- The Confluence of Philosophies Along the Silk RoadFriday
06-10-2023 @ 14:00Platform | Audit Room, King’s College (and online)ID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None
This presentation addresses centuries of vibrant interactions and intermingling of the dominant philosophies along the corridors of the Silk Road. It attempts to trace the ideas and allegories of Zhuangzi, Nagarjuna, the Chandogya Upanishad, and Heraclitus, ideas which met, swirled and mixed in the important trade centers along the Silk Road. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, coming out of the cosmopolitan city of Nishapur, is one such example of a powerful syncretic integration of Daoism, Buddhism, Vedanta, as well as Hellenic and Khurasanian elements, with such philosophies existing and feeding into each other along this iconic geographical and temporal corridor.
About the speaker
Mostafa Vaziri is a scholar of humanities and physician. The aims and themes of Vaziri’s major works have included countering Western Orientalism as the source of a historicized and anachronistic Iranian identity (1993/2013), uncovering the traces and influences of Buddhism in Iran (2012), and exploring the parallels between Rumi’s poetry and philosophy and Vedanta, Buddhism and Shaivism (2015). In addition, the publication of his 2019 book Liberation Philosophy situated the philosophies of the Nastika schools of India in relation to Pyrrhonian, Epicurean and Khayyamian thought.
Currently a lecturer at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, Dr. Vaziri teaches intercultural philosophy. His research focuses on Indian and Central Asian philosophies including Vedanta, Sufi, Zen, and Buddhist thought, and the exploration of Silk Road intellectual heritage as presented in his most recent book, The Confluence of Wisdom Along the Silk Road (2022).
- Steppe-ing Across the Centuries: Alexander the Great in Illustrated Abū’l-Khairid (Shaybanid Uzbek) ManuscriptsFriday
13-10-2023 @ 14:00Platform | Keynes Hall, King’s College (and online)ID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None
I specialise in illustrated manuscripts of the Abū'l-Khairids (Shaibanid-Uzbeks) and their political and artistic exchanges with other Islamicate empires during the 16th century. My previous research focussed on productions of a Persian epic poem called the Shāhnāma (Book of Kings) composed by Firdausī, and how this work was conceptually and stylistically harnessed to create other historical and biographical chronicles of other dynasties in Central Asian workshops. Having dwelled on the single Shāhnāma title, my new project homes in on a single character within it—Alexander the Great, or Iskandar Maqdūnī [Macedonian] in Persian. I will look at Abū'l-Khairid painted works in which Iskandar features. They are mostly in Persian with some in Turki.
About the speaker
Jaimee K. Comstock-Skipp completed her PhD at Leiden University’s Institute for Area Studies: Persian & Iranian Studies (2022) writing a dissertation on illustrated epic and biographical manuscripts of the Abu’l-Khairids, and their diplomatic exchanges between courts within Central Asia and the broader Turco-Persianate sphere encompassing Safavids, Ottomans, and Mughals. She has held visiting fellowships at the Oxford Nizami Ganjavi Centre (Oxford, UK) and the Warburg Institute (London, UK). She will be a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Oxford between 2024—2027.
- How important was silk along the Silk Roads?Friday
20-10-2023 @ 14:00Platform | Audit Room, King’s College (and online)ID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None
About fifty years ago, in a chapter on “Trade Routes in Inner Asia” for the aborted Cambridge History of Inner Asia, Volume 2 to be edited by Denis Sinor, the speaker wrote “The caravans from the Chinese capital to West Asia or Europe transported silk and other luxury products while the hunters and herders traveled to nearby agricultural settlements or towns to trade for essentials, a much more vital exchange of goods.” Specialists on Eurasian history arrived at the same conclusion and questioned the economic importance of the so-called Silk Roads. Although they (and the speaker) acknowledged the cultural and artistic importance of such long distance relations, they wondered whether the term “Silk Roads” was appropriate.
