All posts by Arash Zeini

Artifact, Text, Context

Tang, Li & Dietmar W. Winkler (eds.). 2020. Artifact, text, context: Studies on Syriac Christianity in China and Central Asia (orientalia – patristica – oecumenica 17). LIT Verlag.

This volume is a collection of papers highlighting recent researches on Syriac Christianity in China and Central Asia. The topics range from artifacts to texts and their historical contexts, covering the period from the 7th to the 18th century. As the studies on Syriac Christianity in China and Central advance, focus has shifted from a general historical survey and textual translation to a more micro and meticulous study of specific concepts and terms and particular names of persons and places.

Iran and the Deccan

Keelan Overton (ed.). 2019. Iran and the Deccan: Persianate art, culture, and talent in circulation, 1400-1700. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Beginning in the early 1400s, large numbers of Iranian elites began migrating to the Deccan plateau of southern India. Lured to the region for many reasons, these poets, traders, statesmen, and artists of all kinds left an indelible mark on the Islamic sultanates that ruled the Deccan until the late seventeenth century. The result was the creation of a robust transregional Persianate network linking such distant cities as Bidar and Shiraz, Bijapur and Isfahan, and Golconda and Mashhad.
Iran and the Deccan explores the circulation of art, culture, and talent between Iran and the Deccan over a three hundred year period. Its interdisciplinary contributions consider the factors that prompted migration, the physical and intellectual poles of connectivity between the two regions, and processes of adaptation and response. Placing the Deccan at the center of Indo-Persian and early modern global history, Iran and the Deccan reveals how mobility, liminality, and cultural translation nuance the traditional methods and boundaries of the humanities.

Source: Iran and the Deccan

Keelan Overton is an independent scholar and historian of art specializing in the eastern Islamic world from Iran to South Asia. She is author of “Book Culture, Royal Libraries, and Persianate Painting in Bijapur, circa 1580-1630” in Muqarnas and “Filming, Photographing and Purveying in ‘the New Iran:’ The Legacy of Stephen H. Nyman, ca. 1937–42” in Arthur Upham Pope and A New Survey of Persian Art.

From Albania to Arrān

Hoyland, Robert (ed.). 2020. From Albania to Arrān: The East Caucasus between the ancient and Islamic worlds (ca. 330 BCE–1000 CE) (Gorgias Studies in Classical and Late Antiquity 25). Georgia Press.

This volume is the first publication in English to discuss the nature and identity of the polity in the East Caucasus referred to by modern scholars as (Caucasian) Albania. The sporadic and fragmentary character of our sources for this polity means that it is difficult to construct a continuous narrative of its history, and so we offer here studies by leading specialists on particular aspects of it: geographical extent, religious and political machinations, material culture, interactions with neighboring states and key historical developments.

A number of contributions in this volume relate to Iran, which is why we announce the book rather than single articles.

The Name of the Camel

Redard, Céline, 2020. Le nom du chameau dans les langues iraniennes anciennes. In Damien Agut-Labordère & Bérangère Redon (eds.), Les vaisseaux du désert et des steppes: Les camélidés dans l’Antiquité (Camelus dromedarius et Camelus bactrianus). Lyon: MOM Éditions.

This book is available open access from the link above.

During the first millennium BCE, the dromedary and, more marginally, the camel began to impose their tall silhouettes on the roads of the Middle East and Egypt. Gathered in two workshops, in Lyon then Nanterre, sixteen archaeologists and historians have tried to assess this camel revolution. From Xinjiang to the Libyan Desert, the increasingly intensive use of the old-world camelids has indeed disrupted the fields of caravan transport but also agriculture, redesigning the trade routes, increasing the export capacities of oases, opening up previously isolated areas. Gradually becoming a critical agent of the economic systems of the desert or semi-desert regions, the camels remain at the same time associated with nomadic populations whose expertise is essential to breed and train these large animals.

Religious Imagery in pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia

Shenkar, Michael. 2019. Religious imagery and image-making in pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia. In Christiane Gruber (ed.), The image debate: Figural representation in Islam and across the world. London: Gingko.

The Image Debate: Figural Representation in Islam and Across the World is a collection of thirteen essays which examine the controversy surrounding the use of images in Islamic and other religious cultures and seek to redress some of the misunderstandings that have arisen. Written by leading academics from the United States, Australia, Turkey, Israel and the United Kingdom, the book opens with an introduction by the editor Christiane Gruber, who sets the subject in context with a detailed examination of the debates over idols and the production of figural images in Islamic traditions. Twelve further articles are divided into three sections: the first deals with pre-modern Islamic practices and anxieties with image-making; the second addresses similar issues in Judaism, in Christianity during the Byzantine period, in pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia, and in Hindu and Buddhist contexts in South Asia; and the third brings the reader back to Islamic lands with five articles examining traditions of figural representation in the modern and contemporary periods.

Studies on Sasanian Persia

Daryaee, Touraj & Matteo Compareti (eds.). 2019. Studi sulla Persia sasanide e suoi rapporti con le civiltà attigue (Studia Persica 1) [Studies on Sasanian Persia and its relations with neighboring civilizations]. Bologna: Paolo Emilio Persiani.

