THE PERSIANATE WORLD:
A Conceptual Inquiry

May 9 - 11, 2014
Room 202, Luce Hall
34 Hillhouse Avenue

 

Paper Abstracts

Friday, May 9, 2014

Panel 1: Culture and Religion in the Persianate World

Hasan Karatas (University of St. Thomas, Minnesota), Rum-Shirvan Connection and the Transmission of the Khalwatiya to the Ottoman World in the Fifteenth Century

My paper discusses the curious connection between two sub-regions in western Persianate world in the context of movement of scholars, poets and Sufis. More specifically I intend to inquire the ties linking the Rum region in north central Anatolia, to Shirvan region in northwestern Iran with special reference to the westward expansion of the Khalwatiya Sufi order in the fifteenth century.

The Rum region is situated in north-central Anatolia (six hundred kilometers east of Istanbul) at the junction of trade routes stretching from the Black Sea to Syria, and from the Iranian plateau to Istanbul. In the fifteenth century the region with the city of Amasya at its center, enjoyed a privileged relationship with the Ottoman sultans as it served as a locale where the Ottoman princes were sent out to be trained as future sultans. Rum’s political significance for the Ottomans was also derived from its proximity to Iran. One of the cities in the Rum, namely Amasya served as the eastern capital of the Ottoman polity from where the Ottomans observed the developments in Iran, even more closely after their defeat at the hand of Timurids in 1402. The region also became the eastern portal of the Ottoman world, through which Iranian Sufis and scholars joined the Ottoman enterprise. Among the Iranians migrating to West, the Sufis and scholars of Shirvan almost exclusively subscribed to the Ottoman networks in one of the cities or towns in the Rum region. In other words the cities of the Rum region served as urban platforms where Shirvani Sufis, scholars and poets are “naturalized” via attachment to one of the regional Ottoman networks and later transplanted to the Ottoman capital.

Among the Sufis of Shirvan were the members of the Khalwatiya order, which originated and later spread in the rural areas of northwestern Iran in the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. During its earlier attempts to establish themselves in the Ottoman core lands, the Khalwati Sufis took great pains because of their rivalry with local Sufi communities. And until the late 1480’s, Khalwatiya’s multiple attempts to settle in the Ottoman cities ended in vain. The only exception was the region of Rum, especially the city of Amasya, where the Khalwatis found safe haven until they managed to be accepted by the Ottoman elite in the core lands of the empire. By demonstrating the ways in which the connection between Rum  and Shirvan enabled the Khalwatiya to get a foothold in the Ottoman world, I attempt at achieving two objectives; (a) inserting spatial agency in the story of Ottomanization of an Iranian Sufi order, (b) understanding the role of (inter)regional networks (and the interaction between them) in the Persianate world on the formation of Ottoman socioreligious idiom.  

Shahrokh Raei, (University of Göttingen), The Material Culture of Wandering Dervishes in Persianate Societies

The tradition of wandering dervishes or Qalandariyyah includes some communities, which spread out over a considerable geographical area. The Qalandar movement would have arisen in east Iran and Central Asia and was discovered for the first time in the early 13th century. During this century the first Qalandar dervishes appeared in Anatolia, Iran and Central Asia.

The cultural aspects of this phenomenon have survived in all these regions by different ways and means until today. The Khâksâr order in Iran, Qalandar dervishes in Pakistan and Bektashis in Turkey can to some extent be mentioned as representatives and survivors of this tradition. Besides a common background, there were also many exchanges and relationships between these groups in the history. Therefore, today we can find many comparable and similar religious traditions, rituals, customs and also a similar material culture among them.

In this paper we examine and compare the usage and position of some equipments and outfits among the members and in the religious life of these groups in order to define and illustrate the historical connections and cultural and religious relationships between them.

James Pickett, (Princeton University), Little Persianate Spheres?: Bukhara as a Center of Regional Exchange

This paper traces the rise of the city of Bukhara as a focal point of cultural and material exchange in Central Asia. From the second half of the eighteenth century through the beginning of the twentieth the Manghit dynasty consciously invested in Bukhara’s infrastructure just as Islamic scholars simultaneously mythologized the city as an “Abode of Knowledge” (dar al-ilm), imagined to be timeless and second only to Mecca in religious importance. As a result of these efforts, Bukhara became a regional center not reducible to the bounds of the khanate by the same name, which in fact controlled a very modest amount of territory. Scholars traveled to Bukhara from cities / regions such as Balkh, Khoqand, Badakhshan, Kazan, and Khiva – none of which were controlled by Bukhara – to study in madrasas before returning to their homelands. Upon their return, they found that the Persianate package of competencies and skills they acquired in Bukhara – Arabic grammar, Islamic jurisprudence, Persian poetry, Sufism, and even the occult – were equally valued at their point of origin. Although this zone of exchange was substantial, it did not, by most measures, cover the entire Persianate space, even if many of the components that defined it were indeed common throughout. In a narrow sense, can we consider the Bukharan orbit one of many Persianate spheres? Were there similar zones of exchange in other territories of the Persianate space? What are the advantages and disadvantages of considering the northeastern reaches of the Persophone world through this prism?