About the speaker
Professor Rossabi is a historian of China and Central and Inner Asia. He teaches courses on Inner Asian, East Asian, and Chinese history at Columbia. During the 2008–2009 academic year, he received an honorary doctorate from the National University of Mongolia. He and Mary Rossabi are involved in an oral history of 20th and 21st century Mongolia, which has led to the publication of Socialist Devotees and Dissenters; A Herder, a Trader, and a Lawyer; and The Practice of Buddhism in Kharkhorin and its Revival (National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, 2010, 2012, and 2013). In 2021, the Minister of Foreign Affairs awarded Professor Rossabi a Certificate of Merit at the Mongolian Embassy to the United Nations.
- An Indo-Persian history-cum-memoir: the illustration of history at the intersection of India, Iran and Central AsiaFriday
27-10-2023 @ 00:00Platform | Audit Room, King’s College (and online)ID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None
How is history visualised and interpreted in illustrated manuscripts? This presentation will seek to explore this question with regard to Persian manuscript production at the Mughal court, in the context of some important precedents. In particular, we will look at the so-called History of the Timurid dynasty, commissioned by the emperor Akbar and, among its sources, ‘Ali Yazdi’s Zafarnama and Babur’s memoirs, the Baburnama. There are four well-known and closely-linked copies of the latter, but also a little-studied outlier that offers a very different focus on what is worth illustrating in the text.
About the speaker
Charles Melville is Professor emeritus of Persian history at Cambridge and fellow of Pembroke College. His research has focused on the history of medieval Iran from the Mongol to the Safavid periods, Persian historiography and epic literature. He is director of the Cambridge Shahnama Project and currently editor of the ‘Idea of Iran’ series on behalf of the Soudavar Foundation.
- Silk Road Worlds, Large and Small: Intersections in Mongol-era ArmeniaFriday
03-11-2023 @ 14:00Platform | Audit Room, King’s College (and online)ID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None
The scalar expanse of the Silk Road as a historical phenomenon and cultural imaginary challenges us to consider how such scales—of distance, difference, and differential desire—might have been understood by people living in ‘small worlds’ scattered across what we now think of as the Silk Road lands. In this talk I frame the span of the medieval Silk Road within the experience of people living in Armenia, specifically the southern region of Vayots Dzor, during the ‘long Mongol thirteenth century.’ I will explore intersections of material culture, modes of political life and human mobilities, as well as considering how the ‘big world’ we now call the Silk Road could be ‘provincialized’ within the lifeworlds of people with local projects as well as universal aspirations.
About the speaker
Kate Franklin is a Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at Birkbeck, University of London. Kate has worked in the Republic of Armenia for more than a decade, with her 2014 PhD from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago focused on the participation of medieval Armenians in the networks of travel and trade now called the medieval Silk Road. Kate’s work explores ideas of place and landscape in materiality and text, and the role of space in entwining the local, the everyday, and the global. Her first book, Everyday Cosmopolitanisms: Living the Silk Road in Medieval Armenia (UCPress 2021) combines historical and archaeological research centered on the role of caravanserais, or inns for travelers, within Armenian political and social life. Her second, co-authored, book Landscapes and Environments of the Middle Ages (Routledge 2023) presents methods and case studies for thinking in interdisciplinary ways about medieval creation, perception, and representations of the ‘natural’ world. Kate is Co-PI of the Vayots Dzor Silk Road Survey, which works to research, record and re-imagine the medieval worlds of Vayots Dzor, Armenia.
- Empires of the Steppes: The Nomadic Tribes Who Shaped CivilisationFriday
10-11-2023 @ 14:00Platform | Online EventID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None
Kenneth Harl is Professor of Classical and Byzantine History at Tulane University. He specializes in Ancient History. He has published widely on history and numismatics, most extensively on the Imperial Roman coinage.
- Migrations and City Distribution: The Case of Oasis of Bukhara as a modelFriday
17-11-2023 @ 14:00Platform | Audit Room, King’s College (and online)ID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None
Across all ages, the Eurasiatic continent has been a space on which people moved, exchanged, and transformed. These dynamics were rhythmed by phases of increase, decrease and stabilisation of migration waves, coming from everywhere, but soon showing a tendency linking the East to the West and vice versa. Every age is characterised by specific reasons and effects, still today less known, guessed, or unknown. At the light of the recent discoveries, the oasis of Bukhara can represent a model in which observe how people seek, how people settle and how people growth, in terms of behaviours, urbanisation and material culture.
