What role can art play in the construction of national identity? In the nineteenth century, cultural encounters between Qajar Iran and Europe inspired original artistic techniques, evident in paintings by court artist Abu’l-Hasan Ghaffari. These encounters also fostered a “pure Persian” literary style and proto-nationalist themes, as seen in Jalal al-Din Mirza’s Book of Rulers (Nama-i Khosravan), an illustrated work forging a historical continuum from Iran’s mythical and pre-Islamic past to the modern Qajar era. Abbas Amanat of Yale University discusses these cultural intersections in a talk accompanying the exhibition The Prince and the Shah: Royal Portraits from Qajar Iran, on view in Sackler gallery 27.
Abbas Amanat (BA, Tehran University, 1971; DPhil, University of Oxford, 1981) is a professor of history and international studies at Yale University and director of Yale’s Program in Iranian Studies. He has taught and written extensively about the early modern and modern history of Iran, the Muslim world, the Middle East, and the Persianate world for more than three decades. Among his most recent publications are Iran: A Modern History (Yale University Press, 2017) and Az Tehran ta ‘Akka: Babiyan va Baha’iyan dar Asnad-e Dowran-e Qajar (From Tehran to ‘Akka: Babis and Baha’is in the Official Records of Qajar Iran, 2016). Amanat is the Bahari Fellow at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, in spring 2018, exploring the Persian manuscript collections for his forthcoming study on the transfer of knowledge from the Persianate world to Georgian England.