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Abstract

Since the early twentieth century, Urdu poets have recited verse at locally-organized poetry gatherings held in country fairs across North India’s Gangetic plain. Critical engagement with these mushāʿarahs overturns assumptions about historical and affiliative aspects of vernacular and elite literary practices, revealing a patchwork of patronage, influence, and taste among poets and their audiences, while also highlighting unexpected routes of textual circulation outside urban locales. This essay examines poetry gatherings in and around the city of Muzaffarnagar located in North India’s Upper Doab. Ethnographic and archival materials tell a history of the performance arenas, tea stalls, and municipal structures of a semi-urban milieu that changes the scale of Urdu literary spaces over time.

In: Journal of Urdu Studies