Last week, I finally got around to digitize the old map of Lucknow's Shia and Sunni population, which an enthusiastic Census officer produced in 1961, and which I managed to acquire in full copy three days before I left India last December.1 Geocoding the scan and counting all the little dots (which represent 200 Shia or Sunni households) resulted in the following map of Shia population:

  • 1. Census of India. (1961). Moharram in two cities (Lucknow and Delhi). In: Census monograph series, part VII-B: Fairs and festivals.

With yesterday's Julus e Ashura, the first ten days of Muharram (the period of Shia mourning the death of Husain at Karbala which marks the sectarian split between Sunni and Shia Islam) came to an end. I say the first ten days, since Lucknow takes great pride in extending its Azadari activities for full two months and eight days. An important part of the commemoration are several processions or julus throughout these ten days in particular, but also at other times of the year. Due to several violent sectarian clashes throughout the last century, these were banned for two decades, and now only nine specific processions are allowed, mapped on top of last week's experimental Shia population map (as usual, you can also use a larger version of this map:

In my last post, I wrote that mapping Shia (and by inversion Sunni) Lucknow will be fairly difficult - and so it is. There surely are plenty of mental maps1 - an important part of my research (see my methodology) - and thinking about Shia or Sunni dominated areas is a favorite timepass for some of my contacts (especially Shia ones). But hard data? Almost impossible to find. It is thus befitting that it took me all my time in Lucknow - today being my second last post from the field - to come up with something seemingly as plebeian as even an experimental map of the Shia population of the city. In fact, I found only one single other such map in all of the material which I read about Lucknow - in a paper by Mushirul Hassan,2 based on a 1961 Census monograph3...:

  • 1. Gould, P, White, R. (1986). Mental maps. 2nd ed. Boston: Allen & UNWIN.
  • 2. Hasan, M. (1997). Traditional rites and contested meanings: Sectarian strife in colonial Lucknow. In V. Graff (Ed.), Lucknow: Memories of a city. Delhi: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • 3. ...which subsequently went missing from the Census library in Lucknow - at least they claimed that before they threw me out; the reference is Census of India. (1961). Moharram in two cities (Lucknow and Delhi). In: Census monograph series, part VII-B: Fairs and festivals.

Today, I follow up on my initial post on names ("What's in a name?"), which later inspired the map of Muslim Lucknow and my ongoing election analyses. The key idea back then was: if micro-level datasets on religion are unavailable, can we not create our own by making informed guesses about the religion of registered voters - lists of which are readily available? This methodology and its surprisingly high accuracy created quite some excitement over the last months, and a "research note" on it is on the way to publication (here). It thus seems to be about time to clarify the limits of this strategy: what is not in a name?

One thing that is not - or at least not clearly enough - is sectarian affiliation. Quite some people who got excited about my earlier posts asked whether the same strategy would also work to separate Shia and Sunni based on their names. This would open interesting analyses in the case of Lucknow in particular (see here), but I honestly did not think it would fly. People insisted, so I gave it a shot - which by and large confirmed my hesitation: inferring sectarian belonging from names is frought with difficulties. That much is clearly not in a name.

In my last rant I mentioned an upcoming Ulema conference in Lucknow, which promised to bring Shia and Sunni clerics together to counter "Talibani ideology". It was organized by the "World Waseela Front", a new outfit in which the main Shia clerical family of Lucknow, more precisely Maulana Kalbe Jawwad, joins hands with Barelvi leaders from the All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board, namely Maulana Baba Ashraf. As expected, there were no women involved (apart from two photo journalists), but the two days were nonetheless very interesting, revealing, and, yes, even inspiring (picking up at least some of my concerns regarding contemporary Islamic trends in India).