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A Socio-Cultural Analysis

M. Raisur Rahman

Edited by Anshu Malhotra and Farina Mir
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2012, pp. lviii 461, Rs. 695.00


As a primordial form of identity, people in the Indian subcontinent possess a remarkable affinity to the place where they come from. Different regions have their own sense of linguistic, literary and cultural dynamics that bind people together while also distinguishing them from those inhabiting other regions. The region of Punjab is no exception. Rather, it is unique and unusual in certain ways. Despite its shifting administrative boundaries during the course of its history and severance between India and Pakistan post-1947, the overall culture of Punjab continues to evoke commonness, attachment, and a shared ground among those related to the region—regardless of differences along myriad lines, including religious, social, political and even historical. It is this notion of ‘Punjabiyat’ or ‘Punjabiness’ that the edited volume under review seeks to address through fifteen different essays written by a host of Punjab experts.The contributors to the volume include C. S. Adcock, Alyssa Ayres, Tony Ballantyne, Anna Bigelow, Markus Daechsel, Louis E. Fenech, David Gilmartin, William J. Glover, Gurinder Singh Mann, Anne Murphy, Harjot Oberoi, Simona Sawhney, Christopher Shackle and the editors themselves have contributed a chapter each.   Conceptualizing Punjab as a region situated in its history, culture, and practice, the editors have carefully grouped the essays into five sections, each focusing on a different aspect of Punjabi culture: language and literature; community and identity; religion and piety; rural, urban, and middle class; and historical and contemporary cosmopolita-nisms. Although both editors are historians—and so are several contributors—the authors draw from their expertise in the disciplines of history, religious studies, comparative litera-ture and architectural history. The essays are thus interdisciplinary in nature and accessible to readers of different groundings. A salient feature of the book is the assiduously crafted introduction that positions the different essays in the overall historiographical schema in the field of Punjab studies, while capably analysing aspects of early modern, colonial, and postcolonial Punjabi history—a task that is no mean feat.   One important facet that captures the gist of the essays is how Punjab is conceived as a notion. Instead of treating it as an administrative entity which has been nebulous and unsteady owing to how its boundaries have shifted throughout its history, even in post-Independent India, the essays consider Punjab as a ‘geographical-cultural core’ (p. xxiii): an entity far more inclusive and extensive. Punjab’s territoriality, in this sense, covers not only the region of ...

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