Samira Sheikh F'20, F'12

Samira  Sheikh
Associate Professor
History
Vanderbilt University

ACLS Fellowship Program 2020
Associate Professor
History
Vanderbilt University
Landscapes of Conflict: Geographical mapping in early modern Gujarat, India

A variety of terrestrial maps were produced in Gujarat, western India, in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, drawing from and "translating" cartographic vocabularies available in this highly connected and trade-rich province of the Mughal empire (1526-1857). This project explores how this rich proliferation of Gujarati cartography was informed by a cosmopolitan range of religious, maritime, and painterly conventions. Early modern mapmaking was facilitated by Mughal decline, allowing surveyors, map-makers, and specialist professionals to offer up their services to rival patrons, including the British East India Company. The expansion of British power generated an appetite for extractive cadastral or military cartographic modes, and, in response, local cartographers began to strip out animation and affect by the end of the eighteenth century. Nevertheless, maps from the period bear traces of resistance and of older views of Gujarat and the world.

Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships 2012
Assistant Professor
History
Vanderbilt University
Economies of Conversion: Vaishnavism and Religious Change in Early Modern Gujarat, Western India, 1650-1800

The Hindu sect of Vaishnavism achieved remarkable success under the Mughals, one of the greatest early modern Muslim empires, especially in the western province of Gujarat. This project investigates how the values of Vaishnava merchants became the cultural norm in Mughal Gujarat. Characterised by vegetarianism and personal frugality, Vaishnava values became a signal of cohesion and upward mobility for other groups too. While Gujarati trade has been widely studied, changes in religion and caste have scarcely been explored. The merchant-Vaishnava ideology has had a lasting effect on Gujarat's politics, including on Gandhi; while it grew in times of Muslim political control, it later became the fount of an Islamophobic politics that dominates Gujarat today.