Voting from the Rooftops: Reflections on Religion and Politics from Mughal India
This hybrid event will be held in person in 370 Dwinelle Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. Physical attendance will be limited. The event will also be available online via Zoom. Registration is required here
Abhishek Kaicker, Associate Professor, Department of History
Given the apparent lack of engagement with Greco-Roman thought on democracy and republicanism in India before modernity, in what way might we relate a history of voting the divine in the region? In this lecture I will suggest that despite the absence of practices such as voting, we may observe the entanglement of the practices of collective decision-making with sacral engagements across South Asia in the early modern period. To see such entanglements, however, will require us to question the standard distinctions which have divided the realm of politics from that of religion in the study of the region.
Abhishek Kaicker is a historian of Persianate South Asia (c. 1200-1900) with expertise in the history of the Mughal empire. He is interested in questions of intellectual history and the history of concepts; early modern global history; religion, politics and the city; and more generally in the continuities between precolonial and postcolonial south Asia.
His first book, The King the People: Sovereignty and Popular Politics in Mughal Delhi (OUP 2020) shows how ordinary urbanites emerged as assertive political subjects in the Mughal capital of Shahjahanabad (Delhi) over the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He is now engaged in two new major research projects: one, a prehistory of the British conquest of Bengal in 1757 from the perspective of the Mughal empire; and another on the transformation of Mughal modes of popular politics into modern modes of communalism in North India under colonial rule in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He is also writing a biography of Anand Ram Mukhlis, an eighteenth-century courtier, scribe, essayist, diarist, poet, connoisseur, gourmand, oenophile and inveterate aficionado of all things Delhi.
Together with Professors Asad Ahmed (Berkeley) and Lawrence McCrea (Cornell), Professor Kaicker is an editor of the Journal of South Asian Intellectual History, a new peer-reviewed venue for emerging conversations on the intellectual history and culture of premodern South Asia.
Abhishek Kaicker earned his PhD from Columbia University and completed his MA at University of British Columbia.
Presented by the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion with generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation