New Books by Our Assistant Professors
Anand V. Taneja, Jinnealogy: Time, Islam, and Ecological Thought in the Medieval Ruins of Delhi (2017)
Review: Anand Taneja's Jinnealogy reviewed by Rana Safvi of The Wire - The Dispossessed and the Possessed.
Podcast interview: Anand Taneja's Jinnealogy on Vanderbilt University's Authorial Intentions with Chris Benda.
Jinnealogy: Time, Islam, and Ecological Thought centers on Firoz Shah Kotla, a ruined medieval palace that has become a prominent dargah, or Muslim saint shrine, in contemporary Delhi. Built circa 1354 and long fallen into disrepair, the widespread popularity of Firoz Shah Kotla as a dargah began in 1977. Firoz Shah Kotla is frequented by both Hindus and Muslims, and the saints venerated at this dargah are not human, but Islamic spirits known as jinn. Visitors write letters of petition to these jinn-saints as if petitioning government officials, including their names, addresses, and passport photos in their appeals. They deposit multiple copies of these letters in various niches and alcoves through the ruins. Firoz Shah Kotla is also a place where another kind of nonhuman life flourishes, especially cats, snakes, and kites. As the jinn are shape-shifters in Islamic mythology, often taking the form of animals, these animals are also imbued with sacrality in this space.
Drawing on ethnography, Urdu literature, and government arhcives, Jinnealogy casts new light on the relation of theology to post-colonial politics, the ethical potentialities that popular Islam holds open for Muslims and non-Muslims, and the relation of the ecological to urban sacrality. At a time when reformist Islam is dismissive of the jinn and the realm of the unseen, following the familiar script of modernity and disenchantment, here the jinn are sanctified. The book compellingly argues that the “enchanted” nature of popular Islam encountered here is not a pre-modern relic, but an ethical, political, and theological stance emerging anew in response to the post-colonial condition.