Waleed Ziad, (Yale University), From Yarkand to Sindh: The Naqshbandi-Mujaddidiyya of Afghanistan and the Development of their Transregional Networks in the early 19th century

The history of Afghanistan, Sindh, and Transoxiana after Nadir Shah is generally regarded as one of fragmentation, during which the political landscape was dominated by petty feuding principalities. This paper, focusing on the Mujaddidi family of Shor Bazaar, Kabul in the early 19th century, concludes that amidst the political crises, new, dynamic sources of authority emerged from within Sufi networks which transcended the state and forged transregional linkages throughout South and Central Asia.

The Mujaddidiyya of Kabul, who migrated from Sirhind to Afghanistan at the behest of Ahmad Shah Durrani, were descendants of the Naqshbandi revivalist saint, Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi (known as the Mujaddid, or reviver, of the Second Millennium). It is often argued that the Mujaddidi family were the principal carrier of Sirhindi’s revivalist teachings into Afghanistan, and transformed religious practice and identity in the region. However, their popular appeal, the structure of their networks, and their efforts at tajdid, or ‘renewal’, are not well understood.

Relying on principal Kabul Mujaddidi biographies and hagiographies, and local histories, shrine catalogs, and Sufi didactic texts, this paper will explore how the Mujaddidis conceived of their project of tajdid, and the socio-religious function of their Sirhindian lineage.  It will also examine how the shaykhs and students perceived their relationship to state and broader society, and the nature of their khaniqah networks.

I argue that the Afghan Mujaddidi khaniqahs – extending from Yarkand to Bukhara to Sindh within one generation - formed a new network of public spaces which helped reassert Kabul’s position as a scholastic and religious center, connecting scholars and Sufis fleeing the crises of the late Mughal Empire to students from as far as Siberia, Kazan, and Bulgharia. The architecture of this transnational network, I will argue, provides insights into an emerging form of scholarly-saintly authority whose philosophy and institutions established the foundation for later revivalist movements of the early modern and modern Sunni Persianate world.

This paper will also aim to demonstrate how texts produced within Sufi traditions can help us conceptualize the contours of the Persianate world as defined from within. The Mujaddidi biographical tradition in particular can allow us to map out the spatial conceptualization of their world, and their assignment of symbolic and spiritual capital to certain regions and cities which hosted their networks. I will explore how the Mujaddidiyyah sustained and re-imagined their world through production and dissemination of texts, and the establishment of shrine spaces.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Panel 2 : Literature and Historiography

Vikas Rathee, (University of Arizona), Religion and Politics in the pre-Islamic Hindu Past of Indo-Persian tawarikh: The Case of the Khulasat al-Tawarikh

This paper explores how terms such as ‘Islamicate’ and ‘Persianate’ could further our understanding of the treatment of politics and religion in sections on the Hindu past of India in the Khulasat al-tawarikh, a late-seventeenth century textsupposedlywritten by a Hindu. The Khulasat contains a 100-page long section on the pre-Islamic Hindu past of India that is equally historical, ahistorical and mythical. The paper analyses the usage of terms like raja, saltanat, badshahat, khilafat, umara, khud , barhaman (Brahmin)and so on in the Khulasat. Why were certain terms deriving from South Asian political and religious traditions retained in writing the history of pre-Islamic India, while other terms were replaced by Persian and Islamic terms? The papercompares the treatment of pre-Islamic Hindu politics and religion in the Khulasat with other contemporary Indo-Persian histories.

Persian literary culture arrived in India already suffused with Islam after the Arab conquest of Iran and Central Asia. By c.1700, Persian had attained the status of being the language of administration, culture and knowledge in South Asia, and had found numerous practitioners and patrons of Indian and Hindu origin. Texts detailing the ethnography and sociology of India, whether written by Hindus, Indian Muslims or Central Asians had become more common by c.1700. Given the inherent Islamisation of Persian literary culture, and the influence of Persianate traditions upon Indian literary traditions, it is important to investigate if and how Persianate and Islamicate elements shaped knowledge of Hindu political and religious cultures.

