Islam and the Army in Colonial India Sepoy Religion in the Service of Empire by Nile Green (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. 217 pages.)

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Sajjad H. Rizvi

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Abstract

After what seems like a strange absence of academic interest, the study of
Muslims in South Asia is catching up – and not all of that interest is motivated
by the contemporary concerns of counter-terrorism and Af-Pak strategy.
Part of this intellectual revival has been focused on the Deccan, and
one of the best and brightest young historians working in the area is Nile
Green, who now teaches at UCLA.
The author posits three primary contributions to wider historiographical
debates. First, it engages the social history of how empire impinged
upon communities and practices and often co-opted and promoted them,
thereby allowing us greater insight into its workings to suggest that partnerships
were essential to perpetuating power, especially in India, where
the number of actual British soldiers and administrators on the ground was
never sufficient for an absolutist colonial empire. As such, it allows us to
peek into an alternative form of subaltern interaction and agency. This is
significant, given the neglect to a large extent of the study of religion on
the part of subalternists. Second, the book demonstrates how cultural practices
and the invention of norms were central to fostering military culture
and performance of the British Indian Army, which involves the selective
promotion of certain forms of religiosity. It provides further evidence for ...

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