Geography And History

So, we begin with the first attribute, the Geography and history of South Asia

The aim here is not give you an insurmountable volume of ideas and thoughts in a few moments of time.

But, the question is being asked, whether it is the geography that tells the history of South Asia, the way it is or the vice versa. Or, there is an element of defiance in both.

I cite here the two cases of mammoth production of discourses in geography and history.

Conrad Malte-Brun was a French Geographer, who in early 19th century produced Universal Geography describing the world in 15 volumes. The work was immensely popular however it marked a new chapter in defining the personality of the earth.

It prioritized what constitutes the head and feet and what remains as an invisible gut.

South Asia neither in the form of Indic space nor as a British colonial space finds mention here.

Then another work of monumental size that from a historian came to fore in same time period, albeit 30 years later. It was Universal History by Samuel G Goodrich.

It also defined the personality of the world that evolved over the time period essentially in terms of occidental and oriental spaces.

But with significant omissions on South Asia, either as an Indic space or as part of British Empire.

When one tries to compare South Asia with its neighbourhood.

One finds that the Arabs had a tradition of historiography, which narrated much about their space and with often self-conceit about South Asia.

We find discourses by Ibn-Batuta, Ibn- Khaldum. And, the most famous books like Kitab-al Hind give a discourse on South Asia.

We also find that China has had a long-standing tradition of historiography. It dates back to as early as 10th century. In fact, yesterday while going through the website of Fudan University I found that you also have a department of historiography which very much testifies this.

Hence, history and geography have been shown apathy in case of South Asia as a region. However, in classical Weberian terms, one can also interpret non-action as also a kind of action.

Thus, it fairly stands out that South Asian geography and history have reached out to the rest of world in other forms of discourse, rather than single reliance on the textual discourses, which I have referred to above so far.

The embodiment of discourse in geography and history by its men and societies makes South Asian historiography very different from other regional discourses.

And, here I would borrow from Focaults treatise on knowledge. Where he questions the categorization as a process in creating knowledge is itself under further transformation during the due course of knowledge production.

So, the textuality has always remained critically poor in reflecting a region, a whole, or a raum.

Therefore, I believe that the South Asian historiography emerges from a very different kind of discourse in terms of religion, polity, societal changes and political economy of region itself.

Then it is not difficult to see that South Asian region hardly got noticed by the modern geographers or historians, except for Karl Marx, who definitely attempted to create a historiography of South Asia in his famous piece on the Asiatic Mode of Production.

So, interestingly in both the cases, of 'Universal' geography and history being description of the times, the most visible fact has been that South Asia, which has been essentially known to the ancient scholars as the Indus region, never came to be accepted in modern discourses as Indo-Gangetic region. Or even later as the Gangetic region alone or as Ganga-Yamuna doab (meaning plains). Although these references existed very much there.

It is only in 20th century that Prof OHK Spate in 1954 for the first time tried to define the region South Asia, in his book India and Pakistan: A General and Regional Geography.

So, we complete our first explanation that the term South Asia is a relatively modern construct.