Arthur Dudney, (University of Oxford), At Cosmopolis’s End: The Slipping Apart of Iran and South Asia as Reflected in Lexicographical Works

Across the vast expanse of the Persian cosmopolis, dictionaries were crucial in constructing a shared literary language from as early as the fourteenth century. Before the colonial period, South Asia was the main center for Persian lexicography, which no doubt reflects India’s seemingly paradoxical position as both a frontier territory (where the vast majority of people did not know Persian) and the place where lavish patronage was most available to Persian-writing litterateurs and administrators. A key trend in lexicography over the Mughal period was the increasing awareness of cultural and linguistic differences between Iran and India and the desire to enumerate them. By the eighteenth century, when this proto-anthropological interest reached its zenith, the networks of patronage that drew Iranian and Central Asian elites to India began drying up.

Literary scholars have frequently implied that such an articulation of difference and the anxiety over it was the primary cause of the split in the Persian cosmopolis, and that it emerged from the political reality of the collapse of the Mughal polity and Nādir Shāh’s invasion of India. In this paper, I challenge such causality-based interpretations by showing that Indians like the Delhi-based scholar Sirāj al-Dīn ‘Alī Ḳhān Ārzū (d. 1756) spoke about Persian from a position of strength. He clearly articulated India’s role as a part within the Persian cosmopolitan as a whole, and he and his circle—who were at the center of literary production and administration at Delhi—did not see Persian culture in nationalist terms but rather considered themselves to be from the proper lineages to use Persian well. By analzying the dictionaries produced by Ārzū’s circle, we find that the anxiety of being cut off from the “true Persian” of Iran is actually a later projection onto the historical record, and the interest in maintaining the unity of the Persian cosmopolis is expressed by a careful accounting of regional differences within it. By thinking through this comparatively late moment, we can reflect on how cultural differences were earlier managed across the Persianate world as administrators and poets circulated from place to place.

Ron Sela, (Indiana University), Turkic History-Writing in Central Asia and the Reorientation of the Persianate Oecumene

One could well argue that before the 16th century Central Asia belonged to a Hodgsonian Persianate zone (among other ‘zones’). Politically, the region – together with Iran, for example – formed a part of greater imperial structures (Mongols, Timurids, etc.). Administratively, intellectually, and creatively Persian norms of government, language, and the arts were frequently the most conspicuous across the entire region. 

However, the 16th century witnessed profound political, demographic, linguistic and religious changes in Central Asia, following the massive migration and invasion of Turks (the so-called ‘Uzbek Conquest’) into the region in the beginning of the century and the growing divide with an increasingly shi’ite Iran. In Central Asia, the new conquerors began to advance history-writing projects in Turkic, as opposed to the more commonly used Persian, and even explicitly denounced history writing in Persian. They stressed the need to tell the Turkic story (‘our story’) to the people (‘the Turks’) in Turkic. This call was coupled with efforts at translating canonical historical works (such as Rashīd al-Dīn’s Jāmi‘ al-tawārīkh) from Persian into Turkic.

In this paper, I first introduce the new developments of the 16th century and the attempts that followed to revolutionize or vernacularize history writing in Central Asia, based on primary sources (some unpublished) in Chaghatay Turkic and Persian. I then examine the successes and failures of said attempts – and their regional variations – and whether they spelled the end of Central Asia’s share in a ‘Persianate oecumene,’ or simply added another layer of intricacy to an already complicated story. 

Panel 3: The “Other” in the Persianate World

Hirotake Maeda, (Tokyo Metropolitan University), Fresh Recruits from the Caucasus serving the “Persianate Empires”

This paper deals with the history of Caucasian recruits serving Persianate Empires in late medieval and early modern period. Particular mention goes to the converted elites in Safavid and Qajar dynasties. We will follow thier activites by using written materials mainly in Persian and Georgian with relevant references to the informaiton found in Armenian, Russian, Turkish as well as European sources. Their cross-border activities in political and cultural spheres urges us to reconsider the relationship between the state and the (minority) nations, imperial core and peripheries, religion and sectal communities so on. One of the main aim of the discussion is to conceptulize the term Persianate Empires by delineating the stauts of those fresh recruits from the Caucasus in the state institutions and societies they (had) belonged to.

Rebecca Gould, (Yale-National University of Singapore), The Epigraphy of Sovereignty: Persianate Power in the Caucasus before Modernity

I propose to situate the Caucasus within the emerging field of Persianate Studies, with a specific focus on premodern political ideologies and their transformation in modern times. While my work on Persianate culture focuses primarily on the circulation of literary texts from the Caucasus to South Asia (see especially Gould forthcoming), I welcome this opportunity to broaden the disciplinary scope of my inquiry by taking deeper account of the social and political infrastructures that shaped the dissemination of Persianate culture.

