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A History of Difference: Piety and Space in Early Modern West Asia. Keynote Speakers Fatma Müge Göçek and Carl Ernst

A History of Difference: Piety and Space in Early Modern West Asia. Keynote Speakers Fatma Müge Göçek and Carl Ernst

Keynote Speakers: Fatma Müge Göçek and Carl Ernst on May 4th at Sulzberger Parlor at Barnard College, 9:00am – 6:00pm.

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: