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This article provides a textured history of the multivalent term “hindu” over 2,500 years, with the goal of productively unsettling what we think we know. “Hindu” is a ubiquitous word in modern times, used by scholars and practitioners in dozens of languages to denote members of a religious tradition. But the religious meaning of “hindu” and its common use are quite new. Here I trace the layered history of “hindu,” part of an array of shifting identities in early and medieval India. In so doing, I draw upon an archive of primary sources—in Old Persian, New Persian, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, and more—that offers the kind of multilingual story needed to understand a term that has long cut across languages in South Asia. Also, I do not treat premodernity as a prelude but rather recognize it as the heart of this tale. So much of South Asian history—including over two thousand years of using the term “hindu”—has been misconstrued by those who focus only on British colonialism and later. We need a deeper consideration of South Asian pasts if we are to think more fruitfully about the terms and concepts that order our knowledge. Here, I offer one such contribution that marshals historical material on the multiform and fluid word “hindu” that can help us think more critically and precisely about this discursive category.
This first chapter traces the characteristics and development of the mirror literatures in Arabic, Persian and Turkish. It discusses the range of forms and styles, and the varied functions, of these advisory texts, and their generic designations in the original languages. The chapter identifies and discusses four major periods: the Early or Formative Period (eighth and ninth centuries); the Early Middle Period (tenth to twelfth centuries); the Later Middle Period (thirteenth to fifteenth centuries); the Early Modern Period. At several points, the discussion indicates parallels and affinities among the mirror literatures produced in contemporaneous Muslim and Christian settings. The chapter ends with a discussion of the appearance, presentation and reception of mirrors for princes.
This article looks at the translation and circulation of yogis’ learning in Persian medical and alchemical texts produced in South Asia. I suggest that looking at the non-religious environment allows for a more accurate understanding of the overall circulation of yogic knowledge and techniques in the Muslim society of South Asia. Furthermore, I suggest that the assimilation of yogis’ learning in Persian sources concerned not only Yoga but also other types of knowledge associated with yogis. Muslim physicians’ interest in yogis’ knowledge focused on one specific aspect: rasaśāstra “alchemy” and the mastery over the production of mercurial and metallic drugs. The technical and pragmatic focus of Persian medico-alchemical writings contributed to give views of yogis beyond the exotic and foreignizing category of the wonders of India. Medical writings helped to develop views of yogis as a socio-economic group involved in the transmission of a specific body of knowledge. This was an important shift away from the perspective of the ‘ajā’ib al-hind “wonders of India” as well as from the ways in which yogis were perceived in Sufi texts. New perspectives on yogis emerged when Persian-speaking scholars and readers in India needed more pragmatic representations of local groups, such as the physicians who were in the process of appropriating alchemical notions that were closely associated with the yogis.
In this final chapter, I analyze Furūgh Farrukhzād’s innovative development of Nīmā’s earlier prosodic experiments and link Farrukhzād’s late modernist poetic project with Western modernist poetry. My purpose in avoiding lengthy comparisons with Western poetry up to this point in the book is to provincialize European poetic modernism and consider instead the significant links in poetic forms, themes, and politics that were more important for the elaboration of modernism in the Arab and Iranian contexts. However, I also readily admit that Western poetic influence plays a significant role in the Arab and Iranian modernists’ approaches to poetry. I thus take the opportunity in this last chapter to address Farrukhzād’s work not only in the context of local poetic connections, but also in light of the bonds she forged with Western modernist poetry. In so doing, I argue that Farrukhzād’s poetic persona is best understood as a flâneuse, the female Iranian counterpart to Charles Baudelaire’s Parisian poetic persona. I furthermore undertake a lengthy analysis of the close associations between Farrukhzād’s late poetry and T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and “The Hollow Men,” from 1925.
Applies formal analysis to several of the early modernist poems Nīmā Yūshīj wrote in Persian in the 1920s and 1930s. I purposefully highlight how Nīmā incorporates not only premodern Arabic prosody, but also premodern Arabic literary devices – especially muʿāraḍah or “contrafaction”– into his modernist Persian poetry. Ultimately, I argue that he uses contrafaction to sublate the past into the present in a way that contrasts sharply with the Pahlavi dynasty’s use of the Iranian past (or rather, a very specific version of that past) to fabricate a new, modern, national myth. For instance, the Pahlavis built mausoleums for premodern Persian literary exemplars like Hafiz, Attar, Omar Khayyam, and the author of the Iranian national epic, Ferdowsi, highlighting their essential Persianness in opposition to the rich history of Islam and Arabic in the region. I read poems like 1926’s “The Swan” and 1938’s “The Phoenix” to show how Nīmā develops the planetary modernist theme of death and rebirth (perhaps best known as the thematic engine of Eliot’s The Waste Land) to his own ends. I argue that by treating poetry as a craft we can better understand how Arab and Iranian modernists resisted nationalist mythmaking by deploying the past differently.
