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Geographical Literature in Nineteenth-Century Iran: Regional Identities and the Construction of Space

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A series of local geographical texts appeared throughout Iran in the 1870s and 1880s in the context of an attempt by the Qājār dynasty to collect information on its imperial possessions. These texts combine the instrumental approach of compiling knowledge for the court with literary traditions in local historiography. This article explores these local geographical writings through theories on identity and space, arguing that these texts reflect the shifting spatial imagination of Persianate elites in the context of rapid social and economic change. These texts are an alternate entry point for viewing the politics of identity in Qājār Iran, challenging the teleological approach to the emergence of nationalism in secondary literature. Taking the close relationship between territory and community as a starting point, this article argues that expressions of regional socio-economic unities, which are a key feature of the geographical writings of Iranian elites, reflect the consolidation of regional identities.

Affiliations: 1: Indiana State University James.Gustafson@indstate.edu

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2016-11-07
2018-04-19

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