Techne Conflux: Rethinking Archival Research, Methods and Practice


Reading Anticolonial Sources in the Colonial Archive:

The Many Migrations of Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi

Raza Naeem, University of Central Punjab


Wednesday 7th December, 11.00-13.00 (M2 Grand Parade and online)


The fascinating personality and legacy of Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi in the Indian subcontinent reflects the ambiguity found in archival sources about Sindhi. He was opposed to the partition schemes of the two dominant bourgeois parties in India: the Congress and Muslim League, thus the anticolonial thinker par excellence. For a long time, primary material on his life was limited to his definitive biography published with his approval in his lifetimes by one of his students; published in 1943, just a year before Sindhi’s death and 4 years before the partition of India. His opposition to both the traditionalist ulema of Deoband and British ruled led to his expulsion from that influential Islamic school of thought and physical expulsion from India; it has complicated archival sources on him since many of his writings deemed controversial by the ‘canon’ were either expunged or edited out; while his revolutionary constitution published in Istanbul in 1924 calling for a Free India was banned in India and was only published in Pakistan in 1954 and much later in India. For a long time British intelligence agencies tailed Sindhi and remarkably, at least one source in Urdu mentions that the British ‘assassinated’ Sindhi and only officially announced the official declaration of his death one year and nine days after Sindhi’s actual death after getting it verified from the embassy of the Viceroy of India by sending an agent there physically. How British archives see this is another story. Also, virtually none of the extant biographies written on Sindhi in Urdu relies on any archives in the absence of which the letters of Sindhi provide another important source; these letters also written in Urdu mostly exist in India and in certain cases dispel certain rumours about the purported influence of communist teachings on Sindhi’s ideas during his Moscow sojourn. Hence the importance of my preference of working and translating into English on Sindhi’s life and this particular trip to UK (December 2022) in Sindhi’s 150th year where I will also be looking at British archives kept in India Office Library/South Asian collections at British library to ascertain the level of information available on him and how far this information is publicly available or has been redacted especially reports of British intelligence. Only then can a more complete archival picture of Sindhi emerge. My practice prior to the visit to the BL has been to rely on exclusively Urdu sources like biographies, Sindhi’s own writings and his letters and articles published in obscure journals, etc.


Speaker Bio: Raza Naeem is an award-winning Pakistani researcher and translator based in Lahore. He has been trained in Political Economy from the University of Leeds in UK, and in Middle Eastern History and Anthropology from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, USA. He has engaged with the Middle East since the last two decades now and widely travelled in and reported from Egypt, Yemen and Turkey over the last decade or so. He contributes regularly to The Wire and Outlook in India and The Friday Times in Pakistan. He has curated and moderated a first-ever edition of Banned Books Week in Pakistan in Lahore in September 2014, and five successive editions since then, in collaboration with Olomopolo. His translation and dramatic reading work has been showcased internationally at the Lucknow and Delhi Literature Festivals in India (both in 2014), and most recently at the Winnipeg International Writers Festival (Canada, September 2017), one of Canada’s largest literary festivals; and locally in Pakistan at many TEDx (most recently at TEDxLUMS, Lahore, April 2018) and Model United Nations (most recently at LUMUN 17, Lahore, January 2021) events at some of Pakistan’s most prestigious universities and schools. He is the recipient of a prestigious 2013-2014 Charles Wallace Trust Fellowship in the UK, awarded for his translation and interpretive work on banned Pakistani writer Saadat Hasan Manto’s essays, and most recently a runner-up/finalist for the inaugural 2017 Jawad Memorial Prize for Urdu-English Translation (India), awarded for his translation of ‘Bahaar’ (Spring), a short story written by Abdullah Hussein. He is currently a Visiting Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Central Punjab and the President of the Progressive Writers Association (Anjuman Taraqqi Pasand Musannifeen) – one of the oldest organizations in the Indian subcontinent established in 1936 – in Lahore.



Lunch and refreshments are provided.


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About the Conflux programme: the Centre for Memory, Narrative and Histories secured Techne funding for a Conflux programme that will address key methodologies and historiographies associated with archival research, practices and critical perspectives.

The archive’s authoritative status has come under increasing pressure across the arts and humanities in the last thirty years or so. This richly diverse programme of workshops will provide a framework to explore bigger questions about the ways in which the archive has been critiqued, problematised and de-centred in a range of academic disciplines, cultural contexts and professional settings.

Examining topics such as ‘living archives’, post-conflict community archives, AI and the archive, as well as what it means in practice to decolonise the imperial archive, the programme aims to highlight the extent to which differing approaches and methods can further enhance the generative possibilities of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary perspectives.