This post concludes the sober series of introductions to my PhD project. One important question remained unanswered so far: why Lucknow? It has many answers, two of which I shall give today.

Apart from this post on my fieldsite, there are:
An introductory post to my topic
A post on my conceptual framework
Finally a post on my methodological approach

What I thought it should be like. The first justification for my fieldsite, both in chronological terms and in terms of priority, is an academic one, dictated by the purposes of my project. My language skills restrict me to Hindi/Urdu-speaking North India; the demographics of Muslim communities there then further restrict my choices. Whichever town (or neighbourhood in a larger city) I would have choses needed to be large enough to be targeted by several Muslim organizations, but small enough to provide sufficient intersections between them. To cover the various theological, spiritual and political traditions in Indian Islam, I determined that an appropriate locality should include, say, a mosque affiliated with the Tablighi Jamiat, a madrassah run by the Dawa-e-Islami, a traditional local Dargah and/or Waqf board, a Muslim artisan caste association, and finally a developmental NGO run by Muslims for Muslims. Finally, I wanted to avoid highly politicized places (such as Aligarh or Ayodhya) to prevent a "violence-bias" in my reconstruction of religious identity - arguably, craftsmanship, local folklore, and non-violent politics might prove equally important for Muslim belonging. With this list of criteria, I soon narrowed my selection to Agra or Lucknow. Agra is a hassle for any foreigner (tourist or not), so Lucknow was my prime choice.

What others think it is like. The second reason for Lucknow emerged as soon as I circulated my ideas among fellow South Asianists. The typical conversation went somehow like this: "Ah, so you work on Lucknow! Which period are you working on?" - "Contemporary" - silence - "Really. Why that? Who is your supervisor?"... The fact that colleagues immediately assume I am an historian when they hear that I work on Lucknow, is increasingly intriguing to me. Sure, the place has a very influential history, worth exploring.123 But the strong focus on the history of Lucknow has, in my opinion, somewhat obliterated the present (apart from political scientists fascinated by Mayawati), which is certainly not justified in such generalisation. I wonder: how does one live in the shadow of history? And what happens in a place where allegedly everything of importance already happened in the past? While these questions don't make up the core of my research, they fascinate me increasingly - and provide a second reason for why Lucknow is worthwile looking at.

And now, I am in fact there, busy exploring the various neighbourhoods, setting up my home for the year, etc. Curious anecdotes from contemporary Lucknow already pile high on my desk - from next week onwards, these will make the bulk of my blog posts...