Abstract

This article argues that Abul Kalam Azad, one of India's most prominent anticolonial thinkers, was critical of nationalism because of its emphasis on circumscribing a political community with territorial borders. Instead, he conceived of India as a place, and he used this conception of place as the grounds for an alternative frame of the political. For Azad, place indicated a point of equilibrium between conceptions of nationalism, particularly as a form of anticolonialism, and universal ideas of humanity (insāniyyat), and the earth as its common inheritance (arẓiyyat). Connecting the idea of place to that of self-knowledge, this article examines how Azad laid the grounds for membership in a locality where particular identities gathered to form a general consciousness of common life. In doing so, it argues that he developed a potent normative idea that remains relevant to repetitive contentions of the political membership of Muslims in India and elsewhere.

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