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A History of Difference: Piety and Space in Early Modern West Asia (May 4th – 5th)

May 4, 2017

*Please note, this conference covers two days (May 4th-5th). Please, register with us on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-history-of-difference-piety-and-space-in-early-modern-west-asia-tickets-34215977911*

This conference brings together scholars working broadly in Ottoman and Mughal pasts to converse, consult, and present what ways of thinking and doing difference are recoverable to us. This workshop will take as its objective a grounded history of difference narrated in diverse textual and visual cultures. We aim to incorporate venues beyond the legal—histories, hagiographies, travel accounts, visual and material culture—into the discussions of the contemporary.

In broad strokes, the political movement from the imperial formations of Mughal and Ottoman to the colonial imperial and subsequently to post-colonial nation-states has been the mainstay of scholarly attention since the 1950s. In excavating histories of difference—often understood in the language of “conquest,” or “conversion”—contemporary scholarly attention has focused on the theological and juridical texts on the one hand, and statist or societal reverberations on the other. There appears, we would argue, some critical lacunae once we think expansively about the concept of “difference” itself. There is a need to highlight monastic geographies, pietistic communities, sexualities in encounters, and racial and gendered hierarchies in thinking about difference in early modern West Asia.

We believe that it is necessary to unearth such histories so as to put into relief the past that is evoked in intemperate ways by identitarian or totalitarian politics in contemporary West Asia. At play in the ascendancy of violently exclusionary politics in the twenty first century is a devotion to historical re-imagination of the Past as a purer, unadulterated resource against the Present. Their invocation of a “Caliphate” or “Akhand Bharat” cannot be reduced as an invention of tradition and left un-contested. We ought to think carefully about the particular histories resurrected and re-animated in these claims.

In “A History of Difference” we aim to address directly such questions of thinking about difference comparatively and historically across West Asia.

Our keynote speakers for this conference are:

Speakers and presenters include:

May 4th Schedule – Sulzberger Parlor, Barnard Hall

Keynote Conversation – 4:00pm

Fatma Müge Göçek
Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan
Negotiating Difference from the Ottoman Empire to the Contemporary Era

Carl Ernst
William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Erasing Difference? Questions about Universalism and Toleration, from the Mughals to Today

Reception – 6:00pm


May 5th Schedule – Sulzberger Parlor Barnard Hall

Coffee and Introduction – 8:30am 

Panel I – 9:00am – 10:10am

  • Guy Burak, New York University
    The adoption of an official madhhab and the Sunni-Shii divide
  • Audrey Truschke, Rutgers University
    Difference that Mattered: Defining the Ghurid threat to North India

Panel II – 10:20am – 11:30am

  • Ayfer Karakaya-Strump, College of William and Mary
    Rethinking Ottoman Tolerance: Ottoman Politics and Difference in Kizilbash/Alevi Communities in Anatolia
  • Ananya Chakravarti, Georgetown University
    Mapping ‘Gabriel’: space, identity, and difference in the late sixteenth-century Indian Ocean

Panel III – 11:40am – 12:50am

  • Asli Niyazioglu, Koç Üniversitesi
    Looking at Early Modern Istanbul from its Outskirts: Gardens, Sufi Lodges, and the Imperial City
  • Anubhuti Maurya, Delhi University
    As the King goes Marching: Royal Journeys as Spatial Practice in Kashmir

Lunch – 12:50pm – 2:00pm

Panel IV – 2:00pm – 3:10pm

  • Rozaliya Garipova, Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson Center
    The hanafization of the contemporary Russian Islam and Historical shari’a
  • Supriya Gandhi, Yale University
    Mughal Indology and the Making of Modern Hindustan

Panel V – 3:20pm – 4:30pm

  • Ahmed F Ibrahim, McGill University
    Islamic Law between the Nuclear Family and Child Rights
  • Taymiya R Zaman, University of San Francisco
    Cities, Time, and the Backward Glance

Concluding Remarks – 4:30pm – 5:00pm


May 4, 2017
Event Category:


Sulzberger Parlor, Barnard Hall
Room 101, 80 Claremont Ave. United States + Google Map
View Venue Website