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The khanates of Bukhara and Khiva had much in common, but depictions of their relationship with one another vary dramatically between historical sources. Some accounts convey deep rivalries between them, while in other sources they appear as easily traversable sub-regions within a broader, socially and culturally integrated landscape. How might we explain these wildly divergent images? This essay considers a wide range of sources to forward one simple argument: our understanding of the relationship between Bukhara and Khiva is fundamentally shaped by textual genre. Some genres—such as chronicles and legal writing—were well equipped to articulate rivalry and difference. Others—such as Sufi hagiography or chancellery documents—contained the tools for transcending these two polities. Since all of these genres were predominantly written by a single social group (the ʿolemā), this contradictory imagery was not the product of discrete constituencies with different viewpoints, but rather a single milieu performing diverse genres.

In: Journal of Persianate Studies