Recently, my second refereed article appeared in print - in which I present the struggles of two Muslim female peace activists from Gujarat to make an argument about the ambivalence and ambiguity of the sacred. Publication is not quite a cause for celebration, though, at least not yet: now, I also want the article to be read and critiqued... With today's post, I thus try to lure you into downloading it (I negotiated open access), by telling part of the story behind the text.1 I do so in English, even though the article itself appeared in German only (but don't worry: I posted a shorter version of my argument a fortnight ago on this blog). While unfortunate for non-German speakers, this was a necessary step to prevent the paper from jeopardizing ongoing negotiations for my monograph on Gujarat - which is now forthcoming from Sage, New Delhi.2 Book publishers don't like it if too much material from any given project is already in print - writing in German, and thus addressing a different audience, was my way around this.

  • 1. Background: these days, I fetched a tweet about an interesting altmetric publication impact experiment: putting your research on twitter, blogs, and social media sites is said to multiply readership. Lets see it this actually works...
  • 2. Another cause for celebration, of course - though I could need some help: in case anybody is interested in data visualization strategies, please leave me a note - I plan a website to go along with the book, and am looking for beta testers...

This post concludes the tripartite series of lecture summaries from the fieldwork methods class which I co-teach this term at SIT New Delhi.1 It addresses several issues faced by foreigners who do research in India (or elsewhere) as opposed to domestic scholars who research their own culture - and simultaneously problematizes this terminology. The lecture moves from the practical to the conceptual, picking four potential trouble areas: language, field relations, othering, and categories. The remaining posts of this series are here:

Description, interpretation, evaluation
Research questions, interview questions
Doing research as a foreigner

  • 1. More on this class here...

Later today, I will give a talk on my Gujarat project at Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University Lucknow. While preparing my notes for this lecture, I realized that I somehow missed to put any extensive english summary of this project online til today. To fill this gap: here come today's notes (which in turn build on earlier talks and conference papers); please refer, however, to my published work, especially my monograph, if you want to cite my findings -- these notes are rough and not meant for further distribution.1. In the meantime, however, I am curious for your comments below, as always...

  • 1. Is publishing them on this blog a contradiction, then? Mabye, yes...

The following book review first appeared in 2011 in Internationales Asienforum 42(3-4), p. 378-379 (see entry in my publication list) and is reproduced here with permission. The book itself is here.

Rowena Robinson, Tremors of Violence. Muslim Survivors of Ethnic Strife in Western India

New Delhi: Sage, 2005. 261 pages, 3 maps, € 28.99. ISBN 0-7619-3408-1

The communal riots in Mumbai after the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992, and even more those engulfing central Gujarat in spring 2002, mark turning points in India's recent political and social history. Several thousand people – mostly Muslims – were murdered and even more seriously injured, displaced or economically affected. So far, their plight has, however, mostly been reduced to a building brick for wider arguments about Indian secularism, citizenship rights, or state-society relations. Important as these issues may be, there has rarely been a sensitive study which listens to the survivors themselves. Rowena Robinson's book closes this gap with a carefully crafted ethnographic account of the aftermath of mass violence.

This post is the second in a tripartite series of lecture summaries from the fieldwork methods class which I co-teach this term at SIT New Delhi.1 Before Azim Khan spoke about interviewing in more practical detail in the second half of our lecture, I framed the practical issues he raised by looking at the difference between research questions and interview questions. This post sums up my key points from this framing exercise; the rest of the series is here:

Description, interpretation, evaluation
Research questions, interview questions
Doing research as a foreigner

Let's first look at today's picture, taken at one of my earlier attempts to interview Maulana Khaled Rashid in Lucknow. All the practicalities are sorted: tea is being served, the Hadith commentaries provide a nice background, cameras and mikes are set up (the latter are not mine, of course - it was the time of the Salman Rushdie controversy, and I had to share my appointment with a dozen journalists). But the central piece is missing: the Maulana, with whom I hoped to have a conversation.

  • 1. More on this class here; this particular lecture (namely its emphasis on the advantage of clear epistemological bases) was inspired by Roulston, K, DeMarrais, K, Lewis, JB. (2003). Learning to interview in the social sciences. Qualitative Inquiry, 9(4), 643–668.