According to a recent Pew Research Report, India is projected to have the largest Muslim population in the world by 2050. Moreover, India has the second largest urban system in the world, with over a third of its population residing in cities. Yet, very little is known about the late twentieth century history of Muslim communities in urban India.
This curricular innovation project ties into notions of justice, equality, and community, by illuminating the historical lives of cities in twentieth and twenty-first century India, with close attention to social, religious, and political transformations amongst Muslim communities due to global migration and urbanization.
In this project, I worked with a rising senior, Aman Madan, who was enrolled in my class and had been working as a research assistant for me in the spring. We travelled to the Southern Indian city of Hyderabad, which is today heralded as the model city for urban growth in India. In the past 70 years, Hyderabad has undergone rapid change from a princely state and national integration to a globalized metropolis, dubbed ‘Silicon Valley of the East’. Yet historians have ignored Hyderabad’s twentieth century past, particularly when it comes to how its Muslim communities have been affected at the local level. This project is the very first to investigate this history and connect it beyond India’s borders.
The question that animates this project is: how do the transnational histories of families give us insights into the neighborhoods of specific cities and what can those neighborhoods, in turn, tell us about the transnational lives of cities?
By following the trajectories of Hyderabadi Muslim families and their personal and professional networks, from India to the Persian Gulf and back, this project contributes to a sorely needed history about the routes to urbanization in twentieth and twenty-first century South Asia. Aman and I conducted oral history interviews with working class and middle-class Hyderabadi Muslim men, women, and their families who have lived in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other Persian Gulf countries and have returned to Hyderabad.
We undertook the digital mapping of particular neighborhoods in Hyderabad to see how they have changed over time as a result of Muslim migration and labor in the Persian Gulf, including economic changes such as the uses of remittances as well as property ownership to gauge class mobility. We will ultimately bring to life the stories of changing neighborhoods, and Muslim communities who have a deep local sense of belonging, by studying family networks across specific urban and transnational sites.