Raisur Rahman is a historian of South Asia interested in social and cultural history of modern India and South Asian Islam. Prior to joining Wake Forest faculty in 2008, he earned a Ph.D. in History from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.Phil. and M.A. in History from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His primary areas of teaching and research are local history, nationalism, colonialism, urban history, Gandhi, minority politics, literary traditions, and cultural encounters. His first book, Locale, Everyday Islam, and Modernity: Qasbah Towns and Muslim Life in Colonial India (Oxford University Press, 2015) explored why the unique small towns of qasbahs in India – and by extension locales – remain major identity-markers and what make qasbahs continue to evoke memory and nostalgia. Currently, Rais is working on a social history of Bombay, in particular its cosmopolitan nature and the role certain specific Muslim communities played in its social make-up.
B.A. St. Xavier’s College, Ranchi, India 1996
M.A., M.Phil Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India 1998, 2000
Ph.D. The University of Texas at Austin 2008.
Wake Forest University. Associate Professor (2015- ); Assistant Professor (2008-2015)
Click here for the complete CV.
- HST 109 Asia and the World
This course takes a thematic approach to the history of Asia and its connections with global history. Primarily focusing on South, Southeast, and East Asia, the aim of this course is to appreciate the diversity within Asia and understand the history of this continent as linked with world history. Although we cover different time periods, our focus largely remains confined to the last five centuries. What are the different societies and traditions within Asia? What have been their contributions to the world? What historical incidents have linked Asia to the rest of the world? Such questions are considered to explore the political, economic, social, and cultural history of Asia and its interactions with the outside world. Specific topics will include different religious traditions, imperialism, global trade and commerce, the Indian Ocean, cross-cultural interactions, modernization, nationalism, and decolonization movements.
- FYS Exploring India through Travelers and Travelogues
American traveler and author Mark Twain once wrote about India as “the cradle of the human race” and “the most extraordinary country.” Hundreds and even thousands of travelers from around the world have penned their observations on and reminiscences about their travels in India. This rich body of literature vividly captures the social, economic, political, and cultural history of India. This first-year seminar explores facets of Indian society and culture through the eyes of indigenous and foreign travelers. Travel accounts will be complemented with other textual sources and a host of visual materials—films and documentaries—in order to explore various themes such as landscape, arts, architecture, religious rites, customs, festivals, and politics of India.
- HST 250 Premodern South Asia
An overview of the people and cultures of ancient and medieval India, this course delves into the rich history and traditions of one of the earliest human civilizations. We seek to learn about religions, scientific developments, literature, arts, empires, dynasties, cross-cultural interactions, and conquests and defeats in India's premodern history. This class endeavors to understand the background of South Asia’s present by considering topics such as the Indus Valley Civilization, the Vedic Age, Hinduism, Mauryan Empire, Gupta Era, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Delhi Sultanate, Vijayanagar Empire, and the Mughal Empire. We use a variety of sources including Sanskrit dramas, religious scriptures, political treatises, autobiographical narratives, royal edicts, monuments, and paintings to explore the diverse cultures and traditions of India.
- HST 251 Modern South Asia
This course provides an overview of history, culture, and politics of modern South Asia beginning with the political ascendancy of the British in India in 1750s till date. The British started gaining political foothold since the mid-eighteenth century. It is a landmark in the history of the Indian subcontinent since a gradual defeat of the Mughal Empire gave way to the British starting a journey of conquest and expansion and the eventual formation of the British Empire. This course maps out a general history of various events and incidents of historical importance in a chronological as well as thematic manner. Topics include South Asian society and culture, British conquest and economic subordination, Indian responses to British intervention, socio-religious reform movements among Hindus and Muslims, role of women in the making of modern South Asia, the revolt of 1857, Indian independence struggle, Gandhi, Muslim League and the demand for Pakistan, partition of British India, role of Jawaharlal Nehru in the formation of independent India, post-independence Pakistan, and occasional and brief introductions to the South Asian states of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
- HST 334 Mystics, Monarchs and Masses in South Asian Islam
Introducing Islam through South Asian social, political, cultural, and intellectual history, this course considers the history of Muslim communities, movements, and institutions through the lenses of rulers, Sufi mystics, notable personalities, and the people of the Indian subcontinent. With more than one third of world’s Muslim population, South Asia’s Muslims share a common faith but they also reflect the diversity of religious beliefs and practices in Islam. This course aims to understand Islam as a faith in the context of South Asia and develop a better sense of the lived history of Muslims in the subcontinent. Specific topics include origins and early history of Islam, arrival of Islam in South Asia, political Islam, Sufism, literature, Islam and nationalism, Muslim nationalism, religious pluralism and conflicts, Islamic sects and beliefs, education, women, social reform, revivalism, and Islamism.
