Tribe, Diaspora, and Sainthood in Indo-Afghan History

Nile Green

in Making Space

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780198077961
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199080991 | DOI:
Tribe, Diaspora, and Sainthood in Indo-Afghan History

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This chapter examines the migration of large numbers of Afghans into India/Pakistan during the medieval and early modern periods. By drawing on a large number of Persian histories of the Afghans written in India, it argues that it was in the cosmopolitan cultural mix of the Indian diaspora that an ‘Afghan’ identity was first created by drawing on and adapting models of history and identity from high prestige Muslim groups in India. With the Afghans’ absorption into the Mughal empire earlier patterns of accommodation to the Indian environment were overturned through the writing of history, whereby the Afghan past and present were carefully mapped through the organising principle of genealogy. While the Afghan religious world was being re-shaped by the impact of empire, in response tales of expressly Afghan saints served to tribalise the ties of Islam. With the decline of Mughal power, the collective ‘Afghan’ identity of the diaspora was transmitted to the new Afghan state, where the relationship of this tribal template of Afghan authenticity to the non-Pashtun peoples of Afghanistan remains the defining controversy of national identity. Early modern migration is thus seen to have longstanding effects in the present day.

Keywords: Afghanistan; Afghans; Pashtuns; India; Pakistan; South Asia; migration; Indo-Persian; tribe; Mughal; sainthood

Chapter.  19004 words.  Illustrated.

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