Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Legendary Biographies of Tamerlane: Islam and Heroic Apocrypha in Central Asia

The Legendary Biographies of Tamerlane: Islam and Heroic Apocrypha in Central Asia
By Ron Sela

Hardcover: 184 pages
Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (29 April 2011)
Language English
ISBN-10: 0521517060
ISBN-13: 978-0521517065

Timur (or Tamerlane) is famous as the fourteenth-century conqueror of much of Central Eurasia and the founder of the Timurid dynasty. His reputation lived on in his native lands and reappeared some three centuries after his death in the form of fictional biographies, authored anonymously in Persian and Turkic. These biographies have become part of popular culture. Despite a direct continuity in their production from the eighteenth century to the present, they remain virtually unknown to people outside the region. This remarkable and rigorous scholarly appraisal of the legendary biographies of Tamerlane is the first of its kind in any language. The book sheds light not only on the character of Tamerlane and how he was remembered and championed by many generations after his demise, but also on the era in which the biographies were written, and how they were conceived and received by the local populace during an age of crisis in their own history.

About Ron Sela
Assistant Professor, Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of History at Indiana University

"I study the history and historiography of Islamic Central Asia – a region stretching from the Caspian Sea in the west to Eastern Turkestan (Xinjiang) in the east – in the Post-Mongol era, with an emphasis on the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. My research examines Central Asia from within – not from the perspective of bordering empires, as it is usually accomplished – and most of my work requires a detailed study of unpublished manuscripts, primarily in Persian and Chaghatay Turkic, but also in a variety of other languages (Russian and different European languages, and for earlier periods also Arabic and occasionally, Judeo-Persian).

My recent project, a book about “Heroic Apocrypha” in Central Asia, brings to light an unstudied eighteenth-century corpus of legendary biographies of one of the most formidable figures in the region’s history – Timur (Tamerlane). By portraying the particular circumstances under which these biographies came to life, and by addressing the many political and social changes that our manuscripts described and perhaps even induced, my research delineates Central Asia’s cultural and political boundaries in the early modern era, boundaries that presently witness an intriguing revival."

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