Kathryn Babayan: “Libraries of the mind: Objects of Memory & Community in Early Modern Isfahan”

Posted on December 12th, 2012 in Events

March 5,2013, 3:30 PM, CISAC Conference Room, 2nd Floor, Encina Hall Central (616 Serra Street)

Workshop Series: “Early Modern Publics and Networks”

Kathryn Babayan (University of Michigan), “Libraries of the mind: Objects of Memory & Community in Early Modern Isfahan”

This paper is part of my book project that explores cultures of literacy and social practice, particularly through collecting practices, a place where historians rarely venture to study the epistemological keys of understanding the dynamics of state formation. I chart a ‘civilizing process’ in early-modern Isfahan reliant on the production and dissemination of pedagogical manuals on proper etiquette, conduct and manners to regulate social behavior and emotional expression. Manuals, created through literacy, a cultural know-how that had to be studied and embodied by refined subjects of the city of Isfahan.  To be in style one spoke poetry and moved with the gestures set out in codes of adab, or etiquette.   Adab literacy heightened practices of seeing, reading, writing and collecting. As Isfahanis came to cultivate adab, their distinct subjectivities and levels of literacy were shaped by these practices.  It is within this context that I will consider the disciplinary work this civilizational project performed on the medium of communicating social relations. 

Kathryn Babayan is Associate Professor of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Michigan, and is Director of the Armenian Studies Program. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University. Among her research interests are early modern Iran, Shi’ism, Sufism, and gender and sexuality. Her most recent publications include Islamicate Sexualities: Translations Across Temporal Geographies of Desire (Harvard Middle Eastern Monographs, 2008), Slaves of the Shah: New Elites of Safavi Iran (I. B. Tauris, 2004), and Mystics, Monarchs and Messiahs: Cultural Landscapes of Early Modern Iran (Harvard Middle Eastern Monographs, 2002).


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