Vernacular Caliphate: Khilafat Movement and the Politics of Islamic Sovereignty across the Globe

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 4:10 PM
Columbia 11 (Washington Hilton)
Selim Karlitekin, Columbia University
Panic over Pan-Islamism and the hysteria around the fanaticism of the ‘Mohammeddan Revival’ in the last quarter of 19th century, I argue, have obscured a much subtle transformation that was taking place across Muslim communities. In this paper, I would like to demonstrate the proliferation of discourses around Islamic sovereignty as an undoing of the racial infrastructure of European imperial governance. Focusing on the North Indian Muslims and their take on Khilafat, I would like to show how Muslims produced themselves as ungovernable subjects. Historiography on the politics of Ottoman Caliphate has exclusively prioritized a state-centered approach. First, the intensification of Ottoman Caliphate’s ecumenical claims during the reign of Abdulhamid II (1876-1909) and then, the utilization of Caliphate by the Committee for Union and Progress to declare a global jihad during World War I have given historians a plethora of cases and questions to explore (Öke 1988, Lüdke 2005, Qureshi 2008, Hassan 2009, Ardıç 2012, Kersten 2015). However, I argue that this literature failed to question the statist consensus on the concept of the caliphate and marginalized its recreation in the colony. Following the recent scholarship that takes seriously the margins of the Islamic world (Zürcher et al. 2016), this paper will inquire into the vernacular politics of Khilafat from 1897 (Turco-Greek War) to 1924 and its critique of the Ottoman Caliphate. Using Urdu, Ottoman and British archival documents, I will delineate the colonial emergence of the Islamic sovereignty which will provide the infrastructure for post-colonial Islamisms.
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