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The Merits of Balkh

A conversation with Arezou Azad (Senior Research Fellow, Oriental Institute, University of Oxford) and Edmund Herzig (Masoumeh and Fereydoon Soudavar Professor of Persian Studies, University of Oxford)

Thursday, June 3, 2021
10:00 AM - 11:30 AM (Pacific Time)

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Join Arezou Azad and Edmund Herzig as they and Domenico Ingenito discuss the recently-published English translation of Faḍāʾil-i Balkh. The fruit of a long collaboration with Ali Mir-Ansari (Centre for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia, Tehran), this English translation makes the work available to non-Persian speakers for the first time. This is a translation of a translation: the Persian version of the work dates from the second half of the 13th century and is based on a lost Arabic original, composed shortly before the Mongol invasions that ruined Balkh in 618/1221. This complex and hybrid text draws on around 30 Islamic-era works on Balkh and its holy men, and combines the character of local history with hagiography. From it, we can learn a great deal about how medieval Balkhis understood the history of their city and what they considered important and interesting to record. 

Arezou Azad is Senior Research Fellow at the Oriental Institute of the University of Oxford, a Humboldt Senior Research Fellow at the Freie University of Berlin, and Director of Oxford’s Invisible East programme. A historian of the medieval Islamicate East (Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia) she has worked on the pre-Mongol history of Balkh and Khurāsān (numerous articles and book chapters); on sacred landscape and religious history (Sacred Landscape of Medieval Afghanistan, 2013); on local history and the role of women in eastern Islam (numerous articles, such as, “Female mystics in mediaeval Islam: the quiet legacy,  Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient, 2013); and on documents and archival practices and the social history of medieval Afghanistan and Central Asia (numerous articles, such as, “Living Happily Ever After - Fraternal Polyandry and ‘the House’ in the Bactrian Documents,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 2016).  

Edmund Herzig is the Masoumeh and Fereydoon Soudavar Professor of Persian Studies at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of Wadham College, and the Director of the Oxford Nizami Ganjavi Centre for the Study of the History, Languages and Cultures of Azerbaijan, the Caucasus and Central Asia. A historian of Iran, the Caucasus and Central Asia, he has worked on Safavid history (Iran and the World in the Safavid Age, 2012, with Willem Floor); on early modern trade and the New Julfa Armenian merchants (numerous articles and book chapters); on the post-Soviet Caucasus (The New Caucasus: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, 1999); on the uses of history in contemporary Iran and the post-Soviet Caucasus and Central Asia (The Armenians: Past and Present in the Making of National Identity, 2005, with Marina Kurkchian); and on the foreign relations of the Islamic Republic of Iran (‘Regionalism, Iran and Central Asia’, International Affairs, 2004).

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