Poetry of Belonging is an exploration of north-Indian Muslim identity through poetry at a time when the Indian nation state did not exist. Between 1850 and 1950, when precolonial forms of cultural traditions, such as the musha’irah, were undergoing massive transformations to remain relevant, certain Muslim ‘voices’ configured, negotiated, and articulated their imaginings of what it meant to be Muslim.
Using poetry as an archive, the book traces the history of the musha’irah, the site of poetic performance, as a way of understanding public spaces through the changing economic, social, political, and technological contexts of the time. It seeks to locate the changing ideas of watan (homeland) and hubb-e watanī (patriotism) in order to offer new perspectives on how Muslim intellectuals, poets, political leaders, and journalists conceived of and expressed their relationship to India and to the transnational Muslim community.
The volume aims to spark a renegotiation of identity and belonging, especially at a time when Muslim loyalty to India has yet again emerged as a politically polarizing question.