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History Lecture Series

Switching Gender: Love, Desire, and Ethical Debates in Mughal India

Wed. Jan. 23, 2019      7:30–9 p.m.

Kane Hall 130

Purnima Dhavan, Associate Professor of History, UW

Why would a male poet talk in a female voice? Explore how Mughal poets used themes of love and desire to define a spiritually grounded life and explore gendered conduct in ways that still resonate today.

Admission: $12-$15; tickets available at the series homepage.

Students as well as federal employees affected by the government shutdown receive free admission with a valid id.

Recommended Reading

The speakers have provided a short list of suggested reading designed to enhance your lecture experience and inspire future exploration. Many titles can be ordered through University Book Store, where UWAA members enjoy a 10% discount.

Download a printable recommended media list for all lectures here.

Books and Articles:

Bullhe Shah, translated by Christopher Shackle, Sufi Lyrics, Murty Classical Library of India (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015)
Scott A. Kugle, Sufi and Saint’s Bodies: Mysticism, Corporeality and Sacred Power in Islam (Greensboro: University of North Carolina, 2007)
Richard K. Wolff. “The Poetics of ‘Sufi’ Practice: Drumming, Dancing, and Complex Agency at Madho Lāl Husain (And Beyond).” American Ethnologist, Vol. 33, No. 2, May 2006: 246-268.

Online Resources: Interviews and Podcasts

Partition Voices: Interview with Amrita Pritam, by Andrew Whitehead
BBC: Incarnations—India in 50 Lives, Amir Khusro: The Parrot of India, by Sunil Khilnani


The late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan with a more traditional and popular rendition of Shah Hussain’s poetry:
Hadika Kiani delivers a contemporary folk version of 18th-Century poet Bulhe Shah’s “Kamli”:
A popular version of Bulhe Shah by Abida Parveen, a popular female Sufi performer:
Rabbi Shergill performs 18th-Century Sufi music, interpreted through contemporary rock with “Bulla ki Janna Main Kaun”:

Headshot: Purnima DhavanPurnima Dhavan is Associate Professor of History at the University of Washington. Her research spans an interest in the cultural history of the Mughal Empire, peasant warriors, mysticism and environmental history. Her first book, When Sparrows Became Hawks: The Making of Khalsa Martial Tradition (OUP, 2011) examined the unprecedented rise of Punjabi peasant soldiers into the ruling elite of Punjab. Her current projects include a literary history, The Lords of the Pen Write Back: Self-fashioning and Literary Culture in Mughal India as well as a forthcoming project on the environmental history of the upper Indus Valley. Full bio.

UWAA and UWRA members receive discounts and advance registration for lectures.

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For more information, contact the UW Alumni Association at 206-543-0540 or

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