“Gate of India:” Early Modern Qandahar

Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - 5:00pm

Foster 103

Talk by Dr. Neelam Khoja.

Qandahar was a borderland fort-city: the eastern most frontier for the Safavids, and western most frontier for the Mughals. As such, it was a site for contestation, and it volleyed back and forth between these two empires. Qandahar was a stra­tegic city, mostly for trade, but also because it was heavily fortified and penetrating its walls was no easy feat. It was one of the leading cities for money ex­change: it housed a mint and large sums of money. For most of secondary scholarship, these facts are uncontested: Qandahar was a peripheral fort-city known for trade and exchange, which meant flush with revenues. Most secondary scholarship privileges the Safavid and Mughal empires, when reconstructing early modern history. This presentation seeks to shift the perspective: it is interested in what Qandahar meant for the Ghilzai Afghans, Nadir Shah Afshar, and Abdali Af­ghans during the long eighteenth century. In doing so, it reveals how Qandahar was the point of departure to enter Hindustani territories for Nadir Shah. For the Afghans, Qandahar was not peripheral; rather it was at the center of their power.

Dr. Neelam Khoja received her doctorate from Harvard University and holds Master’s degrees in Islamic Studies from Claremont Graduate University and Harvard Divinity School. Her research brings together connective history, literature, and religion in early modern Iran and Hindustan (present-day Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India). Her first monograph (in-progress), Known Geographies: Afghan Sovereigns, Soldiers, and Society in Eighteenth Century Iran and Hindustan, addresses questions about 18th century Afghan identity, migration, space, and sovereignty. Khoja’s research has been supported by numerous grants, including Fulbright, American Institute of Pakistan Studies, American Institute of Iranian Studies, and Harvard University’s South Asia Institute and Asia Center.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019 – 5:00pm
Foster 103