To this end, I will study how idioms of sovereignty indigenous to the Caucasus interacted with globally conceived Persianate conceptions of power. My primary source base will be the rich archive of epigraphic inscriptions that have been collected from the region of Darband (present day Daghestan) and northern Azerbaijan, and which date from the eleventh century to the late precolonial period, to be supplemented by premodern travel accounts and other historiographic documents. While much of the relevant material is in Arabic (and I have worked on this material in other contexts), and the relevant secondary scholarship deals exclusively with this Arabic material, a significant proportion of the inscriptions, particularly from the southern Caucasus, are in Persian. I will therefore contribute to existing studies of sovereignty in the Islamic Caucasus a perspective from Persianate archives. I will end by considering how local and Persianate forms of sovereignty in the Caucasus were reconfigured by colonial modernity.

The narrow ethnic and territorial rubrics propagated by colonial and Soviet dispensations have created the need for new ways of conceiving Caucasus geography. My examinations of Persianate idioms of sovereignty on the basis of the inscriptional record aim to demonstrate how Persianate Studies can play a leading role in recovering this lost geography.

Joanna de Groot, (York University, UK), Inclusion and Exclusion in the Persianate World: Views of Baluch People in the Nineteenth Century

This paper seeks to unpack some of the conceptual issues raised by the use of the term "Persianate world" as a tool for the analysis of past societies in western, central, and southern Asia by considering depictions of Baluch people in some Persian language texts. Taking a number of elite Iranian accounts of the Baluch produced in the late nineteenth century, it will examine the cultural and conceptual frameworks used in those accounts. Entwined with the political and concerns recounted in the texts it is possible to identify some organising ideas about the place of Baluch people in the mental universe of elite Iranian writers.

By exploring these ideas it will be possible to raise some questions about the notion of "Persianate" as a means to understand the worlds of "Iranians" and "Baluch". To what extent was it a matter of shared religious or cultural characteristics ? How did the "Persianate" culture of the texts' authors intersect with their ideas of civilisation and savagery, and with assumptions about a social and political order structuring the relationships of subjects and rulers ? What was the significance of the spatial location of Baluch groups on territory claimed by the Qajar state, but also within the sphere of interest of the British raj in India ? In what way were distinctions between "Persian' and 'Baluch' cross-cut with perceptions of the mutual interests of elites in the maintenance of order and control of subaltern groups?

An analysis of these matters will open up discussion of both the relevance and the limitations of the idea of a "Persianate world" as a category of analysis. By unpacking the complexities and contradictions embedded in the concept it will be possible to further develop informed and discriminating uses of that concept.

Nathan Light, (Uppsala University, Sweden), Forgetting and Unbraiding: From Turko-Persianate Culture to Ethno-National Identities

The Persianate cultures and institutions of pre-modern Central Asia are difficult to understand and appreciate from the perspective of modern Turkic ethno-nationalisms. Even the pan-Turkic vision still noticeable in modern Turkey is barely conceivable in Central Asia. Similarly many Tajiks do not see themselves as sharing much heritage with other Persianate societies. Analysis of these transformations requires attention to multiple factors: new national identities have been created around shared historical knowledge and cultural traditions, inculcated through modern education, and reinforced by citizenship regimes, state borders and changing languages and alphabets.  Public media and widespread vernacular literacy has reinforced distinctions rather than sustaining the rich cultural circulation carried by educated elites moving among regional political and religious institutions. Knowledge and cultural skills derived from foreign courts and religious institutions once provided symbolic capital, but in the past century or so, state institutions have increasingly claimed the right to manage these values, and have turned their attention to producing narratives about supposedly pure and autochthonous national cultural forms.

This paper, based in my research in Xinjiang and Kyrgyzstan, presents several examples of how Turkic cultural nationalisms over the past century have successfully dethroned Persianate culture from its valued role as language of education, literacy and religious tradition.  These efforts reflect political and personal efforts to manage culture and place it within national frames studded with symbols of descent from a purified past. Romantic nationalist narratives of elite-commoner divides have helped redefine cultural exchange as the source of deleterious pollution carried by deracinated cosmopolitan intellectuals.

However, the roots of Turkic nativism run deep, so this paper will compare the present styles of re-racination and de-Persianization with processes of Turko-Persian interaction and cultural mixing in earlier periods. Already in the pre-Mongol period in Islamic Central Asia, Turkic authors were competing with Persians to claim some of the cultural status attained by the latter within the Islamic world. Subsequently a wide variety of symbolic practices and commentary reflect ongoing tensions around cultural hierarchies of post-Mongol Central Asian societies, and Turkic identity symbols began to be important in certain contexts of both elite and popular culture.

