Jo-Ann Gross, Professor of Middle Eastern and Central Eurasian History,
The College of New Jersey; Visiting Research Collaborator, Sharmin and
Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies
Jo-Ann Gross and Daniel Beben, Assistant Professor of History and Religious
Studies, Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan
Studies of genealogical documentation are few and far between in Persianate studies. Aside from the Arabic prophetic and Sufi silsilah traditions, the nasab tradition as a non-state documentary practice is understudied in comparison to other forms of Islamicate documentation. The symposium takes as its premise that the culture and construction of genealogical documentation in the Persianate world merits new consideration. The textualized and narrative forms of genealogy provide a compelling case that moves beyond the fixed concept of the central state archive to a local space in which individual agency and historical consciousness directs knowledge production, albeit subject to the body politic. The localized, familial attributes of genealogical documentation have also contributed to the hindrance of historical studies, since they are subject to damage or loss. Accordingly, genealogies have often been neglected by scholars as non-literary sources of questionable historical value, and efforts to access such sources frequently require field research outside of established institutional archives.
The symposium builds on a collaborative research project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities on “Ismailism in Badakhshan: A Genealogical History,” directed by Jo-Ann Gross (The College of New Jersey), with Daniel Beben (Nazarbayev University) and Umed Mamadsherzodshoev (Institute of Humanities, Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan, Khorogh). Gathering together scholars who work on genealogical materials, we will draw attention to the comparative study of Persianate genealogical history and explore the following questions:
• How is genealogy employed and what are the social and political functions of genealogy in the Persianate context?
• What methodological and theoretical approaches do we utilize in the study of genealogical history?
• How does the creation and preservation of genealogies reflect historical consciousness?
• Why are genealogical texts preserved and what archival strategies are practiced?
• What are the textual and codicological contexts for genealogies? Are they found as stand-alone documents or embedded within other texts or narrative traditions?
• How is genealogy connected to networks of mobility, connected histories and transregionalism?
• Is there a relation of genealogies to an institutional context and the built environment, such as a shrine?
• Is it important to determine the historicity of genealogies, and how does one navigate the presence of various ‘truth regimes’ connected with genealogy?
• How do genealogies confer forms of legitimacy and authority upon their bearers or patrons?
• How are genealogies received and interpreted by outsiders, such as colonial states?