About the speaker
Rocco Rante is archaeologist at the Louvre Museum and accredited member of the University Sorbonne-Panthéon. He is director of the Archaeological Franco-Uzbek mission in the oasis of Bukhara and of the Archaeological Franco-Iranian mission in Khorasan. He recently published a trilogy The Oasis of Bukhara vols. 1-3.
- Rivers, Climate, and Human Settlement in the Countries of the Silk RoadsThursday
23-11-2023 @ 14:00Platform | Audit Room, King’s College (and Online)ID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None
This workshop, held in collaboration with the Leverhulme-funded ‘Rivers of the Silk Roads’ Project which is based at the University of Lincoln, will consider changing river flows, courses and floods, and their impact on the human settlements. It will include contributions from across the ‘countries of the silk roads’ and disciplines from environmental science to history and archaeology. The keynote by Mark Macklin (Lincoln) entitled ‘Holocene River Flows and Floods: A Planetary Perspective’ will take place at 5:30 pm and it will be followed by drinks.
All are very welcome to attend the workshop, starting at 2 pm and the keynote. Speakers include Peter Frankopan (King’s Silk Roads and Oxford) on the rivers of the silk roads, Tim Williams, Gai Jorayev and Marco Nebbia (UCL) on rivers and the Central Asian Archaeological Landscapes project, Vakhtang Licheli and Davit Naskidashvili (Tbilisi State University and Ghent) on the River Rioni’s delta on Georgia’s Black Sea coast.
- The Archaeology of Grakliani GeorgiaFriday
24-11-2023 @ 14:00Platform | Audit Room, King’s College (and online)ID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None
Vakhtang Licheli is Professor of archaeology, and head of the department of archaeology at Tbilisi State University in Georgia. He has also held visiting fellowships at Leiden University (2013), the University of Innsbruck (2011, 2015), and Ca’Foscari University of Venice (2017). Specialising in the Iron Age and Classical periods of the south Caucasus and Black Sea region, he has led several archaeological excavations, frequently in collaboration with international universities. At present, he is focussed on two major excavations. One is at the Iron Age and Hellenistic period settlement of Grakliani Gora in Georgia’s Shida Kartli region, and the other in Cyprus as head of the Georgian Cypriot Archaeological Expedition.
- Noah’s Grandsons and the Elephant: Functions of Pseudepigraphic Writing in Persianate South AsiaFriday
01-12-2023 @ 14:00Platform | Online EventID: Please Register on "Join Meeting" Passcode: None
This lecture examines Muslim elephant keepers and the function of Persian-forged texts in South Asian society. It will inquire into forgery as a tool to domesticate technological knowledge translated from Indic sources and to legitimate the status of a guild that has emerged from Muslims’ interaction with the South Asian natural environment and society. It investigates the function of apocryphal writing in the translation context as a stratagem to produce semantic shifts concerning features of both the translated and the translating cultures. In the Kursī-nāma-yi mahāvat-girī (Genealogy of the mahout), a text of uncertain period about the elephant and the elephant keeper, apocryphal writing functions as a device that allows to Islamize professional and technical skills assimilated from the Indian environment.
This is accomplished by making them congruent with Muslims’ conception of the origin of technical and scientific professions as practices connected to the early Islamic prophets. Thus, the Kursī-nāma-yi mahāwat-girī creates a legend about the mahout as a profession practiced by Noah’s grandsons. This fictional account also entailed a reflexive meaning in that it operated a significant shift from earlier Muslim negative views on the elephant and provided a new framework for emerging Muslim professional groups involved in the care of this animal.
About the speaker
Fabrizio Speziale is Professor at the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS), Center for South Asian and Himalayan Studies, Paris-Marseille. His research interests focus on the history of sciences in Persianate South Asia and the interactions between Persian and Indic textual cultures. His last book, Culture persane et médecine ayurvédique en Asie du Sud (Leiden, 2018), presents a detailed study of the translation process of Ayurvedic sources into Persian, which took place in India between the 14 th and the 19 th centuries. In one of his recent articles, he examines the accounts of the alchemical techniques associated with yogis in Persian medical texts (“Beyond the “wonders of India” (‘ajā’ib al-hind): Yogis in Persian medico-alchemical writings in South Asia.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 85, 3, 2022).