarchical and very authoritarian form of religiosity and indeed form of the reorganization of religion. Sayyids still remain very important, even though of course people will reinvent themselves as saints or imams or whatever else.
So it remains extremely hierarchical and it’s something in forms of religiosity in which labor groups ultimately buy into because we have very few religious, we do have them, of course some of the Afro-Indian groups and entrepreneurs of the franchise shrines are kind of key examples of subaltern religious productivity as entrepreneurs themselves, but broadly speaking the range of products, range of product services,
firms in the market place are dominated by figures of rather elite backgrounds or invent themselves as new forms of hierarchical elites. Of course the Agha Khan is one of the classic examples of that, how I look at that, the transformation of a soldier into an imam and the whole kind of process of the creation and the reproduction of charisma.
And to me again the market place is useful in that question with regard to authority and charisma because I think, as I want to trace in the book, in the book Bombay Islam, is the way in which charisma is concretely produced in texts that are printed for the first time, I mean printing is very, I mean there is no printing before 1820, there are no Muslim printers before 1820, really before 1850, there’s no commercialization of printing.
So I really want to trace the way in which books and ideas and the very clearly discernible distribution of these ideas along railway networks, among ship networks, and to particular markets, particular consumer bases in Iran, in South Africa, in the dockyards of Bombay, how charisma has a kind of very clear social life there.
So ultimately I guess you know that’s what I am more interested in within the model of religious economy, that it solves certain problems set up by the historiography and if the historiography of South Asian Islam wasn’t so, kind of, Weberian inclined to begin with or hadn’t set up these kinds of problems I might have you know kind of opted towards a Weberian reading but I think the historiography
led me towards having to do something very different and that I really wanted to bring in this question of competition and reproduction that really kind of give me a sense of why is Bombay different, why can’t one just say, ‘well that’s kind of like Istanbul— lots of Muslims turned up there.’ And I think kind of the competitiveness kind of brings me into
this particular type of liberalized highly productive economy which marks a particular historical moment and in particular a very specific moment of the industrialization of a colonial city in the Indian ocean that isn’t, as I say, kind of Cairo or an otherwise comparable city like Istanbul.
Any questions please identify yourself […]
Ok, this is Sugata Bose for the record. You know, the advantage of your analytical model of a religious economy is precisely that it does not privilege a priori any particular strand of Islam and you know you are able to immediately sort of question the privileging and the historiography of quote unquote reformist modernist Islam,
but there was you know another sort of throw away sentence in the course of your very long and fascinating lecture which I wondered a little about. You suggested that the sociology of religion or the best work in that field suggests that when the State withdraws you have scope for greater differentiation, diversification rather than global uniformity.
Now in some ways that second statement negates you know the advantage that you could draw from the religious economy model where you know the outcomes cannot be predicted in some ways in advance and I raise this theoretical point to begin with to actually pose an empirical question about 19th century India and Bombay. The question really is that, are we really talking about a deregulated marketplace?
And I am a bit troubled by the use of your terms you know “liberal” or “liberalized” sort of political economy market place, I tend to agree with you that you know the missionaries provided a certain kind of a catalyst, but my reading of mid-19th century, pre-1857 history of India would suggest that the Company-State was actually deeply implicated in the evangelical sort of intrusions.
