Against History, Against State

Against History, Against State

Product ID: 13514

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Author: Shail Mayaram
Publisher: Permanent Black
Year: 2004
Language: English
Pages: 316
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8178240963


This important new book will interest historians, anthropologists, sociologist, political scientists, and all students of the complex relationships between Hinduism, Islam, and the Indian state.

Reassessing conventional South Asian historiography from a subaltern perspective, Against History, Against State examines how conceptions of history and memory clash. For nearly a millennium, the Meos of north India-one of the largest Muslim populations in south Asia-endured a succession of brutally oppressive regimes, from the Arab conquest in the eighth century through to the establishment of the Turkish sultanate, the Mughal empire, the regional Rajput kingdoms, and the era of British imperialism. Unwilling to abandon their ethnic and religious identity, the Meos developed an independent oral tradition that enabled them to challenge state formation for centuries.

By creating an alternative record of their past through songs and stories, the Meos were able to successfully retain a degree of cultural sovereignty. But their quest for autonomy was stigmatized, even criminalized, while histories-written by the literate, ruling elite-transformed ethnic prejudice into historical fact.

This pioneering study, based on a decade on intensive research, explores the Meo community through their oral tradition, revealing sophisticated modes of collective memory and self-governance. Against history, against State reveals the remarkable complexity and resilience of a transgressive culture that has survived on the margins of Hinduism and Islam.


Mayaram’s book represents the voice of a people not otherwise visible in the written record. Her greatest achievement is constructing a subjective history of the State, Mayaram’s careful, inventive, and meticulous scholarship is impressive.-Susanne Rudolph, University of Chicago

A significant contribution to studies of subaltern dissent.
-Gananath Obeyesekere, Princeton University


List of Illustrations



A Note on Transcription and Transliteration


The Making of Meo Marginality

Antistate: The Pal Polity

Toward a Critique of Indo-Persian Historiography

Imperial State Formation and Resistance

The Construction of Meo Criminality: Toward a Critique of Colonial Ethnography

Crime, Feud, and Resistance in Early Nineteenth-Century Mewat

The Prose and Verse of Rebellion: The Gadar of 1857

Kings, peasants, and Bandits


Appendix: Meo Narratives in Summary