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Roman Seidel: “Philosophical Micronarratives as Means to Reframe and Decentre the Intellectual History of the Enlightenment: The Case of Mīrzā Āqā Khān Kermānī’s Trans-Iranian Narrative.”
January 14, 2022 @ 14:00 - 16:00 CET
The idea of the Enlightenment, both as an intellectual phenomenon as well as a historical period, is recurrently treated as a European phenomenon or
more generally an exclusive cultural heritage of “the West”. In my talk I
attempt to address this Grand Narrative’s Eurocentric bias as a phenomenon
generated by epistemic asymmetries and discuss the idea of philosophical
micronarratives as a means to reframe and decentre it.
To illustrate that approach I shall focus on Mīrzā Āqā Khān Kermānī (d.
1896), one of the most ambiguous intellectuals of late 19th-century Iran
and situate his life and works in a Trans-Iranian frame. In order to do
so, in this talk, I shall first introduce the issue of epistemic
asymmetries and micronarratives and then focus on Kermānī’s adaptation of
Bernardin de Saint Pierre’s Le Café du Surate and La Chaumière indienne
and François Fénelon’s (1651–1715) Les Aventures de Télémaque. I will
examine the way in which Mīrzā Āqā Khān translated, transformed and merged
the two short stories of Bernardin du Saint Pierre, which deal with the
topic of religious plurality, into his Haftād o do mellat and reshapes the
story along his own convictions into a trans-Iranian frame. I will
conclude by evaluating in what way the study of transmitting, translating
and transforming Enlightenment literature in a transregional setting is of
vital importance in any scholarly attempt at reshaping and decentring the
intellectual history of the Enlightenment and why philosophical micronarratives may provide a means to address the problem of epistemic
asymmetries in philosophical and historical inquiries.
Roman Seidel is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at Freie
Universität Berlin. In both research and teaching he focusses on
philosophy and intellectual history in the Middle East, with a particular
emphasis on the Persianate context from the 19th century onwards. He is
the author of the monograph “Kant in Teheran” (de Gruyter 2014) and one of
the main contributors to the Iran section of the recently published
Ueberweg volume “Geschichte der Philosophie in der islamischen Welt, 19.
und 20. Jahrhundert” (Schwabe 2021). Beyond that he co-initiated and
coordinates the scholarly network “Philosophy in the Modern Islamic
World”, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).