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In her magnificent and lyrical new book, The Emperor Who Never Was: Dara Shukoh in Mughal India (Harvard UP, 2020), Supriya Gandhi reorients and adds unprecedented depth to our understanding of the much memorialized but less understood Mughal prince and thinker Dara Shukoh (d. 1659), and of his broader political and social milieu. Written with exceptional clarity and in dazzling narrative form, this book marshals overwhelming evidence to disrupt the popular and common view that sees Dara Shukoh as either an absolute interfaith inclusivist or a failed political aspirant to the Mughal throne. Alternating between social and political history, and close readings of a range of religious texts, this book not only thoroughly complicates our conception of Dara Shukoh, but also presents an intimate view of the political and family life of the Mughal elite. Operating at the intersection of Islamic Studies, South Asian Studies, and Empire Studies, this eminently accessible book is sure to spark interest and discussion among scholars in these and other fields. It will also work as a particularly enjoyable text to teach in undergraduate and graduate courses.
SherAli Tareen is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall College. His research focuses on Muslim intellectual traditions and debates in early modern and modern South Asia. His book Defending Muhammad in Modernity (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020) received the American Institute of Pakistan Studies 2020 Book Prize. His other academic publications are available here. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listener feedback is most welcome.
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