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Pegah Shahbaz (University of Toronto)

Pegah Shahbaz

Pegah Shahbaz
Image Credit: Private

Fellow in Research Area 3: "Future Perfect"

November 2021

Cultural Translation and the Rewriting of Indian Stories in Persianate South Asia

Persian narrative literature produced in or in relation with South Asia during the Ghaznavid period (977-1186), the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526) and the Mughal era (1526-1858) is a hybrid and intertextual corpus that reflects reciprocal literary interactions between Indic and Persian cultures in a historical period when translation and knowledge exchange were supported by Muslim governors all across the Persianate World. As we study the integration of Indian tales into Persian literature along with their adjustments in style, their adaptations to the cultural standards and religious norms of the receiving culture and the selective approach in preparing the new compilations of tales from different sources becomes apparent, which involved different forms of reinterpretation and rewriting. Persian retellings of narratives were new compendiums that were distinct from the Indic ones. In many cases, Muslim authors altered or replaced Indic religious motifs with the Perso-Islamic ones and in several others, the original Indian source was interpolated with materials and notions drawn from Islamic sources. Pegah Shahbaz's project aims to study such transmission and adaptation processes. It focuses on the question of gender and its social attributes and values, which change in narrative texts after their transmission from one socio-cultural context to the other. As a case study, the notion of a woman's ruse in stories and its cultural perception and depiction as positive (mark of intelligence) or negative (deceitfulness) are analysed in both Indian and Persian literary cultures.

Pegah Shahbaz is a specialist of the classical Persian literature of Iran, Central and South Asia. She 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'Études 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.

After completing her PhD in Persianate Studies at the University of Strasbourg (2014), France, with a specialisation in Persian prose narrative literature from India, Pegah joined the Sorbonne Nouvelle Université – Paris 3 (2014-18) and worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow for the Perso-Indica Project. She was previously Visiting Scholar at Leiden University (2017) and McGill University (2017-2019), a Grant Researcher at the University of British Columbia (2018-2019), Robert H. N. HO Family Foundation for Buddhist Studies Research Fellow at the American Council for Learned Societies (ACLS- 2019-2020) and Visiting Associate Professor at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Japan (2020). Her research articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals such as the Iranian Studies and the Asiatische Studien-Etudes Asiatiques, revue de la Société Suisse-Asie, as well as in edited volumes and encyclopaedic works, including the Encyclopaedia Iranica, Perso-Indica. An Analytical Survey of Persian Works on Indian Learned Traditions, and forthcoming in the Dictionnaire Encyclopédic des Littératures de l'Inde.