Studi sulla Persia sasanide – La dinastia dei Sasanidi (224-651 CE) rappresenta a detta di molti studiosi una sorta di “età dell’oro” dell’arte e della civiltà persiana. Nonostante un corposa mole di informazioni su questo popolo si sia conservata grazie all’opera di autori greci e latini a loro contemporanei – nonché successivamente da arabi e persiani – poco resta nelle fonti dirette, rappresentate principalmente da qualche iscrizione ufficiale fatta incidere su pietra dalla numismatica e dalla glittica. Questo volume, nato dagli interventi dei massimi studiosi e conoscitori dell’ambito, raccoglie dieci saggi tratti da due convegni svoltisi in Italia e negli Stati Uniti tra il 2010 e il 2017. In particolare, vengono qui discussi vari aspetti del piano politico, sociale e religioso dell’impero sasanide e delle civiltà ad esso attigue, con lo scopo di far rivivere un’epoca molto feconda per la cultura e l’arte persiana, attribuendo un particolare rilievo a quelle che sono le testimonianze conservate nei testi scritti e nelle opere d’arte figurativa.

Erotic Persian

Sprachman, Paul. 2020. Erotic Persian (Bibliotheca Iranica: Literature Series 15). Costa Mesa: Mazda Publishers.

According to the content description (see below), this book contains a facsimile of "Alfiyeh va Shalfiyeh".

This book is a general survey of language and images that arouse sexual desire. The book begins by examining the works of the great Persian poets and prose authors who avoid direct mention of bodily functions and use imagery borrowed from nature and food when describing the charms of lovers and human sexual activity. The examination shows how erotic imagery, at one time innovative, hardened into clichés over centuries of repeated use. The book’s focus on the semantics of allusive Persian also leads to a general notion of what makes one poem or piece of prose sexually stimulating and another inspirational. Here “Erotic Persian” joins an ongoing controversy: namely, to what extent are some of the works of great Sufi authors like Rumi, Sa`di, Hafez, etc. erotic? Dealing with both the pleasures of the flesh and the spirit? The book asks: Can certain works be at once carnal and spiritual? The prevailing view frowns on such interpretations, insisting great authors never wrote solely to arouse readers’ desires. If erotic material found its way into the canon, many assert, it was there merely to divert the reader’s or listener’s attention away from the everyday and direct it toward spiritual truths.

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Dadabhai Naoroji and Indian nationalism

Patel, Dinyar. 2020. Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

The definitive biography of Dadabhai Naoroji, the nineteenth-century activist who founded the Indian National Congress, was the first British MP of Indian origin, and inspired Gandhi and Nehru.
Mahatma Gandhi called Dadabhai Naoroji the “father of the nation,” a title that today is reserved for Gandhi himself. Dinyar Patel examines the extraordinary life of this foundational figure in India’s modern political history, a devastating critic of British colonialism who served in Parliament as the first-ever Indian MP, forged ties with anti-imperialists around the world, and established self-rule or swaraj as India’s objective.
Naoroji’s political career evolved in three distinct phases. He began as the activist who formulated the “drain of wealth” theory, which held the British Raj responsible for India’s crippling poverty and devastating famines. His ideas upended conventional wisdom holding that colonialism was beneficial for Indian subjects and put a generation of imperial officials on the defensive. Next, he attempted to influence the British Parliament to institute political reforms. He immersed himself in British politics, forging links with socialists, Irish home rulers, suffragists, and critics of empire. With these allies, Naoroji clinched his landmark election to the House of Commons in 1892, an event noticed by colonial subjects around the world. Finally, in his twilight years he grew disillusioned with parliamentary politics and became more radical. He strengthened his ties with British and European socialists, reached out to American anti-imperialists and Progressives, and fully enunciated his demand for swaraj. Only self-rule, he declared, could remedy the economic ills brought about by British control in India.
Naoroji is the first comprehensive study of the most significant Indian nationalist leader before Gandhi.

Naoroji | HUP

Dinyar Patel is an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of South Carolina.

Magic in Ancient Iran

Jong, Albert de. 2019. Iran. In David Frankfurter (ed.), Guide to the study of ancient magic (Religions in the Graeco-Roman World 189). Leiden: Brill.

In the midst of academic debates about the utility of the term “magic” and the cultural meaning of ancient words like mageia or khesheph, this Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic seeks to advance the discussion by separating out three topics essential to the very idea of magic. The three major sections of this volume address (1) indigenous terminologies for ambiguous or illicit ritual in antiquity; (2) the ancient texts, manuals, and artifacts commonly designated “magical” or used to represent ancient magic; and (3) a series of contexts, from the written word to materiality itself, to which the term “magic” might usefully pertain.

The abstract for Albert de Jong’s chapter:

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Canon of Ancient Iranian Art

Colburn, Henry. 2020. The canon of ancient Iranian art: From grand narratives to local perspectives. In Amy Gansell and Ann Shafer (eds.), Testing the canon of ancient Near Eastern art and archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The canon of ancient Iranian art coalesced during the heyday of archaeological research in Iran during the 1950s and 1960s. Scholars sought to reconcile both excavated material from a series of type sites and unexcavated objects, with a sequence of historical and cultural phases from Proto-Elamite to Sasanian. Consequently, the canon has some notable weaknesses. First, the term “Iranian” can refer to geography or people, either of which excludes important material. Second, the periodization of the canon relies on Mesopotamian and Mediterranean history, which is not always a good fit for Iran. Third, the use of style to assign material to these periods relies on the problematic assumption that multiple artistic styles cannot coexist at the same time and place. This chapter argues that it is useful to adopt an approach that focuses instead on individual sites or micro-regions, thus better reflecting the richness and diversity of ancient Iranian art.