Chapter 3 focuses on the poetry of the Iranian Aḥmad Shāmlū and his pioneering imagination of what would eventually come to be called the Third World in his second collection of poetry, The Manifesto, from 1951. Shāmlū’s committed poetry goes beyond Nīmā’s prosodic innovations to reach past the borders of Iran in a bid to build solidarity with, for instance, a Korean soldier fighting against the United Kingdom and United States in the Korean War. The Manifesto, therefore, represents Shāmlū’s attempt to forge a Third World literary network within the Global South that predates later moves in this direction following the Bandung Conference in 1955. However, Shāmlū’s idealism was cut short in 1953 only weeks after the Korean War ended when these same imperial powers staged their coup against Mohammad Mosaddegh on August 15–19. The 1953 coup represents a momentous turning point not just for local politics in the Middle East but also for cultural production. Shāmlū tempered his political engagement following the coup, and the Iranian Left suffered a general malaise from which it never recovered.
The chapter begins with a section on the Egyptian Marxist Louis Awad’s radical modernist poetic project Plutoland from 1947. The chapter engages Awad’s critical intervention to lay out the transnational roots of Arabic poetry from the premodern period to the twentieth century before moving on to address the intricacies of the Arabic prosodic rules he wanted the modernists to break. In the second section, I give technical details about how I represent poetic meters throughout the rest of the book and explain the science of Arabic prosody. Next, the chapter covers critical approaches to modernist poetry in both Arabic and Persian, paying particular attention to the critics’ positions on the possibility of composing politically committed poetry. I then transition into a long section on the history of literary commitment, its philosophical foundations, and the role it played in Arabic and Persian poetic criticism. In a brief conclusion, I suggest a way out of the debates that took shape around literary commitment and offer further details on my balancing of formalist and contextual analytical approaches to the poetry I read in the later chapters.
The early decades of the twentieth century saw the articulation of new approaches to literature in Iran and the Arab world as Arabic and Persian literary modernisms developed out of the Arab nahḍah “renaissance” and the neoclassical Persian bāzgasht movement of “literary return. Modernist poetry in Arabic and Persian, which emerges in many ways on its own and draws on this other, local history, thus stands outside and against a singular understanding of modernism as a European phenomenon and calls us to consider what it might look like if we situate the center of our modernist map in the Middle East. The introduction deploys a range of recent literary theory on modernism, transnationalism, and modernity in the Arab world and Iran to argue for a re-orientation of our perspective and to treat Middle Eastern modernism on its own terms. By relocating our modernist center to an “Eastern” geography, the chapter argues for a new way of looking at modernist poetic developments within the region and across the border between the Arabic- and Persian-speaking worlds. Considering modernism from this relativist perspective shows how Arabic and Persian poetries form a significant modernist geography within the broader movement of modernism.
Re-orienting Modernism in Arabic and Persian Poetry is the first book to systematically study the parallel development of modernist poetry in Arabic and Persian. It presents a fresh line of comparative inquiry into minor literatures within the field of world literary studies. Focusing on Arabic-Persian literary exchanges allows readers to better understand the development of modernist poetry in both traditions and in turn challenge Europe's position at the center of literary modernism. The argument contributes to current scholarly efforts to globalize modernist studies by reading Arabic and Persian poetry comparatively within the context of the Cold War to establish the Middle East as a significant participant in wider modernist developments. To illuminate profound connections between Arabic and Persian modernist poetry in both form and content, the book takes up works from key poets including the Iraqis Badr Shakir al-Sayyab and Abd al-Wahhab al-Bayati and the Iranians Nima Yushij, Ahmad Shamlu, and Forough Farrokhzad.
