ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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An Exercise in Nostalgia

Locating Home: Hyderabadis Abroad by Karen Isaksen Leonard; Oxford University Press (South Asian reprint), 2007; pp 416, Rs 750 (hardback).

Karen Isaksen Leonard’s engagement with Hyderabad began when she arrived at Nampally railway station one day in 1962 as an exchange student from the United States. Out of her fascination for an old world culture has come several meticulously researched books and papers in the ethnography of Hyderabadi society, or, to be more accurate, in that section of society, the old Hyderabadi elite, who appealed to her most. While we have seen a steady stream of Hyderabadi books, oozing nostalgia and anecdotes about the days of yore, Leonard’s work gives academic muscle to preserved memories. Her stature as an anthropologist of note was established as early as 1978 by her book The Kayasths of Hyderabad, who had formed the backbone of the administration for the Nizam. Her research into the identities of south Asian Muslims in the US has recently gained particular significance, and added to her redoubtable reputation. A departure from a solo focus on the Deccan and its cultures has been her examination of the formulation of new identities by American Punjabi families who have interestingly married into Mexican families.

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