Instructive Memory: An Analysis of Auto/Biographical Writing in Early Mughal India

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
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This article analyzes three early Mughal auto/biographical texts written at the order of Akbar as forms of instructive memory, and contextualizes these texts within an existing body of writings about akhlāq literature and literary genres. In doing so, this article discusses how auto/biographical narratives in Mughal India were both collected and collective, and how the didactic undercurrents of these texts relied upon individuated notions of character and kingship presented through the figure of Humayun. By reading lived experience across genres that often contained elements of one another, this article places interconnected Mughal lives as central to textual renderings of the past.

Instructive Memory: An Analysis of Auto/Biographical Writing in Early Mughal India

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient



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Michel Foucault (1977) points out that in the premodern world texts were inseparable from their authors who were an index for the truthfulness of the text. On the inseparability of books and authors in Mughal India see also Green (2010).


I derive my analysis here from Faruqui (2005). See also Subrahmanyam (1994).


Anooshahr (2008) argues that Humayun falls short compared to Kamran by standards of manliness. However I would argue that in the task of writing Humayun’s life authors can be read as admiring of aspects of his humanity.

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