Contrary to the image regularly purveyed in contemporary media and popular culture, the Islamicate world has, over the centuries, produced some of the most eclectic, innovative, heterogeneous, and multicultural polities the world has yet seen. One such polity would certainly be the Mughal Empire, which ruled vast stretches of the Indian subcontinent for over three centuries (1526-1857). In this seminar, participants will survey some key features of the Mughals’ effort to integrate diverse elements of India’s socio-cultural multiplicity into a coherent, unified political vision of sulh-i kull (“peace with all”). Participants will also consider the epistemological shift in the nineteenth century that helped lay the groundwork for much of the Islamophobia that exists in Western cultural discourse, and which continues to haunt the subcontinent’s own political culture to this day.
Seminar led by Rajeev Kinra, Northwestern University