These processes remained marginal to the core of Persianate tradition, but played important roles in Turkic contexts in ways that have not been adequately analyzed.  There is little scholarship on the contexts and practices of self-conscious Turkic ethno-cultural nationalism before the modern period. Although some modern Turkic scholars appreciate the accomplishments and influences of Persianate culture, there is generally little political tolerance for public discussions and nativist values reign supreme in Central Asia. But this paper argues that full understanding of the Persianate world requires including Turkic societies: they continue Persianate traditions while radically redefining them. The highly plural Turko-Persian societies should not be seen as syntheses so much as mosaics. However, many pieces of these mosaics were not ethnically distinct until rearranged and revalued within modern nation states to re-invent separate traditions.

Panel 4: Print, Media, and the Production of Knowledge
           
Farzin Vejdani, (University of Arizona), The “Low” Culture of the Persianate? Popular Theater, the Revolutionary Press, and Illicit Activities in early Twentieth-Century Istanbul Teahouses

While several scholars drawing on Marshall Hodgson’s pioneering work have employed the category of Persianate societies—namely societies in which Persian became a mode of expressing a set of cultural traditions in pre-modern Islamic societies—less research has explored how Persian continued to be relevant across political boundaries in the modern era.  This paper examines the various vectors for the spread of the Persian press, including merchants, missionaries, and political dissidents over the course of nearly a century. Press exchanges occurred along well-trodden Indian Ocean routes, overland connections between Iran and Central Asia, and merchant links tying Eastern Mediterranean trade to western Asia. The proliferation of new technologies and networks like the telegraph and the postal system more closely integrated newspapers into regional and global information flows. Telegrams and letters to the editor of Persian newspapers from abroad allow us to gauge the extent of transnational readership. Drawing inspiration from similar studies of the Arabic radical press in the Eastern Mediterranean, this paper explores several cities—Isfahan, Cairo, Bombay, Calcutta, Kabul, and Istanbul—as geographically intertwined hubs for the production and circulation of ideas and movements ranging from anti-imperialism, socialism, and pan-Islamism.

Pedram Partovi, (American University), Conceptualizing Persianate Cinema

This paper considers the largely unexamined structural and thematic links that exist between the historically important popular film cultures of the Middle East and South Asia—namely those of Egypt, India, Iran, and Turkey. The handful of commentators that have attempted to account for the resemblances found among the major cinemas of this “region” have pointed to similar conditions of film production and/or local studios’ collective reliance on the “Hollywood template.”

I argue that the shared narrative elements, imagery, music, theatricality, and even audiences of these four film cultures have their roots in a cosmopolitan Persianate past. One of the aims of the paper is to problematize prevailing notions of the “modern” as a sharp break from the past. Of course, cinema everywhere has in the view of scholars been a wholly modern and modernizing experience. I contend that popular cinema in the Middle East and South Asia has contributed to viewers’ self-conceptions not only through an engagement with modern (Western) institutions and processes but also with indigenous “tradition.” Despite certain national peculiarities, these four cinemas enjoy a dialogical relationship that recreates and mirrors older, interlinked performative traditions and social practices that circulated widely in the medieval and early modern empires of the Muslim East through the mediation of the Persian language. The Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal polities were particularly important to the constitution of this “Persianate world,” whose footprint does not fit neatly into any of the geographic divisions that the post-WW2 “area studies” model promoted in the academy.

While many scholars have admirably pointed to the need for greater study of the Persianate world, their approach has been either past-oriented and centered in particular on the elite cultures of the “Gunpowder Empires” or focused on the Persian language and on the modern nations in which Persian has the status of a “national” language. The processes of nationalism, modernization, and globalization have at once placed aspects of the Persianate world “under threat,” while giving newfound prominence to others. Yet, what has survived until the present day is not merely a matter of historical reconstruction or ethnolinguistic connection. This paper argues that modern accounts of the Persianate world or accounts of the modern Persianate world have invariably left out of their story the massification of older Persianate cultural practices in modern film entertainment that may or may not be in Persian.

