Mobilizing Magic: Occultism in Central Asia and the Continuity of High Persianate Culture under Russian Rule

In: Studia Islamica
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  • 1 University of South Carolina
  • | 2 University of Pittsburgh
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* The authors would like to thank Devin DeWeese for his helpful comments on a draft of this article.


Sometime between 1881 and 1885, the scholar Mullā Sayyid Maḥmūd Khwāja wrote a letter to Amir Muẓaffar (r. 1860-85), Manghit ruler of Bukhara, chiding him for his weakness in the face of Russian occupation and proposing a revitalization of science as the solution—the occult science of jafr.1 This science, the sayyid argued, is a proven means for repelling the invaders and restoring Manghit royal prestige. Irresistibly effective both medically and militarily, it had facilitated

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