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Aurangzeb: Invented, Imagined, and Remembered
by Taymiya R. Zaman
Even four centuries after his death, the Mughal king Aurangzeb (d. 1707) lives on in popular imagination. In India, “Aurangzeb Road” was renamed in 2015 on the grounds that Aurangzeb was a fanatic who killed Hindus. In Pakistan, while some see Aurangzeb as a villainous precursor to the Taliban, others see him as a valiant hero who defended Islam during difficult times. Historians have responded to these images by sifting through fact and fiction and by insisting we see Aurangzeb as a product of his times. I propose that we analyze ourselves as a product of our times instead: Why are we unable to let go of the Mughal past or alternatively, why won’t it let go of us? To bring the Mughal past into dialogue with the present we inhabit, this talk will focus on the unresolved trauma caused by the violent loss of Mughal kingship in 1857, the impact of British colonial rule on former Mughal subjects, and the ways in which kings such as Aurangzeb have come to represent sublimated desires for what could have been.
About the Speaker:
Taymiya R. Zaman received her BA in Philosophy (2001) from Smith College and her PhD in History (2007) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is currently Associate Professor of History at the University of San Francisco. She has published scholarly articles on Mughal autobiographies, historical memory in South Asia, and on colonialism and the method of history. She teaches courses on the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Empires and the making of modern South Asia and the Middle East. She has also published narrative non-fiction and fiction; in 2014 her short story, “Thirst” won the Pushcart Prize.