Thesis Type:PhD dissertation
Nations tell stories about themselves that tend to cohere around a shared language and a history unique to a particular land. South and West Asia—regions that shared Persian as a language of social, cultural and political power and prestige for centuries, until the early 19th century—present a conundrum in the context of nationalist narratives and the uniqueness these narratives claim for themselves. Literary and historical scholarship on the Persianate world largely reflects the assumptions underpinning these narratives, and, as a result, the scope and analyses of this scholarship are structured by the logic of protonationalist sensibilities. This dissertation seeks to contribute to a growing body of work on Persianate culture, considering how a shared language of learning and power, which was enabled by and reinforced the circulation of ideas, goods, texts, people and practices, was vital in the constitution of cultural ideas and social systems in the neighboring lands of Iran and India. Texts that scholars have generally read as iconically protonationalist are reconsidered alongside contemporaneous texts from a variety of genres that share features as commemorative texts of self and community. This dissertation argues that a shared Persianate culture, vested in a corpus of learning and expressed in an ethics of comportment (adab), was the basis of conceptions of self and community in the turbulent century that caused populations to disperse, centers of power to shift and the circulations that interlinked Persianate regions to ebb and flow. Beginning with the two assumed bases of protonationalist and nationalist community, land as society and language as culture, this dissertation begins the work of making sense of early modern Persianate culture outside the anachronistic shadow of nationalisms.