Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


‘South Asia’ + ‘Middle East’ + ‘Early Modern’ = ?

21 June 2024, 10:00 am–6:00 pm

Nan va Halva (Breads and Sweets) (MET, 1999.157)

This in-person workshop seeks to showcase new work in the field of early modern South Asian and Middle Eastern studies, while broadly examining what it means to use a period label derived from Europe’s historical experience and historiography, together with geographic categories originating in the Cold War West.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to

All | UCL staff | UCL students




Institute of Advanced Studies


IAS Forum
G17, ground floor, South Wing
UCL, Gower St, London
United Kingdom

For scholars of Critical Area Studies, more often working on modern topics and problems, this workshop affords an opportunity to engage with historical perspectives broadly conceived – i.e., those from history, history of art, history of science, theology, geography, anthropology, etc. How do we productively reframe Area Studies once we go deeper into the past and farther from the era that gave meaning to ‘South Asia’ and the ‘Middle East’ and manifested these categories in real-life institutions and discourse?

For scholars of South Asia and the Middle East, too, this workshop provides an opportunity to rethink categories, not least what has long been a Eurocentric one – namely, the ‘early modern’. Can we speak of a ‘global’ rather than merely a Europe-centred ‘early modernity’? Where can we locate South Asia and the Middle East in the early modern world at large, and what role(s) did these regions and their inhabitants play in shaping early modernity? And what do such findings offer, in turn, to how we understand the fields of ‘South Asian studies’ and ‘Middle East studies’?

The organisers warmly welcome contributions from scholars at all career stages, and especially from early career researchers, as well as contributors whose work/practice speaks to the workshop themes. These should be around 10-15 minutes in length and could take the form of: 

•    a discussion of work-in-progress
•    a show-and-tell centred on a historical source (e.g., a literary work, an object, an inscription), 
•    discussion of an archive/library collection, its contents, and uses, 
•    critical analysis of recent museum displays/exhibitions
•    critical reflections on the (methodological, empirical, historiographical) state-of-the-art in a particular research field, 
•    contributions that play with format or media (e.g., the use of sound or film/visual materials). 

Please note this workshop will take place in-person at UCL, London. Refreshments will be provided during the day. There are limited funds to cover travel and/or accommodation expenses. To propose a contribution, please complete and return the following form to jagjeet.lally@ucl.ac.uk by 30 April 2024. Queries may also be sent to this email address.

This workshop is being organised by the UCL Middle East Research Centre (MERC) and the UCL Centre for the Study of South Asia and the Indian Ocean World (CSSA), with generous funding from the Institute of Advanced Studies and additional support from the UCL Centre for Transnational and Global History.

Image credit: cropped section of 'Nan va Halva (Breads and Sweets)' (MET, 1999.157) by Bahāʾ al-dīn al-ʿĀmilī , CC0, via Wikimedia Commons