Harini Kumar

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Chicago, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9736

Approve Date

October 23, 2018

Project Title

Kumar, Harini, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'Formations of Tamil Islam: Negotiations and Contestations in Contemporary South India,' supervised by Dr. William T.S. Mazzarella

HARINI KUMAR, then a graduate student at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, was awarded a grant in October 2018 to aid research on ‘Formations of Tamil Islam: Negotiations and Contestations in Contemporary South India,’ supervised by Dr. William T.S. Mazzarella. This project is an ethnography of Muslim belonging in contemporary India. Specifically, it analyzes how Muslim communities in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu sustain longstanding attachments to diverse traditions, histories, and places, at a time when non-national and non-Hindu forms of affinity are increasingly treated with suspicion by a prejudicial regime. At the same time, it asks: how can we understand contemporary Muslim life outside the shadow of a Hindu majoritarian and nationalist discourse? By attending to sensibilities that exceed both the totalizing logics of Hindu majoritarian oppression and prevailing antagonisms such as Hindu vs. Muslim or majority vs. minority, this dissertation attempts to open up an analytical and historical space to consider how inherited traditions and genealogical ties endure in the present, and why they matter. Drawing on fifteen months of ethnographic research conducted across Tamil Nadu, this dissertation argues that we cannot understand Muslim belonging without considering the everyday forms of relatedness between people, places, and non-humans in a plurality of sites through which people forge their commitment to specific ethicopolitical projects and orient themselves to an Islamic way of life in a Tamil milieu. This work seeks to push past statist discourses of citizenship toward a more expansive understanding of belonging that draws on longer histories and traditions whose vitality in the present, however fraught and uncertain, precedes the dominant notion that belonging can only be mediated by the nation-state and its technologies of exclusion.