UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Placing Max Arthur Macauliffe in Context/s : Sikh Historiographical Traditions and Colonial Forms of Knowledge Murphy, Anne


This article pursues two interconnected inquiries into the work of M.A. Macauliffe. Firstly, the paper examines Macauliffe's work in light of general discussion in the historiography of colonial and modern South Asia regarding the relative influence of colonial forms of knowledge in the formation of South Asian subjectivities and texts in the period. This allows for understanding of the differentials in power imbedded within the ‘dialogues’ that produced texts like Macauliffe’s. The paper explores the specifics of this question by, secondly, demonstrating the ways in which Macauliffe’s work—presumably through his interaction with his interlocutors among the Sikhs and/or reading of Sikh texts—reflects existing Sikh historiographical commitments. In this, we attempt to assess the work in relation to a range of existing works in Punjabi and determine the genealogy of its creation, in Sikh historiographical terms. Assessment of these two seemingly contradictory contexts allows us to assess what was new—and what was not—in Macauliffe’s representation of the Sikh past, and how we can assess the purportedly dialogical nature of the text within a broader field of power and knowledge.

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