Regionalization without Vernacularization: The Place of Persian in Eighteenth-Century Sindh

In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Shayan Rajani LUMS University Lahore Pakistan

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This article examines a turn towards the region in two genres related to Persian poetry in eighteenth-century Sindh, the bayāẓ or poetic anthology and taẕkira or biographical dictionary. I argue that poets in Sindh’s premier city, Thatta, established Sindh as an organizing principle for poetry and the poetic community, initiating a process of regionalization in Persian after the end of Mughal rule. Notably, this was done without the patronage or encouragement of the regional successors to the Mughals in Sindh. These poets neither sought out vernaculars, nor predicated regionalization upon cultural difference. Rather, regionalization without vernacularization was the basis for their participation in the transregional enterprise of Persian poetry in a milieu where the Mughals and their officials were no longer sources of patronage or of poetic standards. The case of Persian poetry in Sindh calls for rethinking the function and status of Persian beyond its role as a language of power and for considering the role of Persian poets in bringing the region to renewed cultural salience in eighteenth-century Sindh.

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