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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Research Centre for Historical Studies (CHS)

CHS guest lecture: TORSTEN TSCHACHER (Heidelberg University): 'Race, Religion, Relatives: Constituting Communities across the Early-colonial Bay of Bengal'

When:Tu 13-02-2024 17:00 - 18:30
Where:Room 1312.0025, Harmonie building & online

Moderator: Arnab Dutta


An important part of colonial knowledge-making was the classification of people into discrete categories: ethnic groups, races, religions. The impact of these classifications on the people of the Indian-Ocean rim was profound, forcing individuals increasingly to identify in terms of the categories supplied by the colonial state. It is far more difficult, however, to connect colonial projects of community definition with precolonial conceptualizations and identifications, including the question of the genesis of colonial-period terminologies beyond either asserting the fundamental difference of precolonial community identifications, or their ‘fluidity’ and non-specificity. At the same time, scholarship has continued to use terms such as ‘Arab’ or ‘Muslim’ with a certain sense of continuity. How are we to make sense of this problem, and are there ways in which we can connect social histories to those of nomenclature?

This lecture is also a part of the Amsterdam-Utrecht Global Intellectual History Lecture Series.

In continuation of this lecture, Torsten Tschacher will also offer a methodological seminar on how to write a global/transnational history of the Indian Ocean World by using multilingual sources from across Europe and Asia – ranging from local Tamil newspapers in Singapore to 17th century Dutch East India Company papers. This methodological seminar will take place on 14 February 2024, Wednesday 15:00 – 16:30 in room LE of Poststraat 6.

About the speaker

Torsten Tschacher is a Heisenberg Fellow of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and lecturer for Tamil at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. His research focuses on the history and discursive traditions of Tamil-speaking Muslims around the Bay of Bengal. His book Race, Religion, and the ‘Indian Muslim’ Predicament in Singapore was published in 2018 with Routledge. He has also translated two novels from Tamil to German.