The Badakhshan region of Central Asia, today divided between Tajikistan, Afghanistan, western China, and northern Pakistan, historically has comprised both a unique and integral part of the Iranian world. While the linguistic and ethnographic aspects of the region were the subject of many critical studies by Soviet scholars in the 20th century, it has been only in recent years that the broader cultural, religious, and historical aspects of the region and its traditions have become accessible to researchers. The papers in this panel, drawing in large measure upon previously-unstudied literary and oral sources, present a range of new investigations and approaches to the study of the Badakhshan region and its place within the wider Iranian and Persianate world.
Two of the panel’s papers will examine the literary traditions concerning Nasir-i Khusraw, the renowned poet, philosopher, and reputed founder of the Badakhshani Ismaili community. While the life and works of Nasir-i Khusraw have received a significant degree of attention in recent years, the biographical and hagiographical traditions concerning this figure have not received attention as literary monuments in their own right. Hence, our papers will investigate various elements of this extensive tradition: The first paper will explore the hagiographical tradition of Nasir-i Khusraw as a window into the ethical and normative framework of the Ismaili religious tradition of the region, while the second paper examines this tradition as a source for the social history of early-modern Badakhshan. Finally,the third paper will turn from the focus on literary traditions to explore the topic of shrines and sacred sites in Badakhshan, focusing on the nexus of architecture and oral traditions in defining the importance of these sites within the religious and cultural landscape of the region. Aside from a focus on the Badakhshan region, the papers on this panel share a number of common themes and methodological concerns; in particular, our essays explore the relationship between textual and oral sources, as well as a concern for the complex patterns of interaction and tensions between the major literary and religious traditions of Iranian and Persianate civilization with local traditions.