Making and Unmaking Community: Urban Life in Persianate Rajasthan

by Elizabeth Thelen

How did diverse religious, occupational, and ethnic communities live side-by-side in precolonial Rajasthan’s cities? This talk presents several case studies from the city of Nagaur that show how people ranging from Sufi Shaikhs to cloth-dyers, and kings to cowherds understood and navigated social difference in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Even outside the major capital cities, urban life was impacted by the wider political economy, especially the region’s evolving ties to the Mughal Empire. Persian and Rajasthani legal documents reveal how various groups created and reinforced community boundaries through everyday conflicts while they faced challenges such as changing patronage networks, new administrative systems, and war. This talk introduces Dr. Thelen’s new book, Urban Histories of Rajasthan: Religion, Politics and Society (1550-1800).

About the speaker:

Elizabeth Thelen (PhD) is a historian of South Asia and honorary research fellow in the College of Humanities, University of Exeter. She studies the legal, social and religious history of Rajasthan. Her book, Urban Histories of Rajasthan: Religion, Politics and Society (1550-1800) (Gingko, 2022), is part of the BIPS Persian Studies Series. She is also the author of ‘Disputed Transactions: Documents, Language, and Authority in Eighteenth-Century Marwar’ and an editor of the digital resource Lawforms: Digitised Legal Documents from the Indo-Persian World.

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