I mean this is the period when many of the key evangelical figures are writing biographies of the prophet which then are being contested you know by a whole set of Muslim intellectuals and so on and post-1857 again sort of whatever the declaratory promise of not intervening or interfering in the domain of religion, you know, what you really get is an entire sort of scheme of social enumerations
that privileges the religious distinction and that’s why, you know, while I, while I tend to agree with your conclusion that by 1900 you know Islam is in fact more diversified, more differentiated and I am persuaded by your questioning of you know the Bayly kind of model of the rise of global uniformity in the field of religion I wonder whether there is something more to be said in terms of the explanatory framework,
you know, what really allows for this differentiation. I am not sure that a State, the colonial State, withdrew and which leads us to want to ask what else might have been at play which allowed for this flourishing of this kind of plural Islams as you put it in the context of a rapidly industrializing city? So I just wonder whether you might want to be a little more questioning of the certitudes of the sociology of religion
in the same way as you have been questioning of you know certain strands of the historiography of South Asian Islam and religion and if I may just throw in just a second question just to get you to reflect on it, you know you gave a very vivid description of Bombay as a cosmopolis in terms of many different kinds of Muslims from the rural hinterland, from Hyderabad, from Iran,
from the Arabian peninsula, from Africa and so on but Bombay was also a cosmopolis in terms of you know members of other religious communities and even though the absolute numbers seemed to be quite significant, 150,000 by 1915, it’s still a small proportion of the total population of the city of Bombay and you know I didn’t hear much about the interaction of the Bombay Muslims, varied and variegated as they were, with the Hindus
the Parsis and so on and you know you could talk in terms of Bombay Islam but why is it then that you know there is a Muslim population that is concentrated and congregated in let’s say Mahim you know why do you, you know, you have the development of certain sort of neighborhoods
is there something special about those neighborhoods rather than the city as a whole you know what are the points of interaction of these many different Muslim communities with non-Muslims in such a major cosmopolitan setting?
Right. I think you have asked very nice series of questions. Can you still hear me at the back? Okay, so the question […] I think this is one of the problems I think with the term “liberal” when I am, particularly when I am trying to use a set of terms I have a kind of an intellectual coherence with its particular model but also of course seems to suggest something rather different and rather as it were kind of a liberal imperialism
type of model which of course is not what I am doing. When I’ve done this talk before, I’ve actually pointed out that while Bombay has through these press acts has a liberalized printing economy, of course it’s actually an Englishman, well in fact a Scotsman, Berges Sahib who sets up the first censorship within Iran. So of course it’s liberal in some terms of the language of the religious economy and that conceptual model,
it’s not a liberal imperialism argument. I think more generally, I mean certainly, I think Islam in the army book what I looked at there was in fact the role of evangelical chaplains within the organization of the colonial army and how that created a type of “barracks Islam” as I called it in which the link between the army and the evangelicals had a particular religious outcome.
So very clearly in different types of environment, in different regions of India and indeed in different institutional settings, the colonial State does, is much more implicated in religious reform. We know that from, you know, from my work and from many other people’s work, but of course what I am talking about here is Bombay Islam and one of the things that I am trying to do in the book as a study of you know,
a chapter on South Africa, a chapter or two on Iran and several chapters on Bombay within India, is to actually try to wrench out part of the study of India from an entirely national and indeed kind of colonial framing. And I think that the particular environment of Bombay and thereby the religious market place of Bombay is very distinct and in many cases entirely distinct from different parts within India.
We find a very different religious economy up in sort of UP, in places non-industrialized still much in a sense kind of slow productivity, older firms still hold much more strongly and of course in different institutional contexts as well, such as the army, or in the bureaucracy, in environments where Indians were in much closer contact with colonial institutions
one will find that the State being a much bigger player. Bombay of course is I think a very different environment and I think it’s a place in which certainly the State steps in, of course the State does step in of course, but some of the cases when the State steps in, the most famous example of course is the Agha Khan case
and the State actually steps in there to very much to empower and to, in a sense, partially monopolize, to help monopolize a Muslim religious entrepreneur, the Agha Khan. So the State does play a role in Bombay but I think it’s a very different role than that played in very different places within India and very different institutional settings.
And also something I wanted to do in the book was that really is to really look at a whole series of developments that are really beneath the colonial radar. None of these figures I look at have ever registered in scholarship before, one of the reasons they have never registered in scholarship, at least most of them, is because they weren’t in the colonial record, they are below the colonial radar
and I think there’s a whole, I would say, a particularly for complex urban environments like Bombay that I think the colonial powers, the Empire couldn’t control, they were, it was just too difficult. And also of course in fact in places like Bombay the richest and wealthiest entrepreneurs in the financial sense were Indian, Gujarati, Muslim, Zoroastrian, Parsi or whatever else.
