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Title: The Persianate Sphere during the Age of Empires: Islamic Scholars and Networks of Exchange in Central Asia, 1747-1917
Authors: Pickett, James Robert
Advisors: Kotkin, Stephen M
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Bukhara
Central Asia
Subjects: History
Near Eastern studies
Russian history
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation analyzes the social and political trajectories of Islamic scholars (ulama) as an entry point toward examining the relationship between knowledge and power within a cohesive zone of Persianate high culture. Three core insights build upon one another throughout the study: (1) The ulama were united by an extraordinarily eclectic skillset – jurisprudence, mysticism, poetry, occult sciences, medicine, inter alia – which were embodied in discrete social roles, but not separate social groups. Rather, these constituted separate activities performed by a single milieu. (2) Over the course of the eighteenth through twentieth centuries, Islamic scholars deployed that skillset to mythologize Bukhara into a timeless religious and cultural center by endowing the city's geography with symbolic significance derived from sacred Islamic history and Persian literature. This in turn offered the region a cultural coherence that transcended the multitude of competing Eurasian city-states characterized by gradated and overlapping forms of sovereignty. (3) The many of the talents of the ulama were indispensable to the political-military elite, whose patronage allowed the scholars to establish family dynasties spanning centuries. Despite this mutual dependence, the ulama never ceded their moral authority to independently speak for religion. Findings are based on documents (both local and colonial) and manuscripts from libraries and archives in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia, and India. Genres considered include biographical dictionaries, Islamic jurisprudence, colonial reports, hagiographies, dynastic chronicles, and others. Together, these sources reveal a Persianate cultural efflorescence in Central Asia on the eve of its displacement by modern nationalist projects. The fact that this cultural climate coincided with military catastrophe and coexisted (even prospered) under increasing colonial dominance complicates our understanding of the relationship between cosmopolitan high culture and modernity.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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