- HST 335 Hindus and Muslims in India, Pakistan, and Beyond
Drawing upon some key contemporary debates pertaining Hinduism and other Indic traditions, this course explores the social and intellectual history of modern South Asia by looking at people and institutions behind social and religious reforms, lower caste movements, gender dimensions, modernity, and variants of nationalism and politics. Specific topics covered in this class include social and religious reforms, lower caste movements, religious conversion, status of women, Indian nationalism, Hindu nationalism and right wing movements, political participation, democracy, and the question of identity. This course thus examines a range of issues cutting across regions, religions, gender, caste, and the periods of colonial and postcolonial South Asia.
- HST 385 History through Film: Bollywood and the Making of Modern India
This course juxtaposes historical films made by the world’s largest film industry based out of Bombay/Mumbai with textual primary sources and secondary historical works and seeks to understand films as both interpretations and sources of history. Explores specific themes such as nation, gender, caste, and community that are critical to understanding modern Indian and South Asian history and culture.
- HST 390 Research Seminar: Postcolonial South Asia, 1947 – Present
This research seminar examines the social, political, cultural, and economic history of South Asia in the years after the end of colonialism in late 1940s. It allows students an opportunity to engage with the landmark historical developments of the newly independent nation-states of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, among others, and map their trajectories as they have shaped themselves thus far. Depending on individual interests, students can choose specific areas to explore as research papers pertaining India’s rise in the global economy, the current politics in Pakistan etc.
- HST 390 Research Seminar: History of Modern India
Covering topics from saris to software and the caste system to call centers, this research seminar provides a comprehensive understanding of modern India and allows you an opportunity to explore any aspect related to its history and culture. We will acquaint ourselves with the larger trends of the emergence of modern India from the period of the British Empire to our own times. The course will examine economic, social, political, religious, and cultural history of modern India and capture themes such as gender and sexuality, diversity and religious pluralism, conflicts and coexistence, India's place in the global economy, dress codes and cuisine, and democracy and authoritarianism. Students may choose specific areas to explore as research papers such as Indo-US diplomacy, MLK and Gandhi, outsourcing, Bollywood dance, comparative aspects of diversity between India and the United States, India's Muslims and electoral politics, questions of social equity, and women's place as both goddesses and victims, among many others to be worked out to accommodate individual interests. No prior knowledge or coursework in Indian history required.
Monographs and Edited Collections
- Locale, Everyday Islam, and Modernity: Qasbah Towns and Muslim Life in Colonial India (Oxford University Press, 2015).
- For a complete list of publications, click
Articles and Essays
- "The Partition Conundrum: Perspectives, Experiences and Ambiguities from Qasbahs in Colonial India" in Muslims against the Muslim League: Critiques of the Idea of Pakistan, edited by Ali Usman Qasmi and Megan Robb. Cambridge University Press, 2017: 65-81.
- “Qasbas as Place: A Sense of Belonging and Nostalgia in Colonial India.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 58, 5, December 2015: 668-692.
- “Beyond Center-Periphery: Qasbahs and Muslim Life in South Asia.” South Asian History and Culture, 5:2, April 2014: 163-178.
- “‘We can leave neither’: Mohamed Ali, Islam and Nationalism in Colonial India.” In Tanweer Fazal, ed., Minority Nationalisms in South Asia. London and New Delhi: Routledge, 2012.
- “Gandhi’s Trials and Errors: Experiments in Life and Politics.” History and Sociology of South Asia, 5:2 (July 2011): 129-141.
- “The Mahatma and the Maulana: Understanding Minority Politics in British India.” Rivista di Studi Sudasiatici II (2007): 55-84.
- For a complete list of publications, click