Introduction

A two-day workshop, organised by Rohit De and Robert Travers, will take place in Magdalene College as part of the Exchanges of Economic, Legal and Political Ideas programme.

Though petitioning has a long and rich history in South Asia, the changing genres and languages of petitions have only recently attracted systematic attention from South Asian historians. We hope through the workshop to turn to petitions and petitioning as a lens to examine political ideas and political culture in everyday life over the longue durée. Petitions were instruments through which people could communicate their disagreement or express their desires and will to the dominant, but the form and content of petitions were also mediated by scribal and political elites. They were rooted in specific traditions and languages, drew upon different genres of speech and were channeled through various intermediaries. This makes petitions in South Asia an exciting resource to think about the political space of the everyday, and about political thought in practice.

The workshop aims at bringing together scholars from different periods of South Asian history (early modern, colonial, and contemporary) who are often not in conversation with one another. It will bring into focus the question of changing state structures and relationships with individuals and communities, as well as considering the methodological and theoretical challenges raises by petitions. We hope that focusing on changing genres of petitioning across time can illuminate some of the critical issues in current South Asian historiography, including (but not limited to) questions of historical memory, the formation of publics, ideas of law and subject hood, and changing understandings of the role of the state.

For further information please contact Mary-Rose Cheadle.