Ahmedabad has long been understood to be a city that is connected to the world. Founded in 1411 by Sultan Ahmed Shah, it was chosen for its strategic location on the banks of the Sabarmati river and near the site of the older townships of Karnavati and Ashaval. Subsequently, under the Mughal rule, it became a thriving centre of trade, particularly in textiles, and its commercial networks extended as far as Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Ahmedabad, by the west coast of India, has for millennia been connected to Indian Ocean trade and exchange. Despite its much-vaunted business spirit, the city has been at the centre of several different kinds of global flows: of goods, peoples, industries, and ideas. For example, alongside being the “Manchester of the East” during the period of British rule in India, a moniker earned for its role as the leading producer of textiles in the Empire, Ahmedabad became a site for nationalist agitation (formed at the cross-section of indigenous and cosmopolitan exposures), as in Gandhi’s campaigns of civil disobedience to promote workers' rights, civil rights and political independence in the early twentieth century. Since the 1990s the ‘liberalisation’ of the Indian economy has energised the city's economy and the effects of globalisation are clear as the cultural and social landscape of the city changes, particularly through the information technology sector, as well as emergent pharmaceutical and transport industries.
Although a decade old, Ahmedabad University has its roots in the ambitions of the Ahmedabad Education Society, which was founded in the 1930s. Drawing inspiration from our location in a city and a region with distinct historic connections to the world, the Working Group in Global History at the School of Arts and Sciences at Ahmedabad University, seeks to research and teach histories that foreground connectivities. By bringing the local/regional history into active dialogue with the global processes, our global history approach seeks to circumvent an overarching Eurocentric perspective and at the same time, we intend to move beyond the methodological confines of nationalism to place historical processes within broader trajectories. We aim, however, not only to chart new sites of interaction and influence between diverse societies but to engage meaningfully with the rich scholarship of regional histories. Our objective is to remain committed to both local and global scales of analysis, highlighting their mutual imbrication.
The Humanities and Languages division at Ahmedabad University draws upon diverse theoretical approaches including Global Intellectual History and seeks to chart new critical approaches to areas of study that span philosophies, histories, and languages. Rather than treating Intellectual History as disembodied from the body of the social, we approach it as intertwined with processes of Social and Cultural History. Also, while our research explores intermediaries, translations, and networks that would enable a holistic understanding of globality across cultural, social, linguistic, civilisational, or geographical boundaries, our work examines the circulation and dissemination of diverse meanings of the category ‘global’ in the vernacular intellectual contexts in South Asia. We, as researchers and instructors, while being conscious of our South Asian contexts, also seek to emphasize connections between the various regions of the Global South.
We seek to excavate lesser-known histories of exchange by examining global connectivities in terms of commerce and trade, ecological and demographic shifts, women’s rights, wars, migration, and the various forms of displacement. Our interest in exploring global history from the vantage point of transcending older geopolitical categories that were shaped by colonialism, imperialism, and Eurocentrism, prompts us to explore questions of methodological impediments to doing global historical research; accessibility of linguistic, archival, and digital resources for an inclusive dialogue across the globe; and innovative ways of identifying and creating the manifold archives of subaltern and marginalised populations. Our desire to examine the roles, contributions, and voices of the historically marginalised in the grand narratives of global connectivity, has led us to explore a decolonised global history curriculum at Ahmedabad University.
We hope to encourage constructive conversations on these issues between historians and scholars in other disciplines. Our interest is to build an active platform where exchanges, collaborations, and resource development can occur with practitioners of global history from all over the world. And, our concern at Ahmedabad is to consider global history as a form of dialogue to enable an inclusive and integrated world, and to engage with innovative pedagogical and research methods to do so. In our intellectual and institutional endeavour, though quite new and evolving since the foundation of the School of Arts and Sciences at Ahmedabad University just four years ago, we strive for a conceptual and methodological rigour in our own diverse and peculiar ways of engaging with questions of Global History. A list of School of Arts and Sciences faculty who teach and research in the Humanities and Languages division can be found here.