Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
It’s not every day that you see fictional depictions of Parsi legal history. So it’s exciting to come across two recent examples.
The first is a novel by Parsi writer, Keki N. Daruwalla, Ancestral Affairs (2015). Daruwalla is well known for his poetry, and I
first came across his work while writing about early 20th-c. litigation over membership in the Parsi community. This line from “Parsi Hell” (1982) has been a favorite in my footnotes:
“Like a fire temple I hoard my inner fires
Hoard my semen, brown with inbreeding. Genetic rust?”
Among other things, Ancestral Affairs is about a Parsi lawyer named Saam Bharucha who is hired by the Muslim nawab of Junagadh, a princely state in western India, to manoeuvre the rapids of partition and independence circa 1947. The nawab wants to join Pakistan, not India. Here is a review, and here is an excerpt.
The second piece is a Bollywood production. The film Rustom, starring Akshay Kumar, is getting a lot of press in India right now (much of it lukewarm). Although the film purports to be purely fictional, it is based upon the story of the Parsi naval officer, K. M. Nanavati, who shot dead his wife’s paramour in a fit of jealous rage. Despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt, Nanavati was acquitted of murder by a jury, a verdict subsequently overturned by the Bombay High Court in K. M. Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra (1961). The case has gone down in legal history as the trigger (no pun intended) for the abolition of the jury in India. In fact, some forms of the jury have persisted, as I discuss in ch.5 of my book and as BBC journalist Soutik Biswas notes here. Nevertheless, the case remains one that has captured the popular imagination and that of legal historians equally.
While doing research for my book on Parsi legal history, I had the opportunity to speak with many elderly Parsis about their family and community history. I will always remember the humor, drama, and poignancy of the stories people shared with me. There were accounts of everyday life in Raj-era Bombay, of the flight from Burma to India during the Japanese invasion in WWII, and of studying law at the Inns of Court in London in the 1940s.
I have been thinking more about Parsi family history since finishing my book, and have an article about personal and family memoirs coming out later in 2016: “Parsi Life Writing: Memoirs and Family Histories of Modern Zoroastrians.” Two of the memoirs I write about were by Parsi lawyers who spent part of their lives in colonial Burma. I also posted this on the Legal History Blog.
Preserving oral and family history is a critical part of preserving community heritage. I am thrilled to learn that the Zoroastrian Association of Houston and Rice University have teamed up to produce oral history interviews with Parsis in the Houston area. These have been posted online as audio recordings and transcripts, with photos. There are over thirty interviews so far here, featuring renowned novelist Bapsi Sidhwa and ZAH librarian and archivist Aban Rustomji, among others. Because many members of the Houston Parsi community migrated from Karachi (now in Pakistan), there are valuable accounts of the 1947 partition of British India into independent India and Pakistan here.
A very big thank you to everyone involved! This is not only a model on the kind of oral history work that should be done for the Parsi community worldwide, but also for diasporic Asian communities across the US.
The American Society for Legal History includes an unusual committee, the Projects and Proposals Committee, which accepts funding proposals for workshops and other projects relating to legal history. Here is an opportunity to apply for funding to host an event on legal history *that is not necessarily held at an annual ASLH meeting.* The ASLH has been working to internationalize its focus. This means us, South Asianists! The deadline is Sept.15, 2016.
The Projects and Proposals Committee of the American Society for Legal History is now open for business. We welcome a variety of proposals for new initiatives that will advance the “cause” of legal history. The kinds of proposals we are mandated to consider by the Board of Directors and what we need from applicants appear here and are reproduced below. All proposals need to be submitted in full before September 15, 2016, so that they can be considered in advance of the fall meeting of the Board of Directors. Questions should be directed to Dirk Hartog, chair of the committee, at email@example.com.
The Law and Society Association’s annual meeting is just around the corner, this year in New Orleans from June 2-5, 2016. I’ve included below a list of panels sponsored by Collaborative Research Networks on South Asia (CRN22) and British Colonial Legalities (CRN15), along with other panels and events on related themes. We’ll be holding our Joint Annual CRN lunch on Friday, June 3, 12pm-2 at 5Fifty5, a restaurant in the New Orleans Marriott (the conference hotel). We hope you can join us!
The world of podcasts doesn’t yet have a series devoted to South Asian legal history. But there are plenty that come at the field from various directions.
- History and the Law’s interviews with legal historians, including South Asianists
- H-LAW’s new podcasts on legal history with Siobhan Maura Barco (hopefully with some South Asian content in the future)
From South Asian studies:
- Incarnations: India in 50 Lives by the BBC, with Sunil Khilnani
- New Books in South Asian Studies with Ian Cook
And then from History:
- 15 Minute History by the University of Texas at Austin–includes South Asia
- Footnoting History
- A History of the World in 100 Objects by the British Museum
Coming to Madison for the 45th Annual Conference on South Asia in October? Why not come a day early and attend the 2016 South Asia Legal Studies Preconference on Thursday, October 20, 2016 at the University of Wisconsin Law School? The deadline for panel submissions is fast approaching: April 15, 2016.
Here is the Call for Panel Proposals:
Over the past few years, the American Society for Legal History has hosted an exciting one-day event for graduate students working on the legal history of any part of the world. *This includes South Asia!* This year, the Student Research Colloquium will take place on Oct.26-27, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. It will immediately precede the annual meeting of the ASLH. The deadline for SRC applications is July 15, 2016. Don’t miss it!
Coming to the Law and Society Association meeting in New Orleans in early June? Join us for the Joint Annual Collaborative Research Network Lunch for CRN 15: British Colonial Legalities & CRN 22: South Asia!
When: Friday, June 3, 2016 @ 12pm-2pm
Logistics: No need to RSVP. The CRNs are unfunded efforts, so attendees will be asked to cover their own lunch bills. Cash appreciated.
The World History Blog has now been launched by Nurfadzilah Yahaya! It is sponsored by H-Law and the American Society for Legal History. The blog offers exciting new opportunities for legal historians to write guest blogposts. Two possibilities so far proposed by Fadzilah’s posts:
- a blogpost on a particular primary source drawn from your own historical research;
- a blogpost on the challenges of researching and writing about historical cases of family law involving living descendants.
The World History Blog is an especially great place where regional specialists can share their knowledge and expertise with those focusing on other parts of the world.
Thank you, Fadzilah and H-Law, for starting a conversation about legal history across the globe.
Legal historians of South Asia should put Minneapolis on their list of research hotspots! The Law Library of the University of Minnesota has an astonishing collection of colonial-era law books from India. Among US-based collections, it is up there with the Harvard and Columbia law libraries. I first discovered some of the collection’s gems back in 2010, when I used the colonial law journals to create reference lists for this website. This past fall, I had the chance to visit again, and to learn more from Library Manager Claire M. Stuckey and Rare Books Curator Ryan Greenwood. Ms. Stuckey has been organizing and cataloging the collection in preparation for the move (for some titles) to Rare Books.