Sarah Ansari (Royal Holloway, University of London) speaks at the Oxford South Asian Intellectual History Seminar on 31 Oct 2022
South Asia’s transition from colonialism to independence in 1947 was undoubtedly one of the most momentous events of the twentieth century. Not surprisingly perhaps, its early postcolonial years have come to exercise a great pull for a range of scholars, who explore this key period, on the one hand, to ask questions about colonial-era legacies or continuities, and, on the other, to identify developments that help to explain what is happening there in the twenty-first century. This paper accordingly explores how - during those early postcolonial years - ideas about, and forms of, citizenship were created or forged by contingent processes of interaction between the ‘state’ – its representatives and institutions at different levels – and ‘society’ – its citizens in-the-making. Very often, as this paper will highlight, it was the day-to-day realities of the time that directly shaped the broader context in which Pakistanis and Indians engaged with what it seemed to mean, in practice, to be a citizen in post-1947 South Asia.
Sarah Ansari is a historian of modern and contemporary South Asia, based at Royal Holloway, University of London. Much of her research has focused on issues linked with religion, identity, migration, citizenship, gender, and the province of Sindh, both before and since 1947. Her latest monograph—co-written with William Gould and entitled Boundaries of Belonging (Cambridge University Press, 2019)—explores the intersections between localities, citizenship and rights as these played out in India (UP) and Pakistan (Sindh) during the decade following Independence. Sarah is also currently President of the Royal Asiatic Society, the first woman to hold this role in the institution's 200-year existence.