[CSH-CPR Workshop #Hybrid] Qasbah to Municipality: Contesting Social Hierarchy at Local Boards in the United Provinces (1916-1946) (S. Niazi)

[CSH-CPR Workshop #Hybrid] Qasbah to Municipality: Contesting Social Hierarchy at Local Boards in the United Provinces (1916-1946) (S. Niazi)

Event Details

The Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH) & Centre for Policy Research (CPR)

are pleased to invite you to a Digital Urban Workshop (n°157)



(Post-doctoral Fellow, International Institute of Asian Studies in Leiden, Netherlands)


Qasbah to Municipality: Contesting Social Hierarchy at Local Boards in the United Provinces (1916-1946)


Tuesday, 28 March 2023, at 3:45 pm IST onwards

The event will be in hybrid mode at the CPR office (Conference Room, Dharma Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi) and over Zoom.

About the Talk

Qasbah towns in the United Provinces with a significant Muslim population have been traditionally dominated by ashrāf (elite Muslims) and were often described in historical literature as “Islamic gentry towns” (Bayly, 1983). These qasbah towns were memorialized through ashrāf narratives of nostalgia as a lament for certain “qasbati” culture and were considered to be either the bedrock of Muslim separatism (Francis Robinson) or as plural, cosmopolitan spaces (Mushirul Hasan). Qasbah towns in colonial India were also marketplaces and centers of economic activity flourishing with opportunities in trade and commerce.

This talk will complicate a simplistic portrayal of the qasbah town by foregrounding local social hierarchies as the basis of political contestations that took place in the arena of local municipal boards in the early decades of the twentieth century. With the introduction of the UP Municipalities Act in 1916, a process of “democratization” and “decentralization” of local municipal boards gave impetus to new social actors such as merchants and traders to compete with old traditional elites. In particular, the talk will focus on the politics of the Jamiat-ul Quraish, an organization of Muslim traders associated with meat, tanning and leather. In doing so, it will show their engagement with the new rules and regulations of the municipal boards regarding meat trade, slaughterhouses and octroi tax, among others, to situate the broader implications of the cow protection movement that dominated the politics of qasbah towns in colonial India.

About the Speaker

Soheb Niazi is a historian whose area of expertise is the social and economic history of modern India. He is particularly interested in studying the history of non-elite (non-ashrāf) Muslim actors in South Asia and to understand the formation of caste and class relations among them. He defended his Ph.D. dissertation at the Department of History and Culture Studies at the Freie Universität, Berlin and has been a post-doctoral research fellow at the Max Weber Forum for South Asian Studies. Currently he is developing his PhD dissertation into a book manuscript tentatively titled “Contesting Genealogies: Hierarchy and Social Mobility among Muslim Occupational Classes in Colonial North India (1870-1940).”

This is the hundred and fifty-seven (157) in a series of Urban Workshops planned by the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), New Delhi and Centre for Policy Research (CPR). These workshops seek to provoke public discussion on issues relating to the development of the city and try to address all its facets including its administration, culture, economy, society and politics. For further information, please contact: Stéphanie Tawa Lama of CSH at tawalama@ehess.frMukta Naik at mukta@cprindia.org or Marie-Hélène Zerah at marie-helene.zerah@ird.fr

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