Work In Progress: Megan Robb, "Urban Emotions in Seclusion: An Early-Twentieth Century Muslim Wedding in Shahjahanabad.
Monday, November 7, 2016 - 8:30am

Please join us for a Work-In-Progress lunch with Megan Robb (Religious Studies). We will be discussing Dr. Robb's new article: Urban Emotions in Seclusion: An Early-Twentieth Century Muslim Wedding in Shahjahanabad.

Discussant: Fariha Khan, Asian American Studies

Discussant: Kathy Brown, History, GSWS Core Faculty

GSWS Conference Room, 3810 Walnut Street

In discussions of the history of urban South Asia prior to 1950, few figures have attracted such scrutiny, either by contemporaries or scholars, as the secluded or pardah nashin woman. As scholarship has noted, the private woman was closely linked to public rituals and urban landscapes, and the boundary between private and public porous and a subject of constant negotiation. What has received less attention is how aesthetic decisions, interaction with space, and the emotions performed and produced by domestic rituals acted as a locus for selffashioning of women’s modern selves. The early-twentieth-century North Indian world was one in which literacy was on the rise, and reformists had long since become concerned to weed out Hindu practices among Muslims. The account analysed here, in contrast, amounts to an acceptance of syncretic practice, and a highlighting of the emphasis on emotions produced by the collision of senses in ceremony. S. Begum Dehlavi published her account in an urban context where women who remained almost permanently inside their homes nevertheless related themselves intimately to the city around them, remaining acutely aware of their place in a complex mental map of relationships and landmarks in the city.

This article brings S. Begum Dehlavi’s life writing into conversation with her urban environment in order to gain a new perspective on affective responses to urban life in North India in the first half of the twentieth century. To this end, this article analyses an Urdu account of a typical wedding in Shahjhahanabad in the century’s first decade. The first section of this article describes S. Begum’s book in the context of reformist writing on women, and its links to a prominent publisher of secluded women’s writings; the second section focuses on three conclusions, each with implications for history of the emotions and urban history.

For a full schedule of the Alice Paul Center's 2016-2017 Works-in-Process