Writing Self, Writing Empire Chandar Bhan Brahman and the Cultural World of the Indo-Persian State Secretary By Rajeev Kinra (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015. 371 pages.)

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Aria Fani



The seventeenth century marks an exciting period in the life of Persian literary
cultures in northern India. Established as a language of administration by
Turco-Afghans in the early thirteenth century, several centuries later Persian
had extended well beyond its initial administrative strongholds to become an
important medium for literary and religious composition, historiography, and
translation. In a literary environment that prized both literary aesthetics and
fierce rivalries, the massive textual production on vastly diverse subjects, as
well as the presence of literary salons, standalone bookstalls, and mushā‘irahs
(poetic assemblies), cumulatively point to a lively Persian literary culture that
echoed across political, religious, and socio-cultural terrains.
Unfortunately, most of the scholarship on Persian in the medieval Indian
context over the past decades has failed to illuminate this dynamic scene.
Moreover, most studies seek to highlight Persian’s influence on India or examine
India’s civilizational impact on Persian. Both paradigms assume a natural
(read: Iranian) ecumene for Persian and thus do not critically consider
the slippage between linguistic, ethnic, and geographic designations wh

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