A Transregional Persianate Library: Tazkirah Production and Circulation in the 19th Century

By Kevin Schwartz
Submitted to Session P4814 (Looking East: Knowledge, Travel, and Friendship Between the Middle East and Asia in the 19th Century, 2017 Annual Meeting
Central Asia; India; Iran;
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
The tazkirah (biographical anthology) of Persian poets represents one of the most widely produced and circulated genres in the early modern and modern Persianate world. Recent scholarship has demonstrated how critical engagement with these texts can elucidate transregional interconnectivity and dissonance on topics regarding social identity, cultural norms, literary stylistics, and collective memory, among others. Fewer studies have sought to understand the production and circulation of tazkirahs across the Persianate world in a broader fashion by exploring the general characteristics that defined this vast textual domain across space and time. This paper focuses on tazkirahs of Persian poets produced in the nineteenth century across West, Central, and South Asia and assesses the ways in which this prolific genre of texts may indicate larger trends of connectivity and disruption. In providing a visual topography of the tazkirah’s vast proliferation, it will attempt to answer general questions regarding the genre’s transregional characteristics. Where and when were tazkirahs of Persian poets most voluminously produced in the nineteenth century Persianate world? How did political developments affect the emergence, migration, and disappearance of centers of production? What tazkirahs were cited and circulated most widely? In analyzing this interconnected textual domain of the nineteenth century, I will explore the idea that tazkirah production and circulation constituted an ever morphing Persianate transregional library, one that was built upon shared information, sources, and networks of texts, while being constantly updated, amended, and refined, as more sources emerged and circulated. This paper will also highlight several crucial geographic nodal points in tazkirah production, from Iran to South Asia, to understand some of the local dimensions impacting the changing constitution of this textual enterprise. Finally, this paper seeks to demonstrate the general benefits and challenges of utilizing digital maps for exploring and expressing trends in Persian literary history.