The two anthropological goats introduced last week continue to guide my work; today's post is about the place where they hang out: the former Rifah-e-Aam Club of Lucknow. Pictured to the right, in the Residency's backyard and a mere puddle (or rather goat) jump from my new home, it was initially little more than a pittoresque structure nearby and a fun place to hang out in the afternoon for kite-flying and cricketeering. But once I managed to track down the Manager-cum-Caretaker with the help of some local boys, read up a bit in the relevant books,1 and turned to the Blogosphere, fascinating new perspectives emerged.

The club was apparently a place of great historical importance, where - folklore has it - Gandhi and Nehru met for the first time, where nationalist demands began to flourish in Lucknow, and where the politics of class, caste and community all left their mark. Now being in utterly neglect as far as its existence as a Club is concerned, but recycled in many new and exciting ways, Rifah-e-Aam - the "public good"2 - also tells a lot about the changing face of Lucknow, UP and India. And since any club is, of course, at its core a game of belonging and non-belonging (even though the goats' membership remains unclear as of yet), this particular one forms a fascinating first nucleus for my quest into Lucknow's history and present, and into the diversity of relations of people with the city and with each other.

To continue the series on my PhD project, this post presents my heuristic framework and outlines what I mean by identity, belonging, and religious belonging. In fact, a fair junk of my interest in this project is theoretical (or conceptual, if you hate theory)... In two weeks, I shall add an overview of my methodology, and after that an introduction to my chosen field site: Lucknow. By then, the research visa should be issued, too - and more exciting stories form the field can be told...

Apart from this post on my conceptual framework, there are:
An introductory post to my topic
Another post on my methodological approach
Finally a post on why I chose Lucknow as a fieldsite

Every Indian knows whether he or she is a Muslim or not. But what it probably means to be one, in which contexts one chooses to identify oneself that way and whether being Muslim is one's sole religious identity remain very open questions. These questions constitute the core of my PhD project on Muslim belonging in contemporary Lucknow, and they are introduced in today's post.

Apart from this introductory post on my topic, there are:
A post on my conceptual framework
Another post on my methodological approach
Finally a post on why I chose Lucknow as a fieldsite

What puzzles me ever since I did my research among Muslim peace activists in Gujarat (and probably since long before, but that's another story) is how discursive attempts to delimit the substantive content, contextual relevance or exclusive status of Muslimness are taken up, digested, and at times resisted by individual Muslims. The ambivalences and ambiguities that shape Muslims' relations to other Muslims and to the numinous arguably depend on both discursive resources and personal experiences - but the latter rarely attract as much attention as the former. I thus not only want to understand how these two levels interact, but more specifically how processes of navigation and digestation of discourses work, in which social fields they take place and which various shapes they might take on the level of individual biographies.