The transregional and transhistorical study of a popular Persianate film aesthetic that I am proposing is a long-term project that requires a great deal of further research on my part. In this paper, I plan to present preliminary findings on the theme of male heroism in Persianate cinemas, with a particular focus on the popular Iranian and Indian cinemas of the 1960s and 1970s. I consider how ideas of javānmardī or “masculine virtue,” springing from local devotional orders, wrestling clubs, artisan guilds, as well as (related) popular and courtly entertainments in the pre-modern Persianate world have informed modern depictions of heroism in Indian and Iranian films largely about men and for men. Most scholars have claimed that the legal and security apparatus of the modern state led to the decline of “traditional” male associational life in the Middle East and South Asia. Nationalist ideologies in turn championed members of the civil service and army as the new exemplars of society. To be sure, previous forms of male social organization have been marginalized the modern era. However, I contend that a javānmardī ethos has remained relevant to modern ideas of manhood—with popular film perhaps its most prominent venue. I intend to demonstrate that filmmakers working in the Persianate cinemas have turned to such older, often (anti-)heroic models to question official ideas of citizenship, national development, and social relations that political and intellectual elites in the “new” nation-state had advocated.

Denis V. Volkov, (University of Manchester, UK), Knowledgeable Conquest or Intelligent Expansion?: The Study of the Persianate World in Fin de Siècle Russia

By the end of the nineteenth century Oriental studies of late Imperial Russia had evolved into a rather developed, highly industrious and self-contained system of the production of scholarly knowledge on the Orient. It consisted of relevant institutions within Russia’s academia, diplomatic and military services, as well as of academic and missionary institutions within the Russian Orthodox Church. Given the crucial role of the Middle East in Russia’s eastern foreign policy in general, and the importance of the Persianate world in the context of Russia’s political interaction with European powers in particular, Persian studies turned out the largest and most influential sub-domain within Russia’s Oriental studies during the second half of the nineteenth and the early twentieth century.

Notwithstanding the ample literature on Russia’s pre-1917 Oriental studies (Richard Frye, Nathaniel Knight, David Schimmelpenninck, Vera Tolz etc.), there is still no comprehensive study of all four domains of Russia’s late imperial Orientology, especially within Persian studies. With the aim to fill in this lacuna, the paper will analyse the organisation of the study of the broad Persianate world in Russia of the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, highlighting some of its main specific features, namely the presence of all four domains and their institutional interconnectedness – the features which are particularly ascertainable in application to Persian studies; and relevant discursive manifestations inherent to the then activities of Russian orientologists. Furthermore, the paper also dwells upon the broad multi-fold specialisation of Russian orientologists in the history, language, literature, ethnography and other aspects of the peoples of Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and even of areas overlapping with the Indian and Chinese oecumene.

The paper draws on the documents recently retrieved by the author from Russian and Georgian political, academic and military archives.

Panel 5: Persianate Communities Abroad

Mana Kia, (Columbia University), Transregional Ties that Bind: Companionship, Education and Migration

In 17th and 18th centuries Persian sources, companionship between the powerful and the learned was a vital part of political culture in Mughal India, and these relationships were underpinned by elite migration between West and South Asia. A symbiosis of power and prestige underpinned these relationships, where the learned bestowed virtue and the powerful bestowed protection, displayed aspects of student-teacher and patron-client relationships. The centrality of these relationships tells us several things. First, that there was a shared set of subjects vested in a textual tradition body and displayed in social forums whose mastery connoted a man of refined learning. It was expected that this learning would be embodied in a social ethics of exchange, in polite manners and witty repartee. Second, these relationships were important in Persianate societies of origin, as well as destination, making them a transregionally recognizable mode of politically significant sociality. And finally, given the parochial and local differences characterizing this transregional Persianate domain, there was some mechanism by which differences were transcended in these relationships, since they often occurred between Hindus and Muslims, as well as between Persians from different lands. I argue that this mechanism was the adab/akhlaq complex, a kind of ethical conduct signifying moral stature that was at the heart of the education defining Persianate culture and societies. This education facilitated and gave meaning to the centuries long circulation of people, good and ideas between West and South Asia. My paper will necessarily outline the specifics of these khan-adib relationships situated within the history of this migration, and flag its features in texts of Persianate education basic to both regions. Finally, I will briefly contemplate some changes to education and migration brought about by European imperialism in the first half of the 19th century, though I argue that the impact of these changes were gradual given the lingering imaginary of the Persianate world in early Iranian modernist writings.

