History by way of “things” has itself become a “thing”. Archaeologists, of course, always did history this way. But they would focus on, usually, assemblages of objects, rather individual pieces. While perhaps not the first—nothing is ever the first—the BBC and the British Museum’s A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor popularized the concept.
In popular imagination and even works of scholarship, the names of the six Great Mughals—all male—dominate the narrative of the Mughal Empire in the history of India. School textbooks name them, detail their conquests, their religious tolerance or intolerance, the art and architecture they ushered in, and the gardens they left behind. That Nur Jahan, the 20th wife of the fourth emperor Jahangir (the son of Akbar the Great), was co-sovereign is missing from even the trivia people know about the carefree Prince Salim, the later Emperor Jahangir.
Separating Sheep from Goats investigates the history of collecting and exhibiting Chinese art through the lens of the career of renowned American curator and museum director Sherman E Lee (1918-2008). Drawing upon artworks and archival materials, Noelle Giuffrida excavates an international society of collectors, dealers, curators, and scholars who constituted the art world in which Lee operated.
If you live in a foreign country for any length of time, it’s inevitable that some of its customs and culture will rub off, whatever you do to try and avoid it. On the other hand, however well you “adjust” to the new culture, you will never be part of it.
The story of Roman Fyodorovich Ungern-Sternberg—“a Russian general, Baltic baron, Mongolian prince, and husband of a Chinese princess”—more or less writes itself. In his novella, Horsemen of the Sands, Russian writer Leonid Yuzefovich tells the story largely from the perspective of the Buryats—ethnic Mongols living in Russia—through the medium of a lost talisman.
This pioneering postcolonial work, originally published in 1966, was the first breakthrough Moroccan novel to be written in native Moroccan Arabic, rather than in French. Written after the country gained independence, the story follows the trajectory of two generations of al-Tihamis — a well-to-do family residing in Fez’s ancient medina — whose members characterize distinctive aspects of Moroccan society, and whose lives reflect the profound social changes taking place during the period.
Rosie Milne talks to Yeow Kai Chai, Director of Singapore Writers Festival.