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The Sufi Paradigm and the Makings of a Vernacular Knowledge in Colonial India

The Case of Sindh (1851–1929)


  • Explores the historical encountering between two religious cultures that today are mostly perceived as being antagonistic

  • Provides an innovative perspective on how the colonized escaped the control of the colonizers through the building of their own vernacular knowledge

  • Documents the history of 19th and early 20th century Sindh through the lens of Sufi paradigm, and re-organization of religious milieu through colonial intervention


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xv
  2. Michel Boivin
    Pages 1-23
  3. Part I

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 25-28
    2. Michel Boivin
      Pages 69-93
  4. Part II

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 115-117
    2. Michel Boivin
      Pages 119-136
    3. Michel Boivin
      Pages 187-221
  5. Part III

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 223-226
    2. Michel Boivin
      Pages 269-285
  6. Conclusion

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 287-287
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 303-318

About this book


This book demonstrates how a local elite built upon colonial knowledge to produce a vernacular knowledge that maintained the older legacy of a pluralistic Sufism. As the British reprinted a Sufi work, Shah Abd al-Latif Bhittai's Shah jo risalo, in an effort to teach British officers Sindhi, the local intelligentsia, particularly driven by a Hindu caste of professional scribes (the Amils), seized on the moment to promote a transformation from traditional and popular Sufism (the tasawuf)  to a Sufi culture (Sufiyani saqafat). Using modern tools, such as the printing press, and borrowing European vocabulary and ideology, such as Theosophical Society, the intelligentsia used Sufism as an idiomatic matrix that functioned to incorporate difference and a multitude of devotional traditions—Sufi, non-Sufi, and non-Muslim—into a complex, metaphysical spirituality that transcended the nation-state and filled the intellectual, spiritual, and emotional voids of postmodernity.


Sufism India new elite knowledge colonization Islam Hinduism Indigenous Epistemology Colonial Knowledge Vernacular Knowledge

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for South Asian StudiesSchool for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS)/National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)ParisFrance

About the authors

Michel Boivin is the Director of the Centre for South Asian Studies (CEIAS), affiliated with The French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and The School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS), France. He holds a PHD in Oriental Languages, Civilisations and Societies from Sorbonne University. He was trained in contemporary history and anthropology, with specializations in Islamic and South Asian Studies. He has authored or edited fourteen books, the most recent of which are  The Hindu Sufis of South AsiaDiscovering Sindh’s Past (with Matthew A. Cook and Julien Levesque, 2019), Devotional Islam in Contemporary South Asia (with Remy Delage, 2015), and the Historical Dictionary of the Sufi Culture of Sindh in Pakistan and in India (2015).

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title The Sufi Paradigm and the Makings of a Vernacular Knowledge in Colonial India
  • Book Subtitle The Case of Sindh (1851–1929)
  • Authors Michel Boivin
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Social Sciences Social Sciences (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-030-41990-5
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-41993-6
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-030-41991-2
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XV, 318
  • Number of Illustrations 1 b/w illustrations, 8 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Social Anthropology
    History of South Asia
    Social Aspects of Religion
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