World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Forming Borders and States in Central Asia and Khorasan (207) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: WED 21, 11.30 am-1.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Tufts University (USA)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Beatrice F. Manz

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: This panel examines the meaning of borders, identity and regional state formation in Transoxiana and Afghanistan. The period covered is the eighteenth through the early twentieth century. We are moving away from the concentration on European goals and actions, and dealing instead with the traditions and elites of the region itself.

Discussant: Beatrice F. Manz (Tufts University)

Paper presenter: Andreas Wilde (Zentrum für Entwicklungsforschung, Bonn), “Divine Will and Royal Patronage: Constructions of Legitimacy in Eighteenth-Century Bukharan and Afghan Chronicles”
The year 1747 was crucial for political developments in Khurasan and Transoxiana. With the assassination of Nadir Shah Afshar, the political landscape and configurations of power underwent a dramatic change. This was mirrored by a shift of frontiers and the manner in which the domains were charted on the basis of power and local allegiances. On the regional level, new ruling dynasties rose to prominence and established themselves as legitimate successors of the Iranian emperor. The territories south of the Oxus were conquered by Ahmad Shah Abdali (r. 1747-1772), who managed to create lasting bonds of loyalty with the Pashtun tribal elite by mounting a series of far-flung military campaigns to northern India. In Transoxiana, the Manghit tribe led by Muhammad Rahim Khan (1747/56-1759) established itself as the dominant force in a highly fragmented tribal environment characterized by permanent power struggles among the Uzbek leadership. This paper will focus on the question of legitimacy: Which means did the new rulers resort to in order to project their authority? This question is best answered on the basis of court chronicles produced for the rulers in Qandahar and Bukhara from the mid-eighteenth century on. By comparing the Tarikh-i ahmadshahi and the Tuhfat al-khani, we will compare the concepts and images Ahmad Shah and Muhammad Rahim Khan employed to project and enhance their authority. Within this framework, we will also pursue the question of whether the concepts and formulae employed may be seen as typical of this time and place or whether they draw on pre-existing conventions.

Paper presenter: Nurten Kilic-Schubel (Kenyon College, USA), “Nomads and the Khoqand Khanate: Political and Cultural Borders and Continuities in the Ferghana Valley in the 19th century”.
The purpose of this paper is to explore the changing role of nomads, especially Kyrgyz nomads, in the political and cultural life of the Ferghana valley under the Khoqand Khanate from the late 18th to the late 19th century. The Ferghana Valley has always been geographically and demographically one of the most heterogeneous areas in the region. The emergence of the Khoqand Khanate under the leadership of the Ming Uzbek tribal leadership in the late 18th century and the resulting unification of the Ferghana valley presented new historical dynamics and as well as continuities. An important element in the development of the political culture of the Fergana Valley was the considerable influx of urban and nomadic peoples, especially Kyrgyz nomads living in the north of the Tianshan Mountains. These Kyrgyz nomads moved to the region for a variety of reasons. Some migrated under pressure from the Kalmuks and Russians. Some sought access to regional trade through relations with the Khoqand khanate. Unlike the Bukharan Amirate in Mawarannahr where sedentarization, centralization and settled interests seems to have become predominant, the Khoqand khanate sought to maintain a balance and synthesis between the varying orientations and interests of its population with regard to politics, trade, and religion. In so doing it represents perhaps the last attempt in Central Asia to maintain a polity with territorially and administratively fluid borders. This paper attempts to understand the cultural and political dynamics in the Fergana valley through an analysis of various contemporaneous sources such as Mirza Alim Tahskendi’s Ansab as-salatin wa tawarikh al-khawaqin, Mulla Niyaz Muhammad Khuqandi’s Tarikhi’s Shahrukhi and especially the memoir of the woman poet Dilshad, Tarikh-i Muhajiran.

Paper presenter: Christine Noelle-Karimi (Institut für Iranistik, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften), “Different in All Respects: Bukhara and Khiva as Viewed by Qajar Envoys”
This paper is concerned with the travelogues of two Persian envoys who visited Central Asia in the mid-nineteenth century. Abbas Quli Khan, who was in charge of a mission to the court of the Manghit ruler Amir Nasrullah (r. 1827-1860) in 1844, summed up his findings in a work entitled Safarnama-yi Bukhara. In 1851 the Qajar official Riza Quli Khan conducted negotiations with the Khan of Khiva and later on penned a detailed description of his experiences in the Khanate and en route. On the basis of these two works I will attempt to demonstrate the linkage between the growing production of Persian travelogues and the emergence of modern perceptions of statehood and territory. The production of travelogues was triggered in great part by an unprecedented quest for information on the part of the Iranian government, which began to take an active interest in the geographical, demographic and political circumstances in its domains and beyond. This paper will assess the extent to which the travelogues bear testimony to a modern nation in the making. It will ask how the home country is delineated in relation to the larger regional setting and to what extent individual perceptions bear witness to construction of political spaces. The space in question only assumes concrete shape once negotiated, structured and captured by the travellers in question. An important aspect in the construction of space is the delimitation of its outer confines. I will argue that borders begin to figure in the middle of the nineteenth-century travelogues decades before their actual delimitation on the basis of international settlements. Furthermore, there is a noticeable element of “internal” demarcation. By juxtaposing Central Asian phenomena with Iranian standards, the mid-nineteenth century safarnamas signal a sharpened sense of “national” identity and serve to project a specific Iranian entity as distinct from larger regional, religious, and cultural denominations.

Paper presenter: Florian Schwarz (Institut für Iranistik, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften), “Negotiating the Khurasan border, 1880s to 1930s: Memoirs and letters of Central Asian and Iranian dragomans”
The history of determining national territorial-administrative units and international borders in Central Asia has come under close scrutiny. The previous assumption that border delimitation in early Soviet Central Asia was strategically designed and decided in the distant political center is ceding to a more differentiated and messier picture strongly recognizing local and regional agency. The history of border demarcation between Central Asia and its southern neighbors Iran and Afghanistan in the second half of the 19th century, on the other hand, is still largely described as an immediate function of Great Power politics. This paper proposes to take a fresh look at the history of the emergence of modern state borders in and around Central Asia in the long durée. It argues that (trans-)regional mid-level elites were involved to a much larger extent in these processes than has been noticed in earlier scholarship, and that they were also severely affected by the emergence of ever-less permeable borders. Muslim dragomans and diplomats were important, though often not very visible agents in negotiations between Russia, Iran and the Central Asian khanates. Frequently stemming from borderland communities and trade diasporas operating between Iran, Central Asia, Russia and the Ottoman Empire, they constituted a mid-level imperial elite that was at the same time essentially trans-regional. This paper will present two short case studies to explore how Muslim dragomans and diplomats perceived and represented their roles in border negotiations as well as the impact new borders had on their professional and personal lives. The main focus will be on the Iranian dragoman Mirza Reza Khan’s (Arfa’oddouleh, ca. 1854-1937) representation of his role in the work of the Russian-Iranian border commission that negotiated the Khurasan border in the early 1880s. This will be compared to the self-representation of the retired Bukharan-Russian diplomat Haydar-khoja Mirbadalev (1856-1938), who, living in forced exile in Mashhad since the late 1920s, privately engaged in aid for refugees who crossed from the Soviet Union into Iran. Seen together the two case studies can serve to elucidate the role of indigenous trans-regional elites in the emergence of modern political-administrative concepts and practices and the ways in which these developments fundamentally transformed these elites. The paper is based on published memoirs and unpublished personal letters.