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James Pickett


James Pickett focuses on empire and Islam as entangled sources of authority, with particular attention to historical memory and state formation. His first book, Polymaths of Islam: Power and Networks of Knowledge in Central Asia, was published by Cornell University Press in 2020. A second book project will compare Bukhara’s transformation into a Russian protectorate with the Indian princely state of Hyderabad’s parallel trajectory into semi-colonial status. James has also published articles about the Soviet legacy of the Persian cultural sphere and modern language politics in relation to pedagogy. Most recently, he completed a synthetic Cambridge History chapter on Persianate migration, building on a contribution to the Asia Inside Out collected volume. In pursuing these endeavors, James has spent over half a decade living and working throughout Eurasia: scouring Arabic biographical dictionaries in Damascus; pawing through Russian colonial records in Saint Petersburg; surveying religious endowments in Uzbekistan; deciphering Persian manuscripts in Tajikistan; and delving into Urdu sources in archives throughout India. James holds a PhD in history from Princeton University, an MA from Georgetown University, and a BA from Carleton College. He is an Associate Professor in the History Department of the University of Pittsburgh.

Recent Publications:

  • Polymaths of Islam: Power and Networks of Knowledge in Central Asia (Cornell University Press, 2020).
  • “The Darker Side of Mobility: Refugees, Hostages, and Political Prisoners in Persianate Asia,” in Asia Inside Out: Itinerant People, ed. Eric Tagliacozzo, Helen F. Siu, and Peter C. Perdue (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2019), 201–23.
  • “Written into Submission: Reassessing Sovereignty through a Forgotten Eurasian Dynasty,” The American Historical Review 123, no. 3 (2018): 817–45.
  • “Categorically Misleading, Dialectically Misconceived: Language Textbooks and Pedagogic Participation in Central Asian Nation-Building Projects,” Central Asian Survey 36, no. 4 (2017): 555–74.