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Blessed Men and Tribal Politics: Notes on Political Culture in the Indo-Afghan World

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This article examines some of the foundations of the political culture of the Afghan communities of medieval North India through analysing the roles of Sufis and Sayyids in the arbitration of disputes. The social roles of such 'blessed men' are interpreted as part of a wider political culture in which places, objects and persons of mediation functioned on both the small scale of private quarrels and the grander scale of tribal and 'state' diplomacy. In both cases, the origins of this political culture are seen as a reflection of the segmentary society of the Indo-Afghan frontier and a response to the recurring interaction of its mobile social groups in India and beyond. Cet article s'attache à élucider les fondements de la culture politique des communautés afghanes de l'Inde médiévale en examinant les rôles qu'ont joués les soufies et les sayyids dans l'arbitrage des disputes. Ces 'hommes bénis' font partie intégrante d'une culture politique au sein de laquelle circulent objets, lieux et personnes médiatrices ; leur in fluence s'exerce tant au niveau des querelles personnelles qu'au niveau de la diplomatie de la tribu et de 'l'état'. Dans les deux cas, les origines de cette culture politique sont perçues comme re flet de la société segmentée de la frontière indo-afghane et comme réponse à l'interaction répétée de ces groupes sociaux en Inde et ailleurs.


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