So I think Bombay creates quite a different kind of madras scale and a different religious economy, different from the other parts in India in which, while I’d agree with much of what you say and indeed as I’ve written about, in other parts of India, Bombay is distinctive
and I think it’s partly distinctive because it is operating within an oceanic market place and an oceanic set of transactions in which the colonial State has no interest or control over.
Is Bombay distinctive or is the entire oceanic arena distinctive? […]
Well, yeah I think it’s the oceanic arena and I think what I am doing here is part obviously kind of a wider body of work that other people are doing and looking at kind of literal society more generally and I think that’s an important thing to do I think within you know to kind of to globalize or regionalize or to, the study of India which I think has been largely done as in Middle Eastern studies I think that’s happened,
very much in area studies and nation or base mode. I think India has in fact, I mean if I’d said a moment ago it’s been studied in colonial mode, even that’s not really true. We have until relatively recently we have relatively little study of India in its imperial context and of course that’s happening now with Metcalf, Tom Metcalf, and others, but I think to try and break out that,
I guess kind of area studies mold, so Bombay, so yes it’s important because it’s part of a larger oceanic trajectory that’s been there in Indian history for centuries in various exchanges but I think it’s not just Indian Ocean, it’s Bombay as, because of industrialization which brings so many people there and allows these new forms of productivity and supply of religious products and services that Bombay is completely distinct
because it actually starts to overpower these older centers and I think what’s interesting I think in the large and comparative context in what we see in Bombay, I think is a larger process by which in kind of global history more generally one sees a pattern and I think this is distinct for the 19th century, for India, and industrialization is crucial to this, the way in which what have been for many centuries religious and cultural
reception zones as in sort of Islam coming into India and of course that’s a large part of the historiography and it’s had its own problems, but large reception zones of various religious entrepreneurs coming into India from the Middle East, from Islamic lands that actually start to become through industrialization export zones that start to re-export religion to those places and of course one sees this classically
with New York in the 19th century in terms of the history of Christianity. Christianity being imported in various forms, Methodism, Anglicanism you name it from Europe and then through the 19th century with entrepreneurs such as Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism with the beginning of spiritualism in New York, the beginnings indeed of Jewish reform in New York,
all of these kind of what had been a religious import zone certainly has the wherewithal to actually start re-exporting back to Europe, to Scandinavia new types of religious products. So I think there’s a sort of a larger kind of global moment of new things happening that industrialization for, is a power for reception and kind of colonized zones whether by the British Empire or whether by,
you know, kind of early Muslim settlers. So, I think that’s kind of a larger process that I think for me Bombay works. The interest of this is that it can work more comparatively at a global and a kind of comparative maritime level rather than just being, this is about Indian history.
Of course Gujarat operated as an export zone in the sort of pre-colonial period as well. If you think about Southeast Asia, you know, Gujarati Muslims moving about I mean there’s an era of commercial capitalism, if you will, which probably you know precedes this era of industrial capitalism there are other eras that we see this happening […]
But of course it is exporting to Southeast Asia […]
To Southeast Asia. Okay, yeah.
Hi, I am Julie Stevens.
I am a PhD student in the History Department at Harvard. I wanted to ask you about, I found your sort of account of the way in which during this period custom is being reshaped by new technologies and the kind of new urban environment really compelling but I wanted to ask you how much you see in, to the extent that you are using textual sources, evidence of people reflecting on that process
because I was thinking about when you were talking about using the photograph of the pir to envision him in your mind and also then the way in which Habib Ali Shah might be both interceding in the spiritual realm and in the labor realm, do you actually see people reflecting on that? Are there sort of instructional texts that tell you how to use a photograph to envision the pir?
