My dissertation examines intersections of language, dynasticism, and competing conceptions of the state in early colonial India. Focusing on the Mughal successor regime of Awadh (1722-1856) and its relations with the ascendant British East India Company, my research illustrates how the household establishments (sarkars) of local Indian rulers were reimagined as institutionally distinct "states" and disaggregated from the larger complexes of familial power in which they had previously been embedded. In the short term, I argue that through a shared Indo-Persian political lexicon, Awadh's male rulers (nawabs) used their alliance with the Company to bolster their claims to unitary sovereignty as sole heads of state and to dynastic property as exclusive familial patriarchs. In the long term, however, by subordinating their households and families to "the state," I contend they not only rendered themselves seemingly disposable to the project of modern governance but also helped fashion for the colonial regime a durable--if contradictory--conceptual vocabulary that continues to shape the language of politics in South Asia to the present.

Growing out of related work on eunuch administrators in Awadh, my next project will explore multiple visions of masculinity and administrative culture in the late Mughal empire and its successor states by tracing discourses of "manliness" (mardanagi) and "corruption" (bid'at) in Indo-Persian histories, political tracts, medical treatises, and compendia of erotic and didactic tales.


Field:

  • Early Modern and Colonial South Asia; Medieval and Early Modern Islamic World; Gender and Family

MA Title:

  • "State and Faction: Ethnicity and Political Practice in the Sultanate of Gujarat, 1420-1573"

Working Dissertation Title:

  • “Household, Family, and State: Negotiating Sovereignty and Sarkar in the Awadh Nawabi, c. 1775-1840”

Selected Publications:

  • "Bringing the Sarkar Back In: Translating Patrimonialism and the State in Early Modern and Early Colonial India," in J. Brooke, J. Strauss, and G. Anderson, eds., State Formations: Histories and Cultures of Statehood (Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming)

Awards:

  • Center for Historical Research, The Ohio State University, Dissertation Fellowship (2015-16)
  • Department of Education, Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship (2013-14)

Professional Affiliations:

  • Member, American Historical Association
  • Member, Association of Asian Studies
  • Member, Law and Society Association

Courses Taught as TA:

  • An Introduction to World History (Spring 2017)
  • The Crusades: Christianity and Islam (Fall 2011, 2012, and 2014)
  • History of South Asia (Fall 2007 and Spring 2008)

Courses Taught as Instructor:

  • Introduction to Speech Composition (Fall 2016)
  • World History, 1500 to the Present (Lindenwood University, Summer 2010 and 2011)
Grad

Nicholas J. Abbott

nabbott@wisc.edu

Advisor:
André Wink