In this talk, Mana Kia will discuss some of the main questions and arguments of her recent book. For centuries, Persian was the language of power and learning across Central, South, and West Asia, and Persians received a particular basic education through which they understood and engaged with the world. Not everyone who lived in the land of Iran was Persian, and Persians lived in many other lands as well. Thus to be Persian was to be embedded in a set of connections with people we today consider members of different groups. Persianate selfhood encompassed a broader range of possibilities than contemporary nationalist claims to place and origin allow. We cannot grasp these older connections without historicizing our conceptions of difference and affiliation. Challenging the bases of protonationalist community, Persianate Selves seeks to make sense of an earlier transregional Persianate culture outside the anachronistic shadow of nationalisms, focusing on the turbulent eighteenth century. The book sketches the contours of a larger Persianate world, historicizing place, origin, and selfhood through its tradition of proper form: adab. In this shared culture, proximities and similarities constituted a logic that distinguished between people while simultaneously accommodating plurality.
Mana Kia is an Associate Professor in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. Her interests include the connected social, cultural, intellectual histories of West, Central, and South Asia from the 17th – 19th centuries. Her first book is Persianate Selves: Memories of Place and Origin before Nationalism (Stanford, 2020). She has also published book chapters and articles on travel writing, gendered concepts of modernity, and various aspects of transregional Persianate culture.
The event is part of the annual Horner-Jarrahi Persian Studies Lecture Series, which will be held on
Tuesday, April 19th, from 5-7pm.