SASC Colloquium Series: A Sea of Scribes: Persian-Dutch Documentary Culture and Port-City Bureaucracies in the Indian Ocean, Subah Dayal

Event time: 
Thursday, December 1, 2022 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
Henry R. Luce Hall (LUCE ), 202 See map
34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 

This presentation begins with the question - how do we write a non-Eurocentric history of early modern bureaucracy? It reconstructs the textual and material imprint of anonymous Persian-knowing scribes and clerks, who worked in the Dutch East India Company’s (VOC) settlements and factories across the seventeenth-century Indian Ocean world. Historians have often presumed and lamented that the Islamic empires of the Middle East and South Asia “lacked” maritime archives, unlike their extensive records on agrarian matters. Connecting existing caches of bi-lingual administrative documents dispersed across Persographic port-cities southern Iran and Mughal Hindustan, this presentation interrogates how anonymous scribes translated and made sense of symbols of archiving ciphers of recording, and documentary typologies at the intersections and limits of two mutually-illegible chancery worlds. It will reflect on the possibilities of these materials for writing a multi-directional and entangled social history of early modern archives and materiality.
Subah Dayal is Assistant Professor in New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Her publications include, “Vernacular Conquest? A Persian patron and his image in the 17th-century Deccan” in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East (Duke, 2017); “Making the ‘Mughal’ Soldier: Ethnicity, Identification, and Documentary Culture in southern India 1600-1700” in the Journal of the Social and Economic History of the Orient (Brill, 2019), and “On Heroes and History: Responding to the Shahnama (The Book of Kings) in the Deccan 1500-1800,” in Iran and the Deccan: Persianate Art, Culture, and Talent in Circulation (Indiana University Press, 2020).
The event is in a hybrid setting, in-person, and Zoom. The Zoom link is below.

Subah Dayal, History, New York University