Marrying Global History with South Asian History: Potential and Limits of Global Microhistory in a Regional Inflection
After revisiting transnationally oriented historiography from within a regional South Asian ambit, this article makes a plea for a very specific take on global-history writing that promises to appeal especially to historians who have learned to value dense regional / cultural contextualisation through a training in “area studies”. The approach proposed here acknowledges the validity of micro-approaches in that it advocates the use of the focused analysis of individuals, organisations or institutions and an exploration of their multifarious entanglements and interactions. Yet, while the contextualisation in micro-spatial units is pivotal, a simultaneous awareness of broader contexts and connections as well as a consciousness of the existence and significance of wider analytical frames of analysis – such as the regional, the national or imperial and, of course, the global is equally important. In fact, it is precisely the ability to “zoom out,” to capture the influence of translocal factors on local processes that makes the proposed variety of “global micro-history” work. Potential and limits of the proposed approach are eventually illustrated with an example taken from the author’s work on village development programmes launched by the American YMCA in South Asia in the interwar period.