Prof. Dr. Kama Maclean
Head of Department South Asian History
Phone: +49 (0)6221 - 54 15251
Office hours: by appointment via Mail
As a historian, I locate my research within an interdisciplinary paradigm, inflected with anthropology and informed by relatively new disciplines such as religious studies,
performance studies, cultural studies, and most recently, visual and material culture.
One of the key themes of my research has been political and social communication in late colonial India. Anticolonialism in South Asia anticolonialism challenges Benedict Anderson’s emphasis on the role of print capitalism in nationalist mobilisation. My early projects sought to explain the potency of political and social mobilisation from the late nineteenth century, which thrived despite widespread illiteracy. This was one of the themes in my first book, Pilgrimage and Power: the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), which focused on the act of pilgrimage as an ‘organic’ communication mechanism, spreading ideas about colonialism, nationalism and modernity. Explaining how nationalist sensibilities became dominant in the early twentieth century has become an abiding theme in my work, leading me to study the dynamics of Indian nationalism in the interwar years, the subject of my second monograph, A Revolutionary History of Interwar India: Violence, Image, Voice and Text (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015/New Delhi: Penguin, 2016). I am currently working on a revised edition.
A Revolutionary History made two interventions, methodological and empirical. Methodologically, it moved away from colonial texts to draw on Indian fragments pertaining to the history of revolutionary nationalism in India, drawing on oral histories (voice) but also on visual sources, offering polysemic interpretations of photography, art, and mass-produced posters. Empirically, the book sought to problematise long held narratives about the nonviolent nature of anticolonialism in India, to demonstrate the ways in which political violence intersected with organised nationalism.
My last book, British India, White Australia: Overseas Indians, Intercolonial Relations, and the Empire (UNSW Press, 2020) offered a transnational history of the dynamics of empire, and a history of the early Indian diaspora in Australia, demonstrating how immigration restriction in a ‘white dominion’ impacted on the dynamics of the anticolonial movement in South Asia.
My current project seeks to deepen the sensory turn in South Asian Studies, by asking: what would the history of Indian anticolonialism in the interwar period look like if it were written through sound? Focussing on the sounds reverberating around the broad sphere of politics of the interwar period, in particular the Civil Disobedience movement, a sonic approach to anticolonialism promises to offer fresh insights.