Audrey Truschke: “Redefining Islamicate Knowledge”
November 21st, 12:15 pm in Encina Hall West, Room 208 (616 Serra St., map)
Workshop Series: “Literary Cultures of Muslim South Asia”
Audrey Truschke (Stanford University), “Redefining Islamicate Knowledge: Abu al-Fazl’s Persian Account of Indian Learning”
Abstract: In this paper, I analyze one of the most extensive accounts of Indian knowledge systems in Persian: Abu al-Fazl’s Learning of India. Abu al-Fazl was the primary historian for the Mughal Emperor Akbar (r. 1556-1605) and the chief architect of his imperial image. He penned his Learning of India (danish-i hindustan) in the late sixteenth century as part of his A’in-i Akbari (Akbar’s Institutes), a deeply political text that describes the nature and administration of the Mughal Empire under Akbar. The Learning of India section details classical Indian learning, including the major schools of Sanskrit philosophy, Hindu religious ideas and practices, and Sanskrit technical sciences. In addition to its political dimensions, the work was also a major intellectual feat that offers a remarkably detailed and nuanced attempt to translate the sophisticated knowledge systems of one tradition into another. Despite being a well-known and much-cited text, Abu al-Fazl’s Learning of India remains largely unexplored in modern scholarship in terms of both its imperial and intellectual implications. In this paper, I investigate the context, framing, and content of the Learning of India in order to reconstruct Abu al-Fazl’s methods and intentions in importing Sanskrit knowledge systems into the Mughal thought world. I argue that Abu al-Fazl presents his Learning of India as a revolutionary contribution to both the Persianate intellectual tradition and Akbar’s political agenda.
Audrey Truschke received her Ph.D. in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies from Columbia University. Her work concerns literary and historical interactions between members of the Sanskrit and Persian traditions in Mughal India. During the 2012-2013 academic year, she was a Research Fellow in History and Asian & Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge’s Gonville and Caius College. She joined Stanford in September 2013 as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Religious Studies. Among her publications are “Defining the Other: An Intellectual History of Sanskrit Lexicons and Grammars of Persian” (Journal of Indian Philosophy, 2012), “Setting the Record Wrong: A Sanskrit Vision of Mughal Conquests” (South Asian History and Culture 2012), and “The Mughal Book of War: A Persian Translation of the Sanskrit Mahabharata” (Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 2011).
Papers are available to Stanford affiliates upon request.
[Co-sponsored by the Center for South Asia and the Department of Comparative Literature.]