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SAP: “The Afterlife of Islamic Architecture: Ethics, Ecology, and Other Times in the Medieval Ruins of Delhi"

Monday, September 19, 2016 at 12:15pm to 1:15pm

Uris Hall, G08

While doing research in Delhi, I often heard stories of people’s dreams and visions of white robed Muslim saints amongst Delhi’s medieval monuments.  Dreams and visions of saints, as Amira Mittermaier’s (2011) work on dreaming in contemporary Egypt has shown us, are conceptualized as coming from an Elsewhere, not from inside the unconscious but from outside the subject. But the persistent connection between these visions and medieval ruins in Delhi indicates that these visions are also linked to elsewhen, times other than the contemporary moment. Here the past exists as a field of potential—what could have been and what could be again—which destabilizes the inevitability of present states of affairs. Saints present among ruins gained prominent followings, as I explore in this paper, after periods of colonial and post-colonial state violence. Ruins serve as thresholds of multiple temporality not just in dreams and visions, but also in ritual, and in cinema. In each of these modes, ruins hold open ethical potential, the possibility of transformation of current states of affairs for both individuals and communities. I briefly analyze each of these modes of multiple temporality in this paper, and end with some thoughts on the persistent connection of Islam to the pre-colonial elsewhen in the dreamscapes and landscapes of contemporary north India.

Biography: Anand Vivek Taneja is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Anthropology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. His research and teaching interests include the anthropology of religion, historical and contemporary Islam and inter-faith relations in South Asia, everyday life and post-colonial urbanism, Urdu literature, and Bombay cinema. His peer-reviewed articles have been published in the Indian Economic and Social History Review,  HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, and Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He is currently finishing a book on time, Islam, and ecological thought in the medieval ruins of Delhi.    


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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, South Asia Program


anthro, anthro-colloquium


Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Barry Doeffinger

Contact Phone

(607) 255-8493


Anand V. Taneja

Speaker Affiliation

Prof. Dept. of Religious Studies & Anthro, Vanderbilt University

Disability Access Information

G08 accessible to all, others call (607) 255-8493

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