Jaimee Comstock-Skipp stays abroad. If you want to contact her please send her an email. The above mentioned telephone number is the number of the secretariat.
The Forgotten Decades: the Shaybanid take on Ferdowsi’s Shahnama epic and artistic exchanges in late 16th-century Khorasan and Transoxiana.
Shahnama illustrations are a rich source to mine for the political contexts of their production and to ascertain group affiliation and cultural demarcation. I am concerned with the Shahnama’s politics of representation and literary appropriations of the epic. My aim is to shift studies of Persian manuscript arts that center on Iran and instead make Central Asia, specifically Bukhara, a sustained focus of study. The materials to be examined are late 16th-century Shahnama copies evidencing literary and artistic exchanges across Iran and Transoxiana and those with a Khorasani provenance. The time period of my focus is between 1570-1600, a time of Safavid-Shaybanid struggles to capture Khorasan and internal tensions as well within each sphere. Of key interest to me in the shared painting traditions of Iran and Central Asia are issues related to ethnogenesis and visual expressions of group identity codified linguistically, regionally, or religiously; in essence, how heroes and enemies are rendered and the differentiation between us versus them gets constructed on the pages.
The historians of Central Asia and Iran R. D. McChesney and Martin Dickson have in the past and will continue to guide my analysis and theoretical approach. They have challenged historical assumptions about the early modern Middle East, assumptions that have reinforced sectarianism and heightened differences between the Persian and Turkic spheres that do not seem to be historically accurate. It is imperative to keep in mind that in the 16th century, the era of burgeoning national identities, each side depends on and constructs its identity and cultural expression in relation to the other.1 My inquiry looks outside Persian Shahnama traditions so as to include illustrated Turkic translations of the epic into Qipchaq and Ottoman Turkish which might have been executed by Shaybanid artists.
Long chided for their poor quality of illustration and thus dismissed without meaningful analysis, Shaybanid Shahnamas appeal to me for reasons other than aesthetics. I view them as instruments of power and authority —both within the images and the books as objects themselves to be commissioned and exchanged. I believe that the ramifications of better understanding early modern Shaybanid artistic productions will radiate outwards to illuminate both the time period and interactions with neighboring realms. Ripples of this research have implications to preceding dynasties (such as the Timurids and Ilkhanids) whose styles the Shaybanids co-opted, along with contemporary empires (Safavids, Ottomans, and Mughals).
Scholars have too long neglected to question why, in general, the artists of Transoxiana seldom illustrated the Shahnama. Copies from outside the Iranian heartland, such as those produced in Transoxiana including Uzbek and Afghan centers today, do exist but have not been given adequate attention. Through methodic sleuthing I have collated numerous references to possible Shaybanid Shahnama copies in world collections spanning Vienna, Ireland, Istanbul, London, Tehran, Tashkent, Punjab, and Princeton. Using digital copies and reproductions already available online, I will explore the range of undigitized materials and narrow my study to a few select manuscripts of a suitable late-16th century provenance and those holding visual material pertinent to my investigation. My focus is on the intense decades of artistic and militaristic exchanges between the Shaybanids in Transoxiana and Safavids in Iran as made manifest in Shahnama manuscript arts.
Supervisors: prof. dr. I.B. Smits and dr. G.R. van den Berg.
- Leiden University, Netherlands
PhD Candidate, Persian Studies • October 2017-Completion Expected June 2021
- The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, England
Special Option: Persian Painting and Transcultural Visuality: from the Mongols to the Safavids (14th-17th centuries)
M.A. with Distinction, July 2015
Dissertation: “Heroes of Legend, Heroes of History: Militant Manuscripts of the Shaybanid Uzbeks in Transoxiana.”
- Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art, Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts
M.A. June 2012 • GPA: 3.77
Qualifying Paper: “ ‘To be an Infidel or an Unbeliever...’ Edmund Dulac’s Christian Subject in a Persian Style.”
- University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California
B.A. with Highest Honors in Near Eastern Studies, minor in Art History, May 2009 • GPA: 3.96
Area of Specialization: Islamic Civilizations
Honors’ Thesis (awarded Departmental Citation): “Whose Painted Reality? Redefining Orientalism in British
Representations of the Sultan Hasan Mosque in Cairo.”
