James Pickett

  • Assistant Professor • History


Central Eurasian History 
Russian and Soviet History
Persianate Islam


Empires of the Steppe
Imperial Russia
Soviet Union
Rise of Islam

Education & Training

  • PhD, Princeton University, 2015

Representative Publications

“Written into Submission: Reassessing Sovereignty through a Forgotten Eurasian Dynasty,” The American Historical Review 123, no. 3 (June 2018).

"Categorically Misleading, Dialectically Misconceived: Language Textbooks and Pedagogic Participation in Central Asian Nation-Building Projects,” Central Asian Survey (December 2017). Adapted for a general audience in “On Language: The Many Flavors of Persian in Eurasia,” EurasiaNet, October 11, 2017.

“Mobilizing Magic: Occultism in Central Asia and the Continuity of High Persianate Culture under Russian Rule,” co-authored with Matthew Melvin-Koushki, Studia Islamica (November 2016).

“Enemies beyond the Red Sands: The Bukhara-Khiva Dynamic as Mediated by Textual Genre,” Journal of Persianate Studies (November 2016).

“Nadir Shah’s Peculiar Central Asian Legacy: Empire, Conversion Narratives, and the Rise of New Scholarly Dynasties.” International Journal of Middle East Studies (July 2016).

“Soviet Civilization Through a Persian Lens: Iranian Intellectuals, Cultural Diplomacy and Socialist Modernity 1941-1955.” Iranian Studies (September 2015).


Research Interests

James Pickett focuses on empire and Islam as entangled sources of authority, with particular attention to historical memory and state formation.

A manuscript in progress, "Polymaths of Islam: Power and Networks of Knowledge in Central Asia", examines transregional networks of exchange among religious scholars in the Central Asian city-state of Bukhara. Through mastery of arcane disciplines, these multi-talented intellectuals enshrined their city as a peerless center of Islam, and thereby elevated themselves into the halls of power.

A second book project, Seeing Like a Princely State: Protectorates in Central and South Asia at the Nexus of Early Modern Court