ON CHRONICLERS’ EYES: FRAMES, GAZES, AND VIEWPOINTS IN ISLAMIC HISTORIOGRAPHY
The production of any narrative is predicated on the existence of an observer whose perspective fashions the product available to us as historical evidence. This is true both physically (in the necessity of an observing and articulating body) and metaphorically (in the fact that all expressions arise from particular sociohistorical locations). Concentrating on materials produced in South Asia, I will assess premodern chroniclers’ self-assessments of their vocations and the way modern scholars have read their work. I will argue that normative concerns underlie all forms of historiographical narration and that moving to post-orientalist accounts of Islamic pasts requires that we theorize Islamic studies at the level of reimagining authorial labor in the distant past as well as in our own day. My ultimate aim is to propose conceptual interventions that can sharpen the way we read and see historical materials pertaining to Muslim societies.
Shahzad Bashir is the Lysbeth Warren Anderson Professor in Islamic Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University. He is the author, most recently, of Sufi Bodies: Religion and Society in Medieval Islam (2011). He is currently working on projects that engage academic debates regarding language, historiography, and history on the basis of materials of Islamic provenance.