Chapter one introduces South Asia’s people, geography, and history until the late twelfth century, and examines indigenous religious traditions as well as ones introduced by forces from Central Asia and the Iranian world. For India, by which we mean historic South Asia, we discuss differences in the north and south by focusing on Chandella patronage in north India of temples at Khajuraho, and Chola rule in south India and the construction of the Rajarajeshvara temple in Thanjavur. Contemporary with the construction of the Rajarajeshvara temple is Mahmud of Ghazni’s rise to power in what is modern Afghanistan and his subsequent raids into India. While Ghaznavid sway over India was short-lived it paved the way for the introduction of Islam and Ghurid dominance.
Chapter five begins with the ousting of the Lodi dynasty by Babur, the first Mughal, and continues to his son Humayun’s reign. Sher Shah Sur, an Indo-Afghan warlord, briefly seized control from Humayun instituting several administrative practices that the Mughals adopted. After surveying Akbar’s military conquests and alliances, we consider how Akbar’s concept of state evolved and its impact on politics and policies regarding India’s multicultural, multiethnic population. We then analyze how these policies affected cultural production, arguing that the use of specific languages and the production of art and architecture were part of a carefully planned political campaign. The chapter ends with an exploration of the political careers and artistic patronage of two top nobles at Akbar’s court.
Shifting to an examination of identity formation from below, Chapter 4 observes popular culture through music and opens a discussion on the nature of Iranian identity. Music is not only a cultural expression; in Iran it has also been used as a political tool and as part of resistance movements. Iranians voiced their allegiance with the revolution and their identity as Shiite Muslims through song-like protest chants and musical tracks. Protest chants and group singing heighten the meaning of words and help facilitate a sense of unity. These techniques were employed as an emotive force during the revolution and by later generations to proclaim their identity and as a form of resistance after the controversial election of 2009. The Green Movement is a pertinent example of how popular music is utilized by Iranians as a mode of expression. Consequently, popular music can be used as a tool for investigation in order to facilitate a better understanding of contemporary Iranian identity and society.
Chapter 1 focuses on framing research with strong grounding in theory and previous scholarship. This chapter introduces the book’s methodology and sources, as well as providing an overview of the book’s chapters and main arguments. This work claims two central arguments: first, the modern nation-state of Iran was established in 1979 with the revolution that instilled an indigenous and independent nationalism and eradicated all vestiges of foreign power, including the shah; second, the national identity created by the people during the decades preceding the revolution was the most resonant and inclusive because it infused the Shiite symbols ignored by the Pahlavi dynasty, and overused by the Islamic Republic, into populist elements of Iranian society. Despite the political turmoil of the Islamic Republic, that fusion and plurality endure. While the various chapters explore their own specific themes, these ideas run as threads throughout the work to tie the pieces together.
Chapter 2 provides historical background of Pahlavi monarchy and its nation-state project. To be a modern nation-state required a cohesive national identity and complimenting narrative. The significance of that account was not lost on the shah, who tried to formulate an uninterrupted history of Iranian dominion. Chapter 2 relies heavily on a close reading of the words of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to shed light on the shah’s rationale for upholding this narrative. The shah understood that Iran could not forge its independence and image as a modern nation-state without freedom from foreign control. According to the shah, it was his father who "created" the modern Iranian state and saved Iran from the ineptness of its previous dynasty. This chapter also challenges the shah’s account and explores how his subjects saw him as foreign and as a symbol of Iran’s capitulation to external powers. The shah’s failed nationalism left space for his opposition to produce an alternative narrative that captured the imagination of the masses of Iranian people. Chapter 2 lays the foundation for the sections that follow by presenting not only the newly constructed image of Iranian nationalism, but also why it was needed in order to advance the cause of independence.
Within the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, is a small, but especially interesting anthology of Persian poetry. Although the manuscript's colophon is missing, the stylistic evidence of its badly damaged illustrations and illuminations indicates that it was produced in Shiraz in the 1430s or 1440s. The discussion considers two unusual features of the manuscript, the first of which is that seven folios of a type of paper, generally thought to be of Chinese manufacture, are included among its 171 folios of otherwise Islamic paper. As is typical of this so-called Chinese paper, the folios are coloured—in this case an olive green—and one is decorated with a gold painted design of what appears to be an immature fruit of some sort, along with lobed leaves on a curling vine. Equally intriguing are the scenes and patterns, painted exclusively in gold, that fill the margins of the folios throughout the manuscript. No other such margins are known in any other contemporary manuscript.
