Nationality and Fashionality: Hats, Lawyers and Other Important Things to Remember

David Boyk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The Persianate genre of the tazkira, or biographical compendium, typically concerns poets and Sufi saints, but a different approach is taken in Yadgar-e Rozgar, published in 1931 by Sayyid Badr al-Hasan, an aristocrat and honorary magistrate from Patna. Hasan focuses on the ordinary people—landlords and courtesans, doctors and bakers, lawyers and counterfeiters—who made up Patna’s social world as the city transformed from a provincial town into the capital of a new province. While many Patnaites celebrated these changes, Hasan was deeply ambivalent about the dilemmas of colonial modernity. He struggled to reconcile modernist ideals with his sense that older ways were essential to Patna’s cohesion and distinctiveness. As he worriedly put it, ‘Asian breeding’ had been replaced by a fickle disregard for social norms, as ‘nationality’ increasingly gave way to ‘fashionality’.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)879-897
Number of pages19
JournalSouth Asia: Journal of South Asia Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2 2020


  • Bihar
  • Muslims
  • Patna
  • Urdu
  • biography
  • cities
  • memory
  • modernity
  • provinciality
  • tazkiras

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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