New Approaches to the History and Historiography of Central Asia from the 17th to the 19th Century
Ali Igmen (California State University, Long Beach)
Nurten Kilic-Schubel (Kenyon College)
Ali Igmen
Nurten Kilic Schubel
Posvar 3610
Start time:
27 October, 2018 at 14:15
Session slots:


The papers on this panel present new approaches to the study of Central Asian history from the 17th to the 19th century. Employing both new source bases and innovative methodological approaches to previously studied sources, these papers explore a series of interlocking themes including causality, sovereignty and hegemony within the political, social and religious history of early-modern Central Asia. In his paper, Scott Levi examines afresh the causes of the eighteenth century crisis in the Khanate of Bukhara. Moving beyond the overwhelming focus on the decline of the overland trade offered in older historiography, Levi presents an innovative and multi-causal explanation for the weakening of the Khanate beginning in the late 17th century and its eventual collapse in the early 18th century. James Pickett's paper explores the largely overlooked history of the city of Shahrisabz from the 17th to the 19th century. Pickett's paper examines the means by which Persian chroniclers sought to obscure the status of Shahrisabz as an autonomous city-state and to write it into submission to Bukhara. Pickett pursues a non-hegemonic reading of hegemonic Persian writing in order to recover the history of Shahrisabz and the complex network of sovereignty in which it resided. Daniel Beben's paper examines a unique genre of religious literature that appeared among the Ismailis of the Badakhshan region of Central Asia in the 19th century, namely a series of hagiographical narratives concerning the legendary saint of Turkestan, Ahmad Yasavi, in which Yasavi is imaginatively transformed into a purveyor of Ismaili doctrine. Beben's paper explores how these narratives sought to re-envision the sacred history of the Ismailis within the evolving political and social environment of Central Asia in the 19th century, in which new groups sought to lay anti-hegemonic claims to established religious traditions within the region. Finally, Alexander Morrison's paper offers a new approach to the use of local Central Asian sources for the study of the Russian conquest of the region in the second half of the 19th century. While previous scholarship has relied almost exclusively on Russian sources for the study of the conquest, Morrison's paper examines the portrayal of these events in the local historiography of Central Asia, finding in these sources unique perspectives on both the experience of the conquests and the causes behind the Russian military successes.