Accepted Paper:

Poetic marketplaces and secular ethics in eighteenth-century India  

Author:

Nida Sajid (Georg-August-Universit├Ąt )

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates the ways in which the imaginative topography and the humanist vocabulary of Nazir Akbarabadi's poetry intersects with as well as diverges from the existing norms of literary creativity and devotional literature to articulate a secular ethics in the eighteenth century.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores different modalities through which questions of secular ethics inform the works of an eighteenth-century poet, Nazir Akbarabadi. While some critics have consistently argued for keeping his poetic works within the confines of religious and mystical experience, others have explored venues to suture together distinct manifestations of secularism and subalternity in Akbarabadi's poetry. Taking into account these debates in literary criticism, this paper investigates the ways in which the imaginative topography of Akbarabadi's poetry intersects with as well as diverges from the existing norms of literary creativity and devotional literature in the eighteenth century. Paying particular attention to the complex terrain of religious ideologies and aesthetic production, the main objective of this paper is to heighten our awareness of Akbarabadi's revisionist reading of customs and practices that mark the embeddedness of an individual self in social collectivities. By investigating and potentially destabilizing the religious/secular opposition, Akbarabadi creates possibilities of articulating a shared community of affective belonging to overcome the shortcomings religious orthodoxies. This paper specifically looks at how the humanist vocabulary in Akbarabadi's poetry delineates the borders of 'everyday' life in the marketplaces of Agra and, concomitantly, shapes a complex aesthetics as well as praxis of social justice within networks of trade and religious authority. By offering a self-reflexive stance on the intertwined worlds of desire, consumption, and piety, Akbarabadi challenges essentialist constructions of difference and identity and provides a nuanced rethinking of poetry as a dynamic, multidirectional act of ethical engagement in the eighteenth century.

Panel P24
Secular knowledge systems in early modern literary cultures