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Hilal Ahmed

By Richard M. Eaton and Phillip B. Wagoner
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 396 xxvi, Rs. 1250.00


To understand the wider intellectual-political significance of this theoretically nuanced and methodologically sophisticated study of the Deccan’s past, one has to have recourse to a rather precise and systematic interpretive framework. For this obvious reason, the thematic concerns, the conceptual structure, methodological strategies (including the highly innovative use of technology for fieldwork) and the historically informed comments made by the authors on contemporary debates, could be recognized as the possible reference points for engaging with this book. This plausible interpretative reframing, in my view, introduces us to the three broad objectives of the study: (a) how to situate regional centers as the relevant vantage points to study the discourse of Deccan’s past? (b) How to re-envisage historic architecture as a source to trace the historical imaginations of the ‘memory communities’, which inherited it, imbibed it and reused it in a number of ways? (c) How to employ the Sanskrit and the Persian literary traditions (instead of Hindu and Muslim encounter) for getting into the conceptual universe of Deccani politics?  The first thematic question is about the histories of Kalyana, Raichur and Warangal —the cities of Deccan Plateau, which the authors call the ‘secondary centers’ for obvious analytical purposes. The book looks at the complexities of this regional politics, especially in relation to the conventional geo-political division of India into ‘Muslim-north’ and ‘Hindu-south’ in pre-British era. To counter this grand narrative of civilizational conflict, the book pays close attention to the locally constituted political meanings of statehood and maps out various levels of conflicts over these secondary centers of the Deccan. In this sense, the study not merely examines the usual unadventurous questions of history—who possessed what, when and how—but also looks at the symbolic appropriations of these centers into the political discourse of the Deccan in the period 1300-1600.                 Secondly, the book explores the notion of collective memory in a slightly different way. Instead of tracing the contemporary after lives of architectural remains—old mosques, temples, gateways, region specific public buildings of the Deccan, including the famous Charminar of Hyderabad—the book envisages the historic architecture of the Deccan as a multifaceted source and makes a serious attempt to peel off various layers and shades of the past from it. In other words, the book compels us to envisage the imaginations of the past of what Norman Yoffee calls ‘memory communities’. The authors ask a very ...

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