Or, are you kind of inferring that? And if it’s not, if you don’t see this sort of textual production of sort of reflection on this, why not? Because I mean I look at for this sort of similar period I have looked at debates about ijtihad and taqlid in which everyone has kind of framed as this colonial reformist debate but I have actually found in the texts there’s a way in which they often feel timeless
and there isn’t in fact a reflection on the colonial context and I am wondering if in these practices it’s similar to the extent that I know what you are looking at is not always going to be easy to find text that they talk about it.
Yeah, that’s a good question, particularly getting us into the materials themselves, which is always enjoyable. I think you are right in terms of the timelessness of certain genres, in other contexts I have talked about what I call these “transcendental genres” and transcendental in the sense that they transcend any historical context. It’s actually you know certain types of these genres that you will be familiar with as well.
One could read it and you can’t necessarily tell if it was written in 1600 or 1900 and I think that again you know I think that itself you know one might say well that’s a kind of the familiar picture of kind of the ending point of invention, the inventiveness of Sufism or of Islam of course in that kind of traditional historiographical model,
but to me that’s actually the cultural capital of custom where the custom genres or modes of expression and so on and with those types of texts which constitute one body of my material certainly, with those my kind of hermeneutic is to try to reconstruct the context in which they were written, in which they lived, the life of their writer, the life of their readers, as fully as possible
so I could as it were try to crack that kind of transcendental rhetoric of, “This is written in any old time,” so to some extent, you know, I’ve had to do a certain work of contextualized hermeneutic with that. In other cases, in many cases, I think what was kind of really fascinating to me as someone who came out of, in fact kind of pre-modern, well medieval and then into early modern and then you know relatively later on,
well kind of later on in my career whatever that means to sort of modern stuff, was how wonderfully imaginatively fascinating the world created, particularly in the hagiographies and the narrative genres, and I think those narrative genres were in a way much more interesting and differentiated than the more kind of static or transcendental ones.
And what one sees there constantly is the way in which this process of industrialization in all of its forms is kind of shot through with the religious imaginary. So the miracles, as I said, it will be a tower block falling down on these kind of villainous British soldiers, it will be a steamship, one of the classic miracles that comes out of Bombay in the hagiographies is rescuing the steamship, steamships sinking,
it’s that kind of Lord Jim, kind of Conrad moment, but then in steps you know one of these pirs lift it up on his shoulder or throws it away, the rescues on the train for example many of those. So in fact the entire imaginary of Bombay Islam I think in particularly the chief genres of the hagiography, the story book, which of course is a book of stories that reaches out to this larger demographic. It’s part of an economy of enchantment,
an economy of entertainment. These are fun stories to believe, to hear, and perhaps believe or buy into, so there certainly one finds, kind of, more of the clues.
So in short, with some of the texts I’ve had to do that contextualized, and you know one might argue, is kind of problematic because you know there isn’t the smoking gun there in the text but the other cases, you know, the smoking gun is kind of you know hallmarked on the paper.
[…] graduate student at Princeton. I wanted to actually follow up on Professor Bose’s question and turn to the Agha Khan case that you talked about and perhaps push at looking at the ways in which the State did regulate a particular Bombay variant of Islam. So even before the Agha Khan case there’s a series of inheritance cases involving Khojas where the State comes to determine whether Khojas are Muslims or Hindus and what […] to play.
There is a series of cases involving Khatchimanans and these have real consequences in the disposition of property so one wants to think of religious economy in a more conventional sense of actual ownership of property and capital within Bombay then it seems that the State’s determination
of what constitutes Bombay Islam would play a significant role which I am not sure how these groups would negotiate and certainly the proletariat would not have the capacity to negotiate so […]
Yeah. Well that’s right, again I think you are certainly right and I brought up the Agha Khan case and you’re right, there are a whole series of these and this is the case with various other groups as well. It’s largely about, you’re quite right, it’s about the material economy of either tithes or land holdings or income from shrines or other pilgrimage centers and this happens with Khojas and Bohras
and with various other non-Muslim groups altogether as well. So certainly you know the State does have a role but what has a role there is law on the one hand, of course we have to bear in mind that these are all cases that have been brought to the State and at least for my analysis, to me that’s a rather different thing than for example having the State
which could create to religious as it were a state church or a state religion. The State has a role when people, the State does intervene certainly when various religious actors bring a case, a legal case to the State.