Language documentation has been carried out in Iran since the late 1800s but in a sporadic way, and even now, the scholarly picture of the country’s linguistic landscape is fragmentary. The present article responds to this state of affairs in a modest way by working toward a systematic overview of the language situation in one area of the country: Chahar Mahal va Bakhtiari Province of western Iran, where the high Zagros Mountains open onto the Iranian Plateau. In this study, conducted in the context of the Atlas of the Languages of Iran (ALI) research programme, we chronicle our research process for this region, beginning with an inventory of languages spoken here—varieties of Bakhtiari, Charmahali, and Turkic—and an overview of their geographical distribution. This initial step enabled us to select 30 varieties from 26 locations across the province for in-depth research, including implementation of the ALI language data questionnaire. Data generated by the study have resulted in two language distribution maps as well as a series of linguistic structure maps. Initial analysis of lexical and phonological data provides insight into defining features of each language as well as structures shared between them as a result of language contact in the region.
Shahab Ahmed’s What Is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic (2016) challenges Islamic Studies scholars, (art) historians, and anthropologists to reconsider theoretical frameworks underpinning historical and ethnographic research. This article addresses Ahmed’s concerns that studies of Islam often conceptually privilege orthodoxy, by including drinking and intoxication as worthy of close attention in examining the history and the anthropology of Islam. The case of Wine Shop the Philosopher, run by a former Afghan refugee in The Hague and Amsterdam, is presented after establishing the comparative and interdisciplinary relevance of alcohol consumption in studies of Islam and Muslims. Ahmed’s conceptual framework is used and assessed in comparison with the wine shops’ contemporary pluralist reality by exploring the idealized boundaries of Persianate culture and Islam in dialogues between Persian-speaking interlocutors. It is argued that alcoholic drinks lend themselves to competing gastro-nationalisms and prompt ethnolinguistic tensions between and within groups with Turkish, Moroccan, Iranian, and Afghan backgrounds in the Netherlands. The focus on diverse, coexisting and clashing drink regimes, in conclusion, allows us to deconstruct dichotomies between sober Muslims and European drinkers, African and Asian believers and European unbelievers, and refugees and citizens.
The introduction briefly surveys Alexander’s historical career before going on to describe the development of his legend in the various Greek and Latin versions of the Alexander Romance, which continued to be rewritten (as the Historia de Proeliis) to the end of the Middle Ages. It also provides the context for the contributions surveying the Jewish, Persian, Arabic, Spanish, Slavic, French and German receptions of Alexander in literature, as well as his impact as a political role model in the Crusades, Muslim expansion and the world-dominating ambitions of early modern Europe. It concludes with a glance at the contested figure of Alexander and his homeland of Macedonia, in the present-day Balkans.
The arrival of the Mongols in Iran in the thirteenth century made a deep impact on the political, economic, and religious life of the region. With the establishment of the Ilkhanate (1250–1335), the cultural life of Iran was also transformed. The territories under Mongol control saw the appearance of new architectural styles, a renaissance of Persian literature, and a burst in the production of Islamic manuscripts. Regarding this literary production, scholars have concentrated their efforts on studying important works composed in Mongol Iran either for their scientific, literary, or artistic value. However, most of this research focuses on individual manuscripts or specific works belonging to a concrete literary genre; these do not provide a holistic picture of the production, distribution, and consumption of the huge number of manuscripts surviving from the period. In an attempt to contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of this phenomenon, this study looks at six different manuscripts, jointly referred to as the “Kāmūsī corpus,” that share the rare characteristic of having all been copied by the same hand in fourteenth-century Iran. This article investigates the individuals involved in the production of these manuscripts, identifies the different works included in this corpus, and connects the production of these texts and the dissemination of knowledge in Ilkhanid Iran.
In this chapter the reader is introduced to the background to Roman Egypt, starting with Egypt’s experience of foreign rule under the Kushites, Assyrians, Persians, and Greeks. The impact of the three centuries of rule by the dynasty of the Ptolemies, who took over after the death of Alexander the Great, is explored; many traditional Egyptian institutions remained in place, most importantly the great temples. Many Persian administrative innovations were also kept, but the Greeks brought in their own financial practices. Substantial immigration from the Greek world and the Levant changed the population, and Greek largely displaced Egyptian as a language of power, even though Egyptian society was substantially multilingual. Periodic revolts show that foreign rule was not universally accepted, but many Egyptians became part of the Ptolemaic administration and served its economic goals, which depended heavily on exporting wheat. Romans began to settle in Alexandria in the last decades before the Roman conquest.