AIIS Hold Mughal Persian Archival Workshop

On August 8-9, 2019 the American Institute of Indian Studies held a Mughal Persian Archival Workshop at Lucknow University. The workshop was conceived in the context of exciting intellectual trends in the fields of comparative empire studies and the study of the wider Persianate world in the Early Modern period. These trends are of great interest to scholars focusing on the Ottoman Empire, Safavid Persia, Central Asia, the wider Indian Ocean world, as well as those focusing on the sub-continent, including those working on regions previously considered “peripheral.” The workshop was intended to promote conversations and collaborations between scholars investigating common or intersecting themes and who will be using Mughal Persian archives for their research.

The first day consisted of a number of thematic sessions where participants made brief presentations about their research interests, the challenges they anticipate, the resources they believe would assist them, and how they see their own scholarship in the overall universe of scholars using Mughal Persian archives. Sessions included: Mughal India and Comparative Empire Studies; Comparative bureaucratic cultures, diplomacy, center/periphery interactions within empire and crossing across frontiers; Intellectual history, Islamic historiography, discourses around legitimacy; Literature and Art; Sufi studies, Islamic philosophy and religious culture, Islamic reform movements; Lucknow and Visiting Experts and Scholars Panel. A keynote address, “The Indo-Persianate communities of Unani healing in the period of Mughal decline” was delivered by eminent scholar Seema Alavi, professor in the Department of History at Jamia Millia Islamia.

During the second day participants visited the site of Mahmudabad with its Kothi (palace) a notable religious and cultural center, containing an important library that hosts scholars of literature, art and poetry. Participants enjoyed a buffet lunch as a guest of Raja Amir Mohammad Khan.

                                                                       Workshop participants visiting Mahmudabad

After lunch, they engaged in a brainstorming session focusing on outcomes and next steps, including practical issues such as what students/scholars need for their research, such as finding aids, better descriptions of collections, resource guides, a possible database of available archives and contents that are important for particular fields of inquiry, and methods for making such data available to the wider community. Then more scholarly outcomes—ideas for joint collaborations of scholars working on archives in India exploring topics encompassing the entire Persianate world, opportunities for students/scholars from different countries and/or working on different countries to work together on common interests—defining those common themes.

                                                             Workshop participants engaged in exhilarating discussion

The workshop was led by Dr. Arif Ayyubi, professor in the Department of Persian at Lucknow University, Professor Shah Mahmoud Hanifi of James Madison University, and Ms Amanda Lanzillo, Ph.D. candidate at Indiana University (and recent AIIS junior fellow) and organized by Dr. Ahtesham Ahmed Khan, the director of AIIS language programs and the head of the AIIS Mughal Persian and Urdu Language programs.

Participants included the thirteen students enrolled in the AIIS summer 2019 Mughal Persian program: Craig Breckenridge (University of Michigan), Rachel Cochran (University of North Carolina), Shounak Ghosh (Vanderbilt University), Rachel Hirsch (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Sajedeh Hosseini (University of Arizona), Bahadin Kerborani (University of Chicago), Vipin Krishna (UCLA), Dipanjan Mazumder (Vanderbilt University), Zehra Mehdi (Columbia University), John Nowak (Harvard University), Spencer Pennington (University of Washington), Huma Ramazan Ali (Brown University), and Bryan Sitzes (University of Texas); AIIS junior fellows Samyak Ghosh, Tiraana Bains (Yale University), former AIIS Mughal Persian students and current Ph.D. candidates Anurag Advani, Namrata Kanchan and Sourav Ghosh; scholars from Lucknow: professor Asif Naeem, professor Ahsanul Zafar, Dr. Syed Gulam Navi Ahmad, Dr. Mohammed Arshadul Qadri, Dr. Shib Anwar Alvi, and Syed Huzaifa Ali Nadwi.

AIIS was pleased to welcome two distinguished Iranian scholars, Dr. Hamid Reza Ghelichkhani, an expert on Persian inscriptions from Tehran, and Dr. Ehsanollah Shokrollahi of the Iran Culture House in New Delhi. In addition to those making presentations, the workshop was also attended by the AIIS summer 2019 Urdu students, the AIIS Mughal Persian and Urdu teaching staff, two scholars from Jawaharlal Nehru University and a number of scholars from Lucknow, for a total of 63 attendees.

The workshop was co-sponsored by the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies and the American Institute of Iranian Studies and was supported with a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Educational and Cultural Affairs, through the Council of American Overseas Research Centers.