Persianisms: Cultural Encounters in the Anglophone World

Shazia Jagot's picture
Call for Papers
December 10, 2020 to December 12, 2020
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Humanities, Islamic History / Studies, Literature, Middle East History / Studies

We invite proposals for an interdisciplinary colloquium on the topic of Persianisms: Cultural Encounters in the Anglophone World to take place virtually at the University of York across the dates of 10-12 December 2020.


This colloquium aims to explore the range and depth of the exchanges and encounters that connect English- and Persian-speaking cultures across centuries of contact from antiquity to the present-day manifest in poetry, diplomacy, religious polemic, scholarship, travel narratives, material culture, art, and curatorship. In particular, it aims to challenge and interrogate modes and forms of scholarship that have historically emptied out the role of “Persia” and “Iran” in critical discussion with the Anglophone world. 


We invite proposals from all disciplines and all career stages, including postgraduate and early career researchers. We welcome proposals for traditional short papers, or for presentations that exploit the online format in other ways, e.g. short discussions of single images, objects, or texts, or group roundtable discussions. As a guide, the contribution of any individual should not exceed 20mins.


In particular, we solicit proposals that speak to, or cross over, our three main themes: literature and language, material culture and political culture, including but not limited to the following:


  • The roles and functions that “Persia” (as it was known by Europeans before the 1930s) has played in, and the challenges it has presented to, the imagination of English-speaking writers, scholars, commentators, and artists.
  • How notions of “Persia” and “Persian” have shaped the English language and its cultures and vice versa.
  • Representations of “Persia” and “Iran” in English-language poetry, fiction and travelogues.
  • Representations of the Anglophone world in “Persian” poetry, fiction, and historical chronicles.
  • Connections, comparisons and influences of “Persian” and Islamic models in the history of the English book and vice versa.
  • Cultures of scholarship, including Orientalisms, Islamic studies and Indo-European philology.
  • The expressions, legacies, dislocations, and decolonizing of “Persian” culture in the Anglophone world through collectors and curators and the role of galleries, libraries, museums, and archaeological collections.
  •  The extent of “Persian” distinctiveness within spheres of material exchange and interaction across the Middle East and India and between those regions and Europe.
  • The histories of political and economic encounters between English- and Persian-speaking worlds, including the reception and representation of “Persian” history over time.
  • Conflicts, revolutions, flashpoints and radical change, from the Mongol invasions to the Great Game, oil and the 1979 Revolution.
  • Cultural and historical expressions of Perso and Islamo-phobia and -philia.
  • Histories of religious and political polemic.
  • Histories of religion and religious pluralism, including Zoroastrianism, Mithraism, Judaism, Christianity, Baha’i.
  • The cultural life of Islam in its various forms, including Shi’ism and Sufism, in the Anglophone imagination.
  • The dynamics of gender, race, sexuality, and power at work in cross-cultural encounters and exchanges.



Confirmed speakers include Dr Lloyd Ridgeon (Reader in Islamic Studies, University of Glasgow), Dr Nur Sobers-Khan (Lead Curator, South Asian Collections, British Library), Dr Moya Carey (Curator of Islamic Collections, Chester Beatty) and Dr Lindsay Allen (Lecturer in Greek and Near Eastern History, King’s College London).


Please send proposals of no more than 200 words to by Monday 31st August. Proposals should be accompanied by a 50-word biography, and an indication (if known at this point) of your availability between 10-12 December.


Joanna de Groot (History/Centre for C18th Studies)

Shazia Jagot (English/Centre for Medieval Studies)

James Williams (English/Centre for Modern Studies)

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