Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, Vanderbilt University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Vanderbilt University
Political Families and Familial Politics: Family, Gender and Politics in Punjab, 1880s-1950s

This project will re-conceptualize early twentieth century politics in colonial Punjab by analyzing the role of family networks in enabling Muslim women's political participation in this period. Using family as a category of historical and critical analysis, my research will focus on politicians belonging to the professional, middle-class Mian family of Baghbanpura, near Lahore, especially Mian Muhammad Shafi (1869-1932) and his daughter, Begum Jahanara Shahnawaz (1896-1979). First, I will reconstruct their lives and careers, reform-minded promotion of Muslim women's education, and political choices. Second, I will contextualize their actions in the socio-political landscape of late nineteenth-early twentieth century Punjab to develop a narrative encompassing Muslim social reform and Muslim politics – issues that have hitherto been examined in disparate historiographies. I will develop this narrative by combining a critical social history approach to government records with literary close readings of Muslim women's memoirs and other writings. By adopting this family centered, integrated approach, my project will illuminate the historical connections between practitioners of social reform and political actors in Punjabi Muslim society of this period. In light of Shafi and Shahnawaz's experiences as well-known reformers and eminent politicians, this project will then investigate how these forces allowed Punjabi Muslim women to embark on political careers and succeed in public office. My attention to Punjabi Muslims' practice of reform, and Punjabi Muslim women's techniques for doing politics can shed light on late twentieth century emergence of political families – like Bhuttos and Nehrus in Pakistan and India respectively – and the rise of prominent women politicians – such as Benazir Bhutto and Indira Gandhi – in the subcontinent, despite the persistence of gender discriminatory societal paradigms that inhibit most South Asian women's lives.