Daniel Sheffield, (Princeton University), The Loss of the Persianate and the Recovery of the Iranian: On Parsi Antiquarianism and Modernity

For the Parsi Zoroastrian community of Western India, colonialism can be characterized as an experience of loss and recovery. As the community increasingly migrated from Gujarat to Bombay, traditional structures of religious authority, learning, and patronage were disrupted, while new forms of education available in the metropole replaced older Persianate forms of knowledge and the cosmopolitan literary culture that had accompanied it. Yet, at the same time, the rediscovery of ancient Iran, stemming from the newly introduced sciences of philology, ethnology, and archaeology, facilitated the recovery of an "ancient" pre-Islamic Iranian identity, which drew its inspiration from the pillars of Persepolis rather than the traditional Zoroastrian centers of Gujarat and central Iran. In part, this paradigm shift from the "Persianate" to the "Iranian," from the traditional to the philological, can be traced to the early nineteenth century, when Bombay Parsis came under attack by proselytizing Protestant missionaries, bringing with them a scripturalist understanding of the Zoroastrian religion based not on contemporary works of Zoroastrian theology then current among the Parsi priestly elite, but rather on older sources dating to antiquity. In this talk, I will attempt to reconstruct the tensions of this period of transition through a reading of late Parsi Persian theological texts as well as early Parsi Gujarati printed journals in which "scientific" discoveries relating to ancient
Iran were introduced, debated, and adapted by a Bombay Parsi audience. Through this investigation, I argue that the Parsi interest in antiquarian and philological approaches to their religion allowed Parsi thinkers to negate existing structures of priestly authority, yet in the process brought about a dramatic reimagination of their own relationship to the broader Persianate world.

Tanya Lawrence, (Yale University), Iranians in the Ottoman Empire: Culture of Dissent, Identity Politics and Transregional Networks in the Late Nineteenth Century

By the second half of the nineteenth century Istanbul had become an important social and political centre for many Iranian activists and politicians who had either been exiled from Iran or who were appointed to various posts in the Iranian embassy in the Ottoman capital. This community formed a highly active opposition base involved in Iranian politics from abroad.  Although the significance of Ottoman reforms on Qajar Iran have been acknowledged in the literature by a range of scholars, no more than a certain amount of background material can be found concerning the network of Iranians residing in nineteenth-century Istanbul, and no significant work has yet been carried out on the impact of this community on political, social and literary reform in Iran. In this paper, I propose that the study of this network of Iranians – one which considers the significance of affiliations to various publishing houses, the possible choices which informed how relationships between a number of Turkish men of the Tanzimat and Iranian diplomats and activists were formed, and involvement in Masonic lodges and anjumans – can help shed light on the influences that shaped the social and intellectual milieu in which members of this community came to express and articulate certain ideas pertaining – though not limited – to national aspirations, political culture, and reform at the time.  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Keynote speaker: Richard Eaton, (University of Arizona), Comparing the Persian Cosmopolis (900-1900) and the Sanskrit Cosmopolis (400-1400)

Sheldon Pollock has recently proposed the notion of the Sanskrit cosmopolis as a way to theorize the displacement of culture on territory. For Pollock, what characterized this “cosmopolis” was the ideas elaborated in the entire corpus of Sanskrit texts which, for more than millennium, and spanning an enormous area from Afghanistan through Southeast Asia, circulated above and across the world of vernacular, regional tongues.  For Sanskrit, like only a few other world languages (e.g., Greek, Persian, Latin, Arabic), was a “language that traveled”, as opposed to a “language of place.”  Sanskrit texts embraced everything from rules of grammar to styles of kingship, architecture, proper comportment, the goals of life, the regulation of society, the acquisition of power and wealth, etc.  Fundamentally, the Sanskrit cosmopolis – that is, the territory in which such texts circulated and were widely considered normative -- was all about defining and preserving moral and social order.  And it expanded over much of Asia not by force of arms, but by emulation, and without any governing center or fortified frontiers.  It was thus comparable to the Hellenized world that had earlier embraced the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East after Alexander the Great. 

My paper will argue that in India, some five centuries after the advent of the Sanskrit cosmopolis, another cosmopolis, a Persian one, flourished in India, the heartland of its Sanskrit predecessor.   By examining such media as architecture, royal titles, lexicography, and courtly literature, I propose to explore the ways in which these two visions of moral and social order not only compared with one another, but historically overlapped and even influenced one another between the 13th and 17th centuries.    

Panel 6: Eastern Connections with the Persianate World

James Millward, (Georgetown University), Echoes of Barbad’s Lute: Short-Necked Chordophones and the Neglected Persianate Core of the Silk Road

From origins in Central Asia or North India, the short-necked lute (barbat / 'oud / pipa / lute) spread in various forms to Iran, India, and China and then on to Arab lands, Europe, Korea and Japan. The first extant representations come from Bactria and Gandhara, areas under Saka and then Kushan control by the 1st c. BCE-1xst c. CE. The subsequent lutes of Southwest and East Asia are linked to those from Kushan not only by morphological features, but arguably also by their social context and musical role:  in both east and west, these lutes remain associated to some degree with female musicians, frame-drums and grape wine drinking.  In both Islamic lands and Tang Empire, moreover, the barbat / 'oud and pipa become principal exponents of musical theory, especially structured modal or melodic systems (e.g. dastan, mugam, daqu).   Based on preliminary research, I will attempt to argue that the dissemination of the short-necked lute from the center to the peripheries of the Eurasian continent exemplifies both the nature of dissemination and transculturation on the "silk road," and the key role of Persianate core areas in trans-Eurasian exchanges. 

