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‘We too shall see another world’: Urdu Poetry and the Practice of Political Resistance

Asia
India
Islam
Political Theory
Developing World Politics
Global
Identity
International
Medha Medha
German Institute of Global And Area Studies
Amit Julka
Asia Research Institute
Medha Medha
German Institute of Global And Area Studies

Abstract

This paper analyses Urdu poetic expression in late-colonial India as a decolonial discourse that sought to escape the emergent nation-state as a primary form of political and cultural belonging in the modern world. The anti-colonial negotiation of the colonial encounter was not an isolated endeavour: formally and informally, anti-colonial activists from across the world engaged with each other, forged alliances and reiterated the interconnected nature of their struggle – often drawing upon pre-colonial ties as a basis for these links. Even as they drew upon this internationalism, a range of anti-colonial thinkers from India struggled to reconcile the struggle for independence with the increasing hegemony of the nation-state as the primary organizing and aspirational principle of global order. Deeply concerned about the particularising tendencies of the nation-form anti-colonial intellectuals in India had long apprehended the nation-state as a colonial technology and pursued various alternate political imaginaries delinked from the nation-state. In this paper, I approach Urdu poetry as a practice through which these various alternate political imaginaries were enacted and made publicly available, making possible an emotional resistance to the hegemonic nation that has resonance up to the present day as evidenced in the revival of this poetry in recent protest movements.