Chair in Urdu Language and Culture
Undergraduate Program Director
I am the Chair in Urdu Language and Culture and an Associate Professor at the Institute of Islamic Studies. I work on South Asian literatures, including literature in Urdu-Hindi, Persian, Punjabi, and Arabic. I teach courses on Sufism, the cultural history of South Asia, marvellous tales in the Islamicate world, Urdu poetry, and the history and cultures of the South Asian and Muslim diaspora, particularly in Canada.
My first book, The Broken Spell: Indian Storytelling and the Romance Genre in Persian and Urdu (https://www.wsupress.wayne.edu/books/detail/broken-spell), is about the Islamicate romance (qissah/dastan), its form, performance, and epistemological underpinnings. My next book, provisionally entitled The Generous Infidel, will deal with ethics, exemplarity, generosity, and gift theory; and gender performance and heteronormativity in the qissahs, films, plays, and comic-book representations of the pre-Islamic hero Hatim Ta'i.
I maintain the Noon Meem Rashed Archive (http://nmrashedarchive.com/), an extensive collection of the letters, poetry drafts, photographs and life records of "Noon Meem" Rashed (Nazri Muhammad Rashed, 1910-1975), one of the most important Urdu poets of the 20th century, and a pioneer of Urdu modernist literature. Rashed's papers and personal effects were donated to the Institute in 2013 by his daughter, Yasmin Rashed Hassan.
I received my PhD at Columbia University in 2013, where my supervisor was the Urdu scholar Prof. Frances Pritchett. I am McGill’s second holder of the Urdu Chair, which was established in 1986 by the Governments of Canada and Pakistan, and McGill University. The holder of the Chair is responsible for teaching Urdu language courses, and performing research in the history and literature of the Urdu-speaking peoples of South Asia, and other areas, including Canada.
Urdu-Hindi literature; Punjabi, Indo-Persian, and Braj Bhasha literatures; Cultural history and historiography of South Asia, Sufism.
My 2019 monograph is entitled The Broken Spell: Indian Storytelling and the Romance Genre in Persian and Urdu (https://www.wsupress.wayne.edu/books/detail/broken-spell). This book provides a history of Persian and Urdu storytelling (qissah-khwani or dastan-go’i) from the 15th to the 20th century. It examines how the marvellous romance (qissah/dastan) came by the end of the nineteenth century to be regarded as a backward genre, unworthy of serious attention, in contrast to the novel, which was understood to hew more closely to the new ideals of empirical and rational verisimilitude.
My new projects are concerned with ethical exemplarity, generosity, and the gift, in the Islamicate romance of Hatim Ta’i; gender performance and heteronormativity; and patronage, praise, and Sikh, Muslim and Hindu relations at the court of the Punjabi ruler Ranjit Singh. Consonant with the terms of the Chair in Urdu Language and Culture that I hold, I am interested in the history and cultures of the South Asian and Muslim diaspora, particularly in Canada.
More information on my research is available here: https://mcgill.academia.edu/PashaMKhan
Publications & Presentations
The Broken Spell: Indian Storytellers and the Romance Genre in Persian and Urdu. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2019. https://www.wsupress.wayne.edu/books/detail/broken-spell
“What Iranian Storytellers Were Worth in Mughal India.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Special section on “Circulation and Language: Iranians in Early Modern South Asia.” Ed. Usman Hamid and Pasha M. Khan. 37.3 (2017):570-587. https://bit.ly/2Zwevih
"‘Abd al-Nabī Faḳhr al-Zamānī and the Courtly Storytellers of Mughal India." In Urdu and Indo-Persian Thought, Poetics, and Belles Lettres. Ed. Alireza Korangy. Leiden: Brill, 2017. 23-72.
"A Handbook for Storytellers: The Tirāz al-aḳhbār and the Qiṣṣah Genre." Tellings and Texts. Ed. Francesca Orsini and Katherine Schofield. Cambridge: Open Book, 2015. 185-207. http://bit.ly/1HL2ENH
“Marvellous Histories: Reading the Shāhnāmah in India." Indian Economic and Social History Review. 49.4 (2012): 527-56. https://bit.ly/2MMMEsy
“From The Lament for Delhi.” Trans. and introduction to selected poems from Fughān-i Dihlī. In Nationalism in the Vernacular: Hindi, Urdu, and the Literature of Indian Freedom. Ed. Shobna Nijhawan. Delhi: Permanent Black. 2009. 88-92.
