Abhishek Kaicker

Sovereignty and Popular Politics in Late Mughal Delhi
Spring 2017

Dr. Abhishek Kaicker is a historian of early modern South Asia. He received his PhD in history from Columbia University in 2014. He is broadly interested in questions of urban space, culture and politics at the dawn of the modern world. At Berkeley, he teaches undergraduate courses on the long history of the Indian subcontinent; graduate courses on the eighteenth century in Indian history; and on the city across Eurasia in the eighteenth century.

Sovereignty and Popular Politics in Late Mughal Delhi, 1707-39 is concerned with the language and practice of popular politics on the streets of Delhi during the waning years of the Mughal empire. The book argues that, in contrast to received notions of imperial decline, Delhi saw the emergence of a robust culture of popular politics. Accordingly the nine chapters of this book are divided into three sections: the first section unveils a series of concerted popular political acts during the early eighteenth century, which it locates in the context of the changing discourse of imperial sovereignty in the period. The second section examines the unintended consequences of the remaking of Delhi as a commercial hub in the mid-seventeenth century, which led to the rise of a large non-elite urban populace with its own forms of piety, social communication, and political opinion. The final section describes how imperial efforts to bring the realm into conformance with the law gave the impetus to a new popular political practice; one which mobilized, responded, negotiated and challenged the state by appropriating the terms of its discourse of sovereignty.