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Zīb al-Nisā (d. 1702): A “Hidden” Poetess at the Mughal Court

March 4, 2022 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm EST

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Pegah Shahbaz is currently a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy the Asian Institute, an Associate Member of the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches sur l’Inde, l’Asie du Sud et sa Diaspora (CERIAS) at The Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and the Section Editor of the Fables and Tales Chapter of Perso-Indica Project. She works on questions of narratology, translation and systems of knowledge transmission in the Persianate World, in particular the reception and domestication of Indian religious and cultural heritage in Persianate literary culture of Iran, Central and South Asia. She was previously Visiting Associate Professor at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Japan (2020), Robert H. N. HO Family Foundation for Buddhist Studies Research Fellow at the American Council for Learned Societies (ACLS- 2019-2020), Visiting Scholar at Leiden University (2017) and McGill University (2017-2019), a Grant Researcher at the University of British Columbia (2018-2019) and a Postdoctoral Fellow at Sorbonne Nouvelle Université Paris 3 (2014-18), where she worked on the “Perso-Indica project. She completed her Ph.D. in Persianate Studies at the University of Strasbourg with a specialization in Persian prose narratives in India.

Abstract: Contemporary of great Persian poets of 17th century India such as Bedil (d. 1720) and Sa’īb (d. 1676), a learned princess began to compose and recite her poems of love, affection and wisdom at the Mughal court. Zīb al-Nisā, the daughter of king Aurangzeb (r. 1707-1658) the Mughal emperor and his Iranian queen, Dilras Bānū Begum, was trained in mathematics, philosophy, literature and calligraphy, and had memorized the Quran by heart. As a Muslim woman who received the same high education as her brother princes, she shared wealth and power with them as a guardian of the Mughal imperial legacy. This presentation aims to introduce the poetess, her literary works and her world of thoughts through her Divan of poetry. Her poetic pseudonym, makhfī, literally meaning “hidden”, puns on her ambiguous feminine presence in the courtly milieu. The study of her writings will open doors to the privacy of the Zenana and will provide a better understanding of the qualities expected of women in the religious and sociocultural context of Shahjahanabad in the 17th century.