The Formation and Denouement of “Perso-Islamic” in Oriental History and the Case of Seljuk Art and Architectural History
Middle East Technical University, Architectural History Graduate Program, Ankara/TÜRKİYE
Keywords: Perso-Islamic, Persianization, Aryanism, Seljuk, Anatolia, Art, Architecture, Historiography
This paper questions the validity of the term “Perso-Islamic,” a label invented in scholarship on the history of the Middle East to coin the presumed cultural union between former ancient Persia and later Islamic culture. From the nineteenth century on, particularly the European historians with Indo-European philological background introduced an idiosyncratic discourse to studies on Islamic civilization. The phrase Perso-Islamic has been almost extemporaneously employed by them in places where institutions, culture and etiquette in central Islamic lands hint at elements of preIslamic kingship. As a result, the elements of culture in Central Asia, Iran and Anatolia that are considered as “civilized” are habitually linked to ancient Persia, and non-Iranian elements are marginalized under that holistic term, Perso-Islamic. As a chief expression of a long fostered orientalist paradigm, “Perso-Islamic” then became one of the key concepts of the grand narrative on Islamic art and architecture. The objective of this paper is first to reveal what “Perso-Islamic” refers to in historical studies, then to illustrate virtually impetuous use of the term in recent scholarship on Seljuk art and architecture.