[…] there might not be a state church, but there is clearly a state vision of Islam or, at least, Islamic law that’s being administered through the court system. So the perceived openness of the religious market is something that, I mean I think law is an interesting way to think through it.
Yeah, I think you are right and there are certainly these kinks in the system and what we don’t have here and I wouldn’t pretend that we have here is entirely deregulated economy because there was never any such thing that at any point in history anywhere. There never is. All economy is a kind of more regulated or less regulated. So this is I think a much less regulated economy compared to
particularly I think in some cases what had happened before but I certainly wouldn’t contradict you but I just think that those cases there, they’re not, particular groups, particular instances, particular sets of resources, and they are not the kind of larger demographic at work. But I think it’s a very fair point and I think one in which again
you know kind of clearly the state does have a role but it’s not in creating an economy, I’m sorry, creating a monopoly.
My name is Mircea Raianu. I am a PhD student at Harvard as well. First, I just want to say that I really love the book and I’ve really enjoyed it, so thank you.
Thank you for that.
So my question is actually about the end point, about 1915 and just to sort of push you even further into the modern period. So first just some comments on why more on why that end point and then one of the factors that seems to me in this model is the relative absence of formal political participation among this working-class demographic and what happens to the model once that begins to not be the case, once we have what we would call
mass politics, whether that is of the Muslim league variety whether that is as in the Chandavarkar case with Marxist and working-class trade union politics. So what happens to the model and what kinds of actors are well positioned to win out of that transformation to mass politics and who might lose out?
Ok, good questions. So, why 1915 and what happens after 1915? Well the reason for me which is 1915 is the closing point are several. One is that I think from 1915 in simplest terms there’s more work being done I think ,whether with Jim Masselos, or the actual labor historiography really tends to pick up in terms of its source materials and so on from around that period, but symbolically I choose 1915
because that’s the era when Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a Bombay Muslim becomes the head of the Muslim League as I mentioned earlier. And for me that sets in motion a whole set of other trajectories other forms of the organization of religion, of course a political party is, a particularly religious political party, is a form of the organization of religion, it’s a new type of religious firm
and it’s a type of religious firm I think and the organization of religion being framed in national terms moves away from what we have seen in Bombay Islam up to that point. It moves much more to a national focus and also moves into a set of developments already well known and there is no point in me just adding a little bit to them so I stop there because I think there is actually a turning away point when Bombay Islam does become
more nationalized rather than more maritime, but also I think because this is kind of also as I say already well known. On the other hand I think there are also kind of other changes within the nature of the kind of the liberal economy that I have looked at. There are a new series of press acts that come up, I think there is the 1911 Press Act which is much more kind of controlled and punitive and so on.
So we don’t have kind of so much the liberalized printing economy either, so there is another reason there too. And as I say I think from 1915 also Bombay’s role actually as a major production center is much less. That’s partly because of what happens within India, the rise of the Muslim League and of Muslim nationalism and the organization of religion on national terms but also because by that point
other places have started to catch up. Singapore is printing a lot, in Iran the religious economy is changed considerably one has got shortly afterwards new types of government in which the religious minorities and having a different role, a more central role in the state, there is no need for kind of external religious productivity, there is no real need to print your stuff,
to print your Sufi books or to print your Baha’i books in Bombay and other printing centers and religious production centers have become significant too. So I think Bombay, what I try to map is really the point in which Bombay is most important and most different. I think after 1915 it becomes less important and less different than other places.
