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The songs of belonging: genealogy, community, livelihood and resistance
ANU South Asia Research Centre Seminar
Mukesh Kumar, University of Technology Sydney
Basham Room, Baldessin Precinct Building (110), Ellery Crescent, ANU
Thursday, 24 May, 2018 - 16:30 to 18:00
When the Meo peasant community in north India underwent the process of Islamization mainly at the hands of a reformist group called the Tablighi Jamaat, the centuries-old tradition of the dependent bards’ (the Jogis and Mirasis) folk performances also came under a sharp attack. Although the Meos moved towards Islamisation, the majority bards could not leave their performances for the sake of livelihood. Both audience and performers belonged to the Muslim community who were close to each other under the Jajmāni (patron-client) system and not only traced their community genealogies to the Hindu gods and figures but also produced their version of the Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, and the Shiv- Mahākathā. Their cultural imagination rooted in different-2 Hindu traditions reflects a warrior sensibility (among the Meos) and the detachment from the material world (among the Jogis). This presentation analyses the past and present forms of religious synthesis and separation among them arguing the socio-economic status of a group not only structures a kind of power and domination including the awareness of a collective self in a caste society but also it helps in shaping a new identity. To domination, the powerless bards speak the language of passive resistance through songs.
Mukesh Kumar is currently a final year doctoral student at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) in Australia. Prior moving to Sydney, he studied and taught history in Delhi University. His research interests lie in the intersectionality of caste, religion, culture, politics, and modernity around the shrines of Bhakti and Sufi saints. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and historical materials on two shared shrines in India, he is completing his dissertation on the pre and post reformist nature of shared devotion. He seeks to write more on domination and the politics of knowledge in the future as enough is unnecessarily written about marginalisation when the problem in the world lies with domination.