Honors and Awards
- Fulbright US Student Award 2015-2016, Tajikistan (August 2015-June 2016)
- British Institute of Persian Studies travel grant to Iran (Summer 2015)
- Iranian Heritage Foundation 2014 Scholar, for tuition and fees at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London (Fall 2014)
- Friends of the Courtauld Institute 2014 Scholar, for tuition and fees at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London (Fall 2014)
- Soudavar Memorial Foundation scholarship, for remaining costs at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London (Fall 2014)
- I.B. Tauris Prize for Best Paper at the Symposia Iranica’s First Biennial Graduate Conference on Iranian Studies (Spring 2013)
- Critical Languages Institute Title VIII Fellowship for Tajiki language immersion, Tajikistan (Summer 2012)
- Critical Languages Alumni Fund for continued Farsi tutoring (Spring 2012)
- US Department of State Critical Languages Scholarship winner for Farsi language immersion, Tajikistan (Summer 2011)
- Williams College Graduate Class of 1951 Student Merit Fellowship (2010)
- Highest Honors and Departmental Citation, Department of Near Eastern Studies, UC Berkeley (2009)
- Charlene Conrad Liebau Library Prize for Undergraduate Research Winner, UC Berkeley (2009)
- Center for British Studies Travel Grant, UC Berkeley (2009)
- Robert and Colleen Haas Scholar, UC Berkeley (2008)
- Center for African Studies Carl Rosberg and Judith Geist Undergraduate Research Fellow, UC Berkeley (2008)
- Center for Race and Gender grant winner, UC Berkeley (2008)
- Junior member of Phi Beta Kappa Society, UC Berkeley (2008)
- Art award winner for the National Arts Program, sponsored by Santa Rosa Parks and Recreation, CA (2008)
- Sultan Program for Arab Studies Undergraduate Scholarship Fund Winner, UC Berkeley (2007)
- Elks Most Valuable Student Scholarship Winner (2005)
- California Association for the Gifted Scholar (2005)
- “Liberating the ‘Turkoman Prisoner’: an Assessment of 16th-century Folios of Bound Captives.” (To be published in the conference proceedings for Recovering ‘Lost Voices’: The Role and Depictions of Iranian/Persianate Subalterns from the 13th Century to the Modern Period, ed. Andrew J. Newman, forthcoming).
- “Turk amongst Tajiks: the Qipchaq Shahnama Manuscript in Tajikistan’s Institute of Oriental Studies and Written Heritage.” (To be published in: LUCIS: Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam & Society, forthcoming).
- “Heroes of Legend, Heroes of History: Militant Manuscripts of the Shaybanid Uzbeks in Transoxiana” (To be published in: IRAN, the journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies, Winter 2018).
- “To be an Infidel or an Unbeliever...” Five Wise Men: Edmund Dulac, W.B. Yeats, and the Magi (Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception. “Intuiting the Past: New Age and Neopagan Medievalisms”, edited by Karolyn Kinane).<https://relegere.org/relegere/article/viewFile/582/676>
- “From the World's Fair to Disneyland: Pavilions as Temples” (What is a Pavilion?, edited by Joel Robinson, The Open Arts Journal, Issue 2, Winter 2013). <http://openartsjournal.org/issue-2/2013w05jkcs/>
- “Sartorientalism” (The Contemporary Visual Studies Reader, edited by James Elkins, Kristi McGuire, Maureen Burns, Alicia Chester, and Joel Kuennen. New York and London: Routledge, 2012).
- “Temples” (The Contemporary Visual Studies Reader, edited by James Elkins, Kristi McGuire, Maureen Burns, Alicia Chester, and Joel Kuennen. New York and London: Routledge, 2012).
- “Art Deco Sartorientalism in America: Persian Urban Turbans and Other Versions” (Chitrolekha International Magazine on Art and Design, Vol. 1, no. 3, 2011). <http://www.chitrolekha.com/V1/n3/05_Persian_Urban_Turbans.pdf
- “Who Defines Culture Across Borders? Art and Immigration in the Iranian-American Community” (published in Perspective Magazine, UC Berkeley Iranian Students' Cultural Organization, Fall 2009).