Nile as I have heard you speaking, I have also really enjoyed your book, as I have heard you speaking something has become very clear to me which is the specificity of Bombay. Bombay on the literal and this kind of oceanic, western oceanic world. I want to come back however to the model if not the metaphor of the market because I wonder if using that particular model does kind of creates a certain space for a study
but by doing that it perhaps also occludes at least two other spaces. One would be a more comparative space with other kinds of areas in South Asia, I am thinking specifically of Bengal and what’s happening in Bengal with Islam at this time and come back to that in a moment, as well as the space of the self and what’s happening inside individuals, and in that sense thinking of Ayesha Jalal’s work,
Muzaffar Alam’s work, the notion of ijtihad as something that’s internal, how are cells being constructed and the notions of hermeneutics that are going on inside, does that space of the self get occluded, the space of other comparative arenas, you could say, within South Asia that are outside the literal domain, LITT. I think, for example, of what’s happening at the southern tip at the southern peninsula.
It seems to me the metaphor or, sorry, the model of the market does kind of lock us into the 19th century. This being a question of industrialization, of industrialized Bombay, but if we think of, you know, what you are saying which is, “Look. these kinds of religiosity, religiosities are born through travel, through circulation this is how people practice religion when they move.
They have shrines, magic becomes important, having some kind of fictive relationship to a saint becomes important.” We see that happening in the 15, the 1600’s in places like Cochin so this is outside certainly that era of the 19th century. We look at Bengal in the 19th century, the rise of the Faraizi movement and in particular at the end of the 19th century which was an agrarian movement
which was not really so much about shrines and it was more reformist perhaps, but it was not a reformism from the top down. It was really of agrarian peasants trying to move up and using that you know using a non-magical form of religiosity in order to claim status against elites. So, I mean, how do we take that into consideration and how do we take the self into consideration in terms of these different spaces?
Ok, yeah very good. Well, I think certainly what I have shown is I think there are two levels I think to what the book is about and one is the particular and one is the general. I think, as I’ve said, there are many different types of religious economy and they will be always different according to the particular local circumstances of religious supply and demand. So I think certainly what I’ve mapped out is Bombay’s religious economy,
shown it to be, as you said, more literal, more oceanic or between or actually connecting India into this oceanic hinterland, but I think ultimately what a religious economy is is the study of social interactions and the social interactions have to be very concrete. So I think by the very fact that yes, what I have shown that Bombay doesn’t really tell us much about North India or about Bengal,
that for me is useful and instructive because it gets us away from the long-standing fallacy in the literature of South Asian Islam, Indian Islam and I think that makes no sense, unless we’re really connecting who is in contact with whom, who is reading what, who is following whom, in fact the exchanges of a religious economy. So, religious economies, the religious economy of Bengal is going to have, of course,
this is a period in which there are interconnections going on, but that needs to be shaked out quite differently rather than assuming that well because it’s all India, colonial India or whatever India, it is somehow automatically connected. So I think the model itself could be applied or the actual kind of tools and techniques of religious economy analysis could be applied to Bengal or anywhere else and show different outcomes
and it’s that kind of, the potential to show different outcomes that I think is fruitful because that’s why I think at the moment we have a historiography of, something else is going on different in Bombay and wherever else but it’s all somehow Indian Islam and it’s mixed up and I think it actually allows us to disentangle all that but still to make sense of these often quite different zones of interaction even though yes, certainly,
by the time we start to have the new religious firm, the political party, Muslim nationalism then maybe a kind of nation-based analysis for people to buy into that religious firm in different bits of the subcontinent of course becomes useful. The question then about the interior life of religion. I think broadly speaking, yeah as I said, this isn't phenomenology
and I think historical phenomenology has kind of been out of fashion for a while, but I think when it is well done I think it can be very useful and religious economy cannot do that. Religious economy is really concerned with social interactions, outward lives, but I think those outward you know, insofar as inner identities are of course shaped by external social interactions I think what we do see
and I think what one can infer from the materials of Bombay in the success of these types of hierarchical customary firms is I think something that is I think you know a bit of kind of, simple empiricism observation can again testify to, is I think the continuity of a customary consciousness, a sense of kind of internal identities that is still very hierarchical.
