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Perspectives on Genealogical History and the Production of Knowledge: The Isma'ilis of Badakhshan

Central Asia in Transition Lecture by Jo-Ann Gross, The College of New Jersey

Monday, April 17, 2017
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall

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This lecture focuses on the genre of genealogy as a familial archival practice in Badakhshan in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, specifically the nasab-nāmahs of Ismāʿīlī pīrs of Badakhshan that have been preserved for generations by their descendants. The nasab-nāmas of Badakhshan demonstrate the ways in which Nizārī Ismāʿīli identity (sayyid, imāmī descent) has been articulated genealogically over time as a diachronic record linking the past to the present. Using nasab-nāmas and oral narratives (mostly dating from the 19th-20th century, but several of which date back to the 16th century), collected during field research, my paper discusses the construction of confessional identities and claims to sayyid pedigree, and the expression of genealogically-based sanctity and authority.

This lecture will also consider the relationship between the textualized genre of genealogy and oral narrative tradition, and how confessional identities reveal an ambiguous, sometimes contested relationship between ʿAlid, Ithnā ʿasharī, Ismāʿīlī and Sufi sentiment that raises questions about commonly accepted notions of uniformity. The nasab-nāmas of Badakhshan, furthermore, draw attention to the “family archive” as a local, private space in Badakhshan in which individual agency and historical consciousness has and continues to direct the knowledge production of genealogical histories connecting the past and present.

This event is presented in collaboration with the Center for Near Eastern Studies.

Sponsor(s): Program on Central Asia

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