[P4814] Looking East: Knowledge, Travel, and Friendship Between the Middle East and Asia in the 19th Century

Created by Mimi Hanaoka
Saturday, 11/18/17 5:30pm


This panel explores understudied but important transregional connections between the Middle East and Asia during the 19th century, focusing on the themes of knowledge, friendship, travel, and circulation. Challenging the conceptual framework of the "Middle East" by considering it "West Asia," the panel highlights dynamic Persianate-Asian connections.

"Indo-Persian Views of the Buddhist Kingdom of Mrauk U," explores Muslim Indo-Persian encounters with the ruins of the Buddhist kingdom of Mrauk U in Arakan (Northern Burma) circa 1800. Mrauk U was a hub of Indian Ocean trade, and Persian was the language of mutual encounter. Consequently, the East India Company relied on Indo-Persian intermediaries, travelers, and scribes to gather knowledge about Mrauk U. Drawing upon rare Persian manuscripts and focusing on the works of Shah 'Azizallah Bukhari Qalandar, this paper explores Indo-Persian Muslim contacts with Theraveda Buddhism.

"Bridging Difference: Kinship, Friendship and the Creation of Social Bonds" explores formal and informal bonds created between Persians in Iran and India. Drawing on early 19th century travelogues and histories, this paper examines how circulating individuals formed connections through a variety of practices described in terms of friendship and kinship. What was the work of such practices, and how did they create connections (successfully or not) across social, political, and parochial differences? This paper considers the transregionally recognizable or local nature of such practices and analyzes how these distinctions mattered.

Continuing to explore the themes of mobility and communication, "A Transregional Persianate Library: Tazkirah Production and Circulation in the 19th Century," analyzes the interconnected textual economy of tazkirahs (biographical anthologies) of poets in West, Central, and South Asia. This paper maps geographic nodal points in tazkirah production and explores how tazkirahs circulated transregionally through their shared use of sources. This paper assesses the ways in which one prolific genre of texts indicates larger trends of connectivity and disruption across the Persianate world in the 19th century.

"Japanese Travels in Iran," examines a 1923-1924 Japanese delegation to the Middle East led by Eishiro Nuita, focusing on his travels through Iran. Analyzing Nuita's 1924 presentation to the Japanese House of Lords, this paper argues that Nuita's travels, which followed Japan's victory in the Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905) and during a crescendo in Japanese imperialism, were guided by two major goals: to gauge the perception of Japan in the Middle East and to build a rapport with various constituencies in order to lay the groundwork for treaties and pacts.


Social Science Research Council (SSRC) InterAsia Program






Mana Kia

(Columbia University)
Mana Kia’s interests are the early modern and modern connective social, cultural, intellectual histories of West, Central and South Asia from the 17th - 19th centuries, with a particular focus on Indo-Persian literary culture and social history. Her...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Arash Khazeni

(Pomona College)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Kevin Schwartz

(Oriental Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences)
I am currently a research fellow at the Oriental Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, Czech Republic. Previously, I was a Kluge Fellow at the US Library of Congress in Washington, DC; Distinguished Visiting Professor (Class of 1955 Chair...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Mimi Hanaoka

(University of Richmond)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Julie Stephens

(Rutgers University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;