Masterclass on Eurasia Archive



Oral History as a Neglected Methodology in Eurasian History
1991 ushered in the so-called "archival revolution," allowing scholars of Russia and Central Asia to access written sources that had been inaccessible to international scholars. The end of the Cold War also allowed first-hand engagement with people living throughout Eurasia. However, this paradigm shift has not been matched by methodological reflection on how best to combine oral history with more traditional methods. This practical workshop will address all of the questions you had about oral history but were afraid to ask: best practices, ethical issues, and the possibilities oral history offers to the repertoire of scholars studying Eurasia.

Anthologies as Early Modern Archives of Social History
Assembling diverse materials ranging from poetry to stories, wills, personal and model letters, manuals, and other miscellanea, majmu'as or anthologies offer fresh insights for writing the history of the early modern Persianate world. Often produced outside the state and religious institutions, they provide a distinct vantage point to the social and cultural history of the communities that produced them. This workshop introduces the majmu'a and explores its capacity for driving scholarly insights through a hands-on exploration of a majmu'a collected by a family of bureaucrats living in seventeenth-century Isfahan.

Working with Soviet Images
Using the case of Soviet visual culture, this masterclass asks how scholars from various disciplines can productively engage with images. Which analytical tools are available? What is the relationship between text and image? Was Stalinist culture logocentric, was it, in other words, dominated by one category of signs? What kinds of logic become operative with visual signs, is there such a thing as an irreducible visuality – is “a picture worth a thousand words”? We will examine a variety of images, ranging from newspaper photographs to agitprop posters to easel paintings. Teaching formats include hands-on groupwork with images, general discussion, and a bit of lecturing.



Reading Safavid Occult-Scientific Miscellanies
We will examine a representative Safavid Persian miscellany of the mid-seventeenth century, MS Majlis 12575. Significant for the history of science, it comprises occult-scientific works by Iranian philosophers of various periods, including Suhravardi, Fakhr al-Din Razi and Sadr al-Din Dashtaki, as well as a lettrist work by Mahmud Dihdar Shirazi, teacher to Shaykh Baha'i in the occult sciences. Our focus will be on 'Ali Safi Kashifi's (d. 1535) Gift for the Khan (Tuhfa-yi khani), an early Safavid simplification of a Timurid Persian grimoire dealing with illusionism and conjuring, both of which we now dismiss as stage magic. Its Safavid-era expansion to include other, more serious occult sciences—alchemy, talismanry, astral magic—and the magico-political feats of eminent Safavid philosophers will also be discussed with examples, as a window onto how Safavid philosophical culture worked in political practice.

Transcultural Codicology on the Silk Road
What was the nature of 'the book' on the Silk Road? How can we move beyond Eurocentric terminology toward an organically Eurasian codicology? This workshop introduces scholars to the study of manuscripts, posing fundamental questions about what we can learn from this field in an Eurasian context.


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This series is co-sponsored by the Central Eurasian Studies Society, and the Consortium for Educational Resources on Islamic Studies.