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PISC no. 6: “Sex, Homoeroticism, and Persian Literature in 19th-century India”

Hasan Hameed, History

Wed, 3/20 · 5:00 pm7:00 pm · 102 Jones Hall

Near Eastern Studies Department

Abstract: “This dissertation chapter challenges two key tenets of South Asian historiography: 1) that Persian literature in colonial India declined rapidly once the British replaced Persian as a language of education and administration, and 2) that the political failure of 1857 ushered in major changes to the Indian cultural landscape, particularly in the domains of gender and sexuality where Victorian values were absorbed by colonized intellectuals, Muslims and Hindus. This chapter shows that Persian printing thrived in the nineteenth-century, to the extent that one of the most printed texts was a Persian classic, the Gulistan of Sa‘di. These printings of Gulistan did not just contain the text; they were accompanied with varying paratextual and extratextual paraphernalia: marginal commentaries, interlinear translations, variant readings, and visual illustrations. The Gulistan prints, then, reveal a whole world of Indian popular publishing that has largely escaped the attention of historians. This was a world populated by scribes, poets, scholars, painters, and, of course, hundreds and thousands of readers, many of whom were Muslims but substantial numbers were Hindus (and Sikhs and Parsis). By paying close attention to the various hermeneutic devices—textual and visual—accompanying different editions
of Gulistan, this chapter reveals hitherto unrecognized continuities between early-modern and colonial-era Indian engagement with Persian literature, especially in attitudes toward sex and homoeroticism.”

The Princeton Islamic Studies Colloquium is a forum at Princeton University for workshopping students’ and guest scholars’ works-in-progress in Islamic Studies and related fields. Presented by the Department of Near Eastern Studies and co-sponsored by the Department of Religion, Near Eastern Studies Program, Center for Culture, Society and Religion, Humanities Council with support from the Stewart Fund for Religion

The paper and the Zoom link will be provided upon registration.

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