The Genealogical Prison

January 29, 2020 (Wednesday) / 5:00 pm6:30 pm

Widener Auditorium, Penn Museum, 3260 South Street

The Genealogical Prison

Kinship as a Historical Problem

Shahzad Bashir

Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Humanities, Brown University

Jamal J. Elias

Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor of the Humanities, University of Pennsylvania

Our notions of premodern history are often the result of applying the principle of lineage to literary sources. Information about the past is made to fit the gridlines of ruling dynasties, social elites, and inheritors of religious authority and charisma. Yet how can we use familial rhetoric, which can project both intimacy and conflict, as a historical resource, without being seduced by its seeming inherent logic? Drawing on Persian literature produced in South Asia around 1550–1800 CE, Professor Bashir treats kinship as “valorized temporality.” Penn Professor Jamal Elias, who has written and lectured widely on Islamic intellectual history and culture, joins Bashir in conversation to consider how history and the family are intertwined aspects of human social imagination.

Cosponsored by Penn’s Departments of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Religious Studies, and South Asia Studies.

Shahzad Bashir is Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies and History at Brown University. He specializes in the intellectual and social histories of Iran and Central and South Asia circa fourteenth century CE to the present. His publications have concentrated on Sufism and Shi’ism, messianic movements, corporeality, historiography, and modern transformations of Islamic societies. Bashir is currently finishing a book entitled Islamic Pasts and Futures: Horizons of Time that will be published as an innovative multimedia monograph. His work has been supported by fellowships from the ACLS, the NEH, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation.

Jamal J. Elias is Walter H. Annenberg Professor of the Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Penn, where he teaches about Islamic intellectual history and culture with a focus on Western and South Asia. A recipient of many grants and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Social Science Research Council (among others), he has lectured and published broadly on history, religion, literature and material and visual culture in the medieval and modern Islamic world. His most recent books are On Wings of Diesel: Trucks, Identity and Culture in Pakistan (Oxford 2011), Aisha's Cushion: Religious Art, Perception and Practice in Islam (Cambridge, MA, 2012), and Alef is for Allah: Childhood, Emotion and Visual Culture in Islamic Societies (Berkeley, 2018). At present he is writing a book on the history of the Mevlevi order (Rumi's followers) from shortly after Rumi's death until the advent of modernity.