Education: William and Mary College, B.A.; University of Chicago, Ph.D.
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, London, England, senior lecturer in early Indian history.
Contributor to works by others, including Global Goes Local: Popular Culture in Asia, edited by T. Craig and R. King, University of British Columbia Press (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2002; and Livelihoods at the Margins: Surviving the City, edited by J. Staples, UCL Press (London, England), 2006. Contributor to periodicals, including Review of Disability Studies, Studies in History, Modern Asian Studies, Medieval History Journal, and Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient.
Daud Ali's field is early Indian history, and his interests are ancient and medieval Indian history until 1600, including the cultural and social history and history of religious ideas, political structures, and courtly manners. Ali is the author of several books and the editor of others, including Invoking the Past: The Uses of History in South Asia, a volume that is the result of a conference held in April, 1997, at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London. The book is divided into three sections titled "Beginnings: Race, Language and Region in Making the Past," "Thinking the Past as History: Nationalist Configurations," and "Beyond History? Memory, Heterogeneity, Community."
In reviewing Invoking the Past in History: Review of New Books, Roger D. Long noted: "With the rise to prominence of Hindu fundamentalist parties and the attention given to ‘nationalizing the past,’ the issue of the writing, or rewriting, of Indian history became a particularly thorny one at the end of the twentieth century. Invoking the Past addresses such issues."
Ali is also the author, with Ronald Inden and Jonathan Walters, of Querying the Medieval: Texts and the History of Practices in South Asia, in which each author contributes one essay. Inden, who also provides the introduction, offers "Imperial Puranas: Kashmir as Vaisnava Center of the World"; "Buddhist History: The Sri Lanka Pali Vamsas and Their Commentary" was written by Walters; and "Royal Eulogy as World History: Rethinking Copper-Plate Inscriptions in Cola India" is by Ali. Ian J. Kerr reviewed Querying the Medieval in History: Review of New Books, noting that it is a volume "for specialists. Neither the subject matters nor the vocabularies nor the methodological and conceptual approaches lend themselves to a relaxed read. However, an important caveat: The range of specialists to whom the book should appeal is wide."
Ali is sole author of Courtly Culture and Political Life in Early Medieval India, a study in which he draws on such sources as the Kama Sutra, Arthashastra, Panchatantra stories, art, and poetry in writing about the courts of South Asia. He places less emphasis on the king and more on the men who made up the elite communities within the courts, with the purpose of understanding the structure and organization of the courts and the relationships that were formed there. The period studied covers the Gupta Empire (c. 320 CE) to the beginning of the Muslim dynasties (c. 1200 CE).
In the first chapter Ali shows how life in the court changed over time and how an individual's position in court could be determined by his clothing, ornaments, living arrangements, and by the way he spoke and otherwise represented himself. In the second section Ali notes that during this period it was assumed that a man's accomplishments were truthfully represented by his appearance, speech, and bearing. Courtly romance and sex are the subjects of the third part of the book, considered art forms at the time. Love and battle were viewed similarly; if a man was unable to discipline himself with regard to the first, he was thought likely to fail in battle.
"It is this connection between the individual noble and his world, including both the court and the wider world, which gives this book its importance," wrote David L. White in the Historian. "Ali shows that although many of the manners developed around a courtly culture appear at first sight to be highly stylized, these mannerisms, including romance, were connected with activities essential to the court's (state's) survival. In the medieval texts, courtship's object was to capture, or seize, the other's mind." Writing in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, Edwin Gerow described Courtly Culture and Political Life in Early Medieval India as an "ambitious and persuasively written work."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, December, 2002, Stewart Gordon, review of Querying the Medieval: Texts and the History of Practices in South Asia, p. 1521.
Historian, summer, 2006, David L. White, review of Courtly Culture and Political Life in Early Medieval India, p. 365.
History: Review of New Books, summer, 2000, Roger D. Long, review of Invoking the Past: The Uses of History in South Asia, p. 183; summer, 2000, Ian J. Kerr, review of Querying the Medieval, p. 185.
Journal of Asian Studies, February, 2001, Aloka Parashar-Sen, review of Invoking the Past, p. 249; November, 2002, Richard H. Davis, review of Querying the Medieval, p. 1408; November, 2005, Michael Linderman, review of Courtly Culture and Political Life in Early Medieval India, p. 1051.
Journal of the American Academy of Religion, June, 2005, Frederick M. Smith, review of Querying the Medieval, p. 542.
Journal of the American Oriental Society, January 1, 2005, Edwin Gerow, review of Courtly Culture and Political Life in Early Medieval India, p. 137.
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London Web site,http://www.soas.ac.uk/ (March 12, 2008), faculty profile.