Shayan Rajani (Assistant Professor, HSS) Publishes article titled “ Competing for Distinction: Lineage and Individual Recognition in Eighteenth-Century Sindh” in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (Cambridge University Press, July 2020).
There is a long tradition of describing Sindh as peculiarly prone to Sayyid veneration. On the face of it, the biographical section of Tuhfat al-Kiram or Gift for the Noble, an eighteenth-century history and geography written in Persian in Sindh, appears to confirm this idea. In listing the notables of Thatta, Sindh's premier city, the author, Mir ʻAli Shir Qaniʻ, orders them by groups, giving priority in his hierarchical arrangement to Sayyids. However, this article examines Tuhfat al-Kiram not as a transparent description of Sindh, but rather as a normative exposition of a Sayyid-led social order. It draws attention to Qaniʻs project of reconciling individual excellence with lineage in a post-Mughal context without a discerning sovereign to uphold a meritorious order. By exploring Qaniʻs silences, particularly on Hindus and women, this article investigates the anxieties that run through this text about the threat to the old Persianate elite of Thatta. This threat spurred Qaniʻ to reimagine a social order in Sindh where claims of descent served to close off mobility in an otherwise meritocratic Persianate society. Sayyid priority in eighteenth-century Sindh was not an established fact, but a newly-fashioned claim, which remained contested and contradictory, even within Tuhfat al-Kiram.
For details: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1356186320000061