Heidi Walcher, (Ludwig-Maximilian Universität-Munchen), Linking Eastern and Western Iran: Resonances of Asia in Tabriz of 1501

For the Parsi Zoroastrian community of Western India, colonialism can be characterized as an experience of loss and recovery. As the community increasingly migrated from Gujarat to Bombay, traditional structures of religious authority, learning, and patronage were disrupted, while new forms of education available in the metropole replaced older Persianate forms of knowledge and the cosmopolitan literary culture that had accompanied it. Yet, at the same time, the rediscovery of ancient Iran, stemming from the newly introduced sciences of philology, ethnology, and archaeology, facilitated the recovery of an "ancient" pre-Islamic Iranian identity, which drew its inspiration from the pillars of Persepolis rather than the traditional Zoroastrian centers of Gujarat and central Iran. In part, this paradigm shift from the "Persianate" to the "Iranian," from the traditional to the philological, can be traced to the early nineteenth century, when Bombay Parsis came under attack by proselytizing Protestant missionaries, bringing with them a scripturalist understanding of the Zoroastrian religion based not on contemporary works of Zoroastrian theology then current among the Parsi priestly elite, but rather on older sources dating to antiquity. In this talk, I will attempt to reconstruct the tensions of this period of transition through a reading of late Parsi Persian theological texts as well as early Parsi Gujarati printed journals in which "scientific" discoveries relating to ancient
Iran were introduced, debated, and adapted by a Bombay Parsi audience. Through this investigation, I argue that the Parsi interest in antiquarian and philological approaches to their religion allowed Parsi thinkers to negate existing structures of priestly authority, yet in the process brought about a dramatic reimagination of their own relationship to the broader Persianate world.

Arash Khazeni, (Pomona College), Of Teak, Elephants, and Rubies: Indo-Persian Encounters with the Nature of Imperial Burma, circa 1800
 
For early modern Indo-Persian authors, the land of Burma (Myanmar) was a mythical island and littoral region “below the winds” of the Indian Ocean monsoons.   Burma was the far side of Asia, an unfamiliar place of oddities, wonders, and foreign customs.  In late eighteenth-century Bengal, however, there occurred an Indo-Persian rediscovery of Burma.  In 1784, the Burmese Konbaung dynasty, based in the valley of the Irrawaddy River had coalesced and expanded north to conquer the city of Mrauk U in Arakan, the former seat of a powerful Buddhist dynasty steeped in the Indo-Persian, Islamic court culture of neighboring Bengal, leading to the migrations of the former subjects of Mrauk U – Buddhist “Magh” and Indo-Persian Muslim “Moguls” – between Burma and colonial India. On the other side of the Bay of Bengal in Calcutta, the expanding English East India Company and its newly established orientalist wing, the Asiatic Society of Bengal, came to rely on the knowledge and journeys of Indo-Persian writers to survey the kingdom of Burma as part of the lands that fringed the Mughal world.  In this period of contact and exchange, new accounts of Burma’s geography, environment, languages, customs, and cultures appeared in the Persian language. Through these encounters, imperial Burma became absorbed into an Indo-Persian cultural continuum that reached colonial south, southeast, and central Asia.  This paper examines the description of Burma found in Mir ‘Abd al-Latif Khan Shushtari’s travelogue Tuhfat al-‘Alam (Gift of the World), written in India in 1802 and lithographed in Bombay in 1847.  Mir ‘Abd al-Latif Khan, a Nuri sayyid from Shushtar who had traveled from Basra to Bengal in 1788, was a representative of the Nizam of Hyderabad in Calcutta with close contacts in the Asiatic Society. Having seen most of the surrounding country and having collected first hand information from other travelers, he surveyed the lands, resources, and customs of imperial Burma. In Tuhfat al-‘Alam, Mir ‘Abd al-Latif Khan casts Burma as a natural kingdom, a land of dense forests of teak, herds of wild elephants, and rich mines of precious stones lorded by its padishah Ghulam Bodawpaya, tracing the imperial ecology of Burma from the subjects of the empire to the dynastic center.