Farina Mir is a historian of colonial and postcolonial South Asia, with a particular interest in the religious, cultural, and social history of late-colonial north India. Her current research is focused on Islam in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century India. She is working on a book entitled, "Genres of Muslim Modernity: Being Muslim in Late-Colonial India, 1858-1947," which examines Urdu-language akhlaq—religious/literary texts on ethics—and how they reveal an important history of Islam and Muslims in South Asia. Grounded in a corpus of Urdu akhlaq texts published between the 1860s and 1940s, the book: casts light on a significant but understudied domain of Muslim ethical thought in colonial India; examines Muslim religious dispositions as revealed through this literature; and is an inquiry into the notion of secular Muslimness and its implications for understanding Muslim experience in modern South Asia. An essay related to this project was recently published in The American Historical Review.
Mir's first book, The Social Space of Language: Vernacular Culture in British Colonial Punjab (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010) is a study of the Punjabi language and its literature under colonialism (from 1849–1947). Through an analysis of Punjabi qisse, or epic stories/romances, Mir locates a Punjabi literary formation in colonial Punjab—and its resonances in contemporary postcolonial India, Pakistan, and in the Punjabi diaspora. By examining the social history of this formation and the themes that it engaged with, The Social Space of Language reassesses late-colonial Punjab’s history away from standard narratives of communal antagonism and violence to examine the moorings of a regional culture that emphasized the importance of locality, a commitment to shared forms of piety, and emphasized gender relations that contest patriarchy. The book was awarded the 2011 John F. Richard Prize in South Asian History from the American Historical Association and the 2012 Bernard Cohn Prize from the Association of Asian Studies. Mir discussed the book on a podcast, available here.
Mir teaches a range of courses at the University of Michigan. These include a co-taught introductory course on the discipline of History, “History 101: What is History?” Mir co-authored a short piece (with Paulina Alberto) on why a 101 course is atypical for History departments while normative for other social science disciplines and speaks to its value for History curricula. Her South Asian history offerings include undergraduate survey courses on “The History of Modern India and Pakistan,” “The History of Islam in South Asia,” and an undergraduate seminar on the Partition of India. She also regularly teaches a graduate colloquium on “Islam in Motion,” on histories of Islam in the Indian Subcontinent.
Mir has served as Director of Graduate Studies (2020-2022) and Associate Director of Graduate Studies (2019-2020) in the History Department, and Director of the Center for South Asian Studies (2012-2015 and 2016-18) at U-M’s International Institute.
She has also served three-year terms on the Council of the American Historical Association (Research Division) and on the South Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies.
"Urdu Ethics Literature and the Diversity of Muslim Thought in Colonial India," The American Historical Review 127.3, September 2022: 1162–1189. https://doi.org/10.1093/ahr/rhac219
"Innovation in Punjabi Literature: Considerations on the Advent of Literary Modernity," in Bhai Vir Singh (1872–1957): Religious and Literary Modernities in Colonial and Post-Colonial Indian Punjab, eds. Anshu Malhotra and Anne Murphy (New Delhi: Routledge, forthcoming 2023).
"Urdu Ethics Literature in Colonial India: Akhlāq in the Vernacular," in Islamic Ecumene: Comparing Muslim Societies, eds. David Powers and Eric Tagliacozzo (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, forthcoming 2023).
"Genre and Devotion in Punjab's Popular Narratives: Rethinking Cultural and Religious Syncretism," Comparative Studies in Society and History 48.3, July, 2006: 727-758. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0010417506000284
The Social Space of Language: Vernacular Culture in British Colonial Punjab, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010).
Punjab Reconsidered: History, Culture, and Practice, ed. Anshu Malhotra and Farina Mir. (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2012).
- Center for South Asian Studies
- Program in Anthropology and History
- Islamic Studies Program
Field(s) of Study
- Modern South Asia
- Islam/Muslims in South Asia
- British colonialism