Audrey Truschke

Audrey Truschke is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Rutgers University-Newark. She is invited by Fabrizio Speziale (CEIAS) from March 19th till April 19th 2019.

Her teaching and research interests focus on the cultural, imperial, and intellectual history of early modern and modern India (c. 1500-present). Her first book, Culture of Encounters, investigates the literary, social, and political roles of Sanskrit as it thrived in the Persian-speaking, Islamic Mughal courts from 1560 to 1650. Her second book, Aurangzeb: The Life and Legacy of India's Most Controversial King, is a historical reassessment of one of the most hated kings in South Asian history (published in India and Pakistan as Aurangzeb: The Man and The Myth). More broadly she publishes on cross-cultural exchanges, historical memory, and imperial power. Her teaching interests also include modern India and Pakistan and religious debates and conflicts.


Lecture series


Finding History: Sanskrit Narratives of Indo-Islamic Incursions and Rule

  • March 27th 2019, 15 - 17h | Room BS1_28 (1er sous-sol), 54 boulevard Raspail 75006 Paris

Islamic migrations to India and the associated cultural and political changes constitute one of the single biggest shifts of the last one thousand years in South Asian history. Starting with the Ghurids in the 1190s, would-be Islamic rulers came to the subcontinent, and multiple Muslim dynasties controlled parts of northern and central India for more than half a millennium. Scholars have long drawn upon political histories written in Persian and Arabic in order to understand this series of historical ruptures and the views of those who enacted and lived through them. But scholars have devoted far less attention to parallel records written in Sanskrit, a major literary language of premodern India’s Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain elites. In this lecture, I introduce a scholarly project to analyze a robust body of Sanskrit works on Indo-Islamic political events circa 1190 – 1720 CE. This project seeks to recover the historically relevant identities—religious, regional, ethnic, political, linguistic, and so forth—that Sanskrit thinkers perceived and projected through their encounters with Islamicate and Persianate political figures. By elaborating the specific ideas, languages, and identities at play in premodern Sanskrit historical works, I expand our historical and conceptual resources for understanding premodern South Asia, Indian intellectual history, and the impact of Muslim peoples on non-Muslim societies.

As part of the Research group Traduire l’histoire et historiciser la traduction : redéfinir l’autre et soi


 New “Hindu” Values in an Indo-Persian World

  • April 2nd 2019, 17h - 19h | Room A-751, 54 boulevard Raspail 75006 Paris

This talk focuses on Nayacandra’s Hammiramahakavya (Great Poem on Hammira Chauhan), composed around 1420 CE. Writing more than 200 years after the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate, an Indo-Persian dynasty, Nayacandra envisioned a world with possibilities for cultural overlap and, in his Hammiramahakavya, he lauded a Muslim Mongol as a paradigm of kshatriya warrior values. I argue that Nayacandra did not draw upon age-old Hindu ideals but rather projected newly formulated religious and political identities that only made sense in a world increasingly defined by Indo-Persian military might. Looking at Nayacandra’s work in the twenty-first century invites comparison with the Hindu-Muslim dichotomy of modern times. Here I argue that the Hammiramahakavya offers a contrasting paradigm wherein religious identities were porous and quickly evolving.

As part of the seminar Asie du Sud et culture persane. Productions savantes, traductions, interactions


Before Indo-Muslim: Indian Views of the Islamic Other and Persian speakers

  • April 4rth 2019, 15h - 18h | Room A-651, 54 boulevard Raspail 75006 Paris

In this lecture, I investigate the appearance of Muslims and Persian speakers in inscriptions c. 736 - 1190 and in Buddhist mythology in the eleventh and twelfth centuries (e.g., Kalacakratantra). During this period, Central Asian Muslims conducted raids against Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist temples, especially in Gujarat, but Muslims did not yet rule any part of India aside from Sindh in the northwest. The inscriptions showcase a view of Muslim rulers and armies as political threats but without detailing precise markers of difference. Moreover, these early inscriptions developed a technique that grew more popular in subsequent centuries: they slotted Muslims into old Sanskrit categories for outsiders, which redefined the old Sanskrit terms and the new outsider groups. These terms later came to be definitional to how Indians thought about Indo-Muslim rule and Persian-speaking peoples. The Buddhist materials emphasized theological issues, such as the status of the Prophet Muhammad, which largely faded away in texts written after the advent of Indo-Islamic rule. They indicate significant, sometimes surprising interactions with Persianate societies and culture.

As part of the seminar Interactions between Islamicate and Indic Societies in South and South-East Asia: Comparative Perspectives


Beyond Indo-Persian: The Place of the Rajataranginis within Indian History Writing

  • April 9th 2019, 17h - 19h | Room A-751, 54 boulevard Raspail 75006 Paris

This paper concerns the Rajataranginis, a series of three texts written in the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries that offer a dynastic view of Kashmiri history, a place of fertile Hindu-Muslim encounters in the northern part of India. The Rajataranginis are well studied texts, but many scholars have held them up as the exception that proves the rule that Sanskrit writers had little interest in history. Here, I situate the Rajataranginis of Kalhana, Jonaraja, and Srivara in a broader Kashmiri tradition of history writing. The works of Jonaraja and Srivara doubled as extensions of Kalhana’s Rajatarangini and official court chronicles for the Persian-speaking Shah Miri dynasty. I analyze the disparate attention that Jonaraja and Srivara allot to the historical circumstances surrounding the spread of Islamic rule in Kashmir, an area disputed today between India and Pakistan.

As part of the seminar Asie du Sud et culture persane. Productions savantes, traductions, interactions