“The Progressive Graveyard.” Trans. and Introduction to “Taraqqī-yāfta qabristān” by Sa‘ādat Hasan Manto. In Nationalism in the Vernacular: Hindi, Urdu, and the Literature of Indian Freedom. Ed. Shobna Nijhawan. Delhi: Permanent Black. 2009. 224-232.
“Nothing but Animals: The Hierarchy of Creatures in the Ringstones of Wisdom.” Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi Society. 43 (2008): 21-50. https://bit.ly/2IipTbH
“Islamicate Praise for Ranjit Singh: Convention and Patronage.” Conference on Encounters in Premodern South Asia at the University of Toronto. Presenter. (2019, April 13).
“Gaining a Name for Generosity: Ethics and Exemplarity in the Tales of Hatim Ta’i.” Invited talk. South Asia Seminar. University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. (2018, February 8).
“Urdu Storytelling up to Mir Baqir Ali: The Limits of Prestige.” Preconference on How (Not) to Write the History of Urdu Literature at the Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison, WI. Panelist. (2017, October 26).
“Reason and Report: The Urdu Histories of the Enchantment of Bakawali, 1876-1895.” Invited talk. Council on Middle East Studies of Yale University. Yale University, New Haven, CT. (2017, January 25).
“The Shahnamah in India, between History and Romance.” Invited talk. Yale Iran Colloquium, Yale University, New Haven, CT. (2015, February 2).
"Dastans and Disenchantment: The Storyteller Mir Baqir ‘Ali of Delhi and the Romance of Amir Hamzah." Panel on Wonders of the World: Duality and Dichotomy in the Enchanted World of Epic Storytelling at the Biennial Conference on Iranian Studies, Montreal. Panel Organizer and Panelist. (2014, August 9).
“What Iranian Storytellers Were Worth in Early Mughal India.” Invited talk. Foundation for Iranian Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto. (2014, October 24).
“The Urdu Storytelling Craft: The Case of Mir Baqir ‘Ali.” Invited talk. Centre for South Asian Civilizations, University of Toronto, Toronto. (2014, October 23).
“Enchanted India: Wondering Communities and the Romance Genre.” Panel on Communities of Wonder, Communities of Dread. Workshop on Feeling for the Community at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin. (2014, June 28).
"Gul-i Bakawali: Recovering the History of a Romance in Colonial India." Panel on Strangeness in India and China at the Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting, Philadelphia. (2014, March 30).
"The 'Last Storyteller of Delhi': Mir Baqir ‘Ali Dastango." Invited talk. Muslim Societies in South Asia Seminar Series, South Asia Institute & Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. (2013, November 15).
"The True Story of the Bakawali Rose." Panel on More "Marvelous Encounters": Studies of Urdu Prose in Honor of Professor Frances Pritchett at the Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison, WI. (2013, October 18).
"Lying Tales: History and Romance in Urdu and Indo-Persian Literature." Invited talk. Centre for the Study of Islam, Carleton University, Ottawa. (2013, March 22).
“A Punjabi Sufi Poet in Ranjīt Singh’s Court: Maulwī Aḥmad Yār and the Tale of Ḥātim T̤ā’ī.” Panel on Punjabi Sufi Poetry and Performance at the Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting, Honolulu. (2011, April 3).
“Marvellous Histories: Between Qissa and Tarikh in Late Mughal India.” Panel on Fractured Genres: The Afterlives of Medieval Indo-Persian Histories at the Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison, WI. (2010, October 15).
“A Manual for Storytellers: ‘Abd al-Nabī Faḳhr al-Zamānī’s Tirāz al-aḳhbār.” Tellings, Not Texts Conference. School of Oriental and African Studies, London, UK. (2009, June 9).
“Qissa and Romance: A Genre Equation Revisited.” Panel on Genre in the Persianate Literature of South Asia at the Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting, Chicago. (2009, March 28).
“Giving Flesh: Animals in the Persian/Urdu Qissa-i Hatim Tai and Its Sanskrit Forebears.” Panel on Encounters between Early Modern Sanskrit and Persian Cultures at the Biennial Conference on Iranian Studies, Toronto. (2008, August 1).
Courses that I teach regularly include the following. Students are welcome to email me about their eligibility and to enroll, or about the availability of courses in a given year. See below for sample posters.
ISLA-330 Islamic Mysticism: Sufism
ISLA-488 Tales of Wonder in the Islamic World
ISLA 421 Islamic Culture in the Indian Subcontinent
ISLA-551 Introductory Urdu-Hindi
ISLA-552 Intermediate Urdu-Hindi
ISLA-555 Urdu Poetry