Margrit Pernau, "Emotions and Colonial Modernity in Colonial India: From Balance to Fervor" (Oxford UP, 2020)


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In her stunning and conceptually adventurous new book Emotions and Colonial Modernity in Colonial India: From Balance to Fervor (Oxford University Press, 2020), Margrit Pernau examines the varied and hugely consequential expressions of and normative investments in emotions in modern South Asian Muslim thought. By considering a wide array of sources including male and female reformist literature, poetry, newspapers, journals, sermons, and much more, Pernau explores the question of how the career of Islam in colonial India saw a paradigmatic shift from emphasis on balance or ‘adl to fervor and ebullience (josh). The intensification rather than the retreat of emotion represents a major feature of South Muslim scholarly thought and culture in late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Pernau convincingly demonstrates. Through the specific case study of modern South Asian Islam, she also presents and argues for novel conceptualizations of modernity as a lived and analytical category, marked not by just the disciplining of the body and emotions, but one infused with emotional politics, passions, and communities. This riveting read will fascinate and interest not only Islam and South Asia specialists, but anyone interested in the interaction of modernity, emotion, religion, and politics.

SherAli Tareen is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall College. His research focuses on Muslim intellectual traditions and debates in early modern and modern South Asia. His book Defending Muhammad in Modernity (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020) received the American Institute of Pakistan Studies 2020 Book Prize. His other academic publications are available here. He can be reached at Listener feedback is most welcome.

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