And I say this as […] myself, that I think there is a kind of consciousness there of hierarchy and the proletarians of Bombay remain religiously on the bottom and I think they know that. And that’s not, as I say, it is a kind of Hobbesian outcome, it’s not very pretty, it’s not very empowering but I think that is there insofar as we can trace what this Bombay Islam does to people’s interior lives.
I think people interiorize that hierarchy. Indeed, many of the rituals we look at, the picturing of the sheikh, these types of rituals are actually ways I think psychologically of interiorizing those external social hierarchies among Muslims.
Is there one last question. You sure? Please go ahead. We will put to you one more question Nile and then we will […]
Fahd Shahbad, Duke University, Thank you for the presentation and of course I enjoyed the book very much as well. I’d like to ask you about this idea of religious economy mapping onto commercial economy and forgive me if this sounds a bit of a basic question or if I am not able to formulate it quite eloquently. I just want to ask about the different points of intersection.
So you show us very well how this sort of emergence of industry in Bombay and this sort of pluralization of different religious forms and things like that, then what are, I guess, the other points of intersection? The shrines that you talk about are providing these sorts of spiritual services but are they doing anything else that might map onto a commercial economy? Are they providing sort of legal services,
dispute resolution services, is there any other, so not to think of this Bombay Islam not just as a moralizing force within this industrializing Bombay, but also some sort of regulatory force well. I don’t know if that makes any sense at all but […]
Yeah, I think so but I am not sure I am seeing the link to the commercial economy.
That […] part and parcel sort of this sort of influx of different sorts of laborers and things like that there would be sort of presumably an increase in disputes over wages,
over all sorts of things and that these sorts of shrines would act as sort of regulatory institutions as well within this commercial economy and not simply just a sort of a moralizing force within this sort of […]
Ok, now I am with you. Okay, I think surely that was the case at least when one looks comparatively at what types of services, other shrines do in other regions of India that would seem to be most likely the case. Simply that wasn’t really reflected in the kind of textual materials I had and I tried really in the book to kind of stay close to those really, to try and keep everything rooted in the sources,
but I think one could infer that was surely most likely the case. And I think what one can see I think in terms of, if not dispute resolution, but one can see in terms of regulating I think trying to, the shrines and other types of religious firms, the brotherhoods, really trying to and indeed the Anjuman-e-Islam itself, in fact the reformists too, really reacting to, not just this is Islam,
but really reacting to these very concrete localized socio-religious or demographic problem of all these different people coming together and they’ve got different customs, they are not all following Sharia by any means, they’ve got their own customary laws and ways of behavior and I think the shrines become places because one does see coming out of them these kind of adab manuals particularly the adab manual of how
to behave in the festivals, how to behave at the gatherings, so I think there is certainly kind of and this maybe works towards Bayly’s uniformity except this is not one uniformity, this is multiple uniformities, there are different patterns of you know kind of multiple standards going on ultimately in the bigger picture, diversification, but I think that is certainly going on in terms of trying to regulate different
forms of behavior and particularly again it’s a question of seeing these some of the kind of these sources in their own context, what does it mean, people have been saying for centuries when you go to a mahfili samha when you come to these musical gatherings you got to sit straight, you got to be quiet, you got to not get into too much ecstasy and all this stuff, so people said that for centuries.
But when you suddenly look in Bombay it’s like 100,000 people are turning up and this is a city with a history of riots too and different types of people are turning up that’s a whole other deal isn’t it then like six people misbehaving. So again those types of texts might have been around for a while but I think read contextually there’s actually something quite significant
about trying to in a way kind of control really these unruly masses and again I think that plays into the inter-class kind of dynamic between the most many I think the most successful religious firms, shrine-based, who are kind of ashraf, hierarchy-type figures and their kind of relationships and there actually in many cases quite dispiriting sense of the unruly urban proletariat, long may they flourish.
All right, well, Nile thank you very much for drawing for us the religious economy of Bengal in a kind of high definition and answering our questions and allowing us to think along with you. That was very enjoyable. So, thank you very much.
Well, thank you, very stimulating.