Sumaira Nawaz

Sumaira Nawaz, Ph.D. (Year 5)

I am interested in the role print culture and commercial press played in framing competing and parallel narratives of what it meant to be a modern Muslim subject in the Middle East and South Asia, areas usually branded as “peripheral” to the history of intellectual networks. A study of literary traffics between the Ottoman Empire, Qajar Iran, and British India offers scholars new avenues of learning about the emergence of a “Muslim public sphere,” and how its character changed with newly emerging routes and modes of travel. Temporally, I work on the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a period of intense literary interactions and public debates between the regions. From travelogues and memoirs, to treatises on women’s rights, Islamist anti-imperial journals and revolutionary magazines, to even gothic romance novels and drama—the texts that floated between across Urdu, Persian, and Turkish demonstrate a vibrant milieu of trans-border connections. I extend this to Muslim pressmen who set up their periodicals and newspapers in colonial centres like London and Paris, challenging censorship norms both home and abroad.

Education:

  • MA, SOAS, University of London, 2017
  • BA, St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, 2016

Areas of interest: Trans-border relations; Migration and Mobility; Print Culture; Book History; Global History; Cultural Studies; Muslim modernity

Doctoral Project: My doctoral project focuses on trans-regional Persian language periodicals like Akhtar, Hikmet, and Qanun, and the ways in which they embodied and influenced constitutional politics in the late Ottoman Empire and Qajar Iran. Periodicals, like professional associations (anjumans), were public platforms where every-day actors could participate in an expanding “ideosphere”—a discursive field that was relatively independent of state-control and distinctively marked by engagement and interactions between widespread regions and readerships. Persian language periodicals published across Istanbul, Cairo, Calcutta, and London, are repositories of the omnivorous range of voices, including elite bureaucrats, dissident ideologues and polemicists, clerics and merchant communities, who turned to print with questions of state-formation and citizenship rights. My dissertation Trans-Border Affiliates will flesh out the imbricated workings of this trans-regional periodical culture and the ways in which Iranian and other Persian-reading communities coalesced around the question of Ottoman constitutional modernity as a means to progress.

Email: sumaira.nawaz [at] mail.mcgill.ca (Sumaira Nawaz)

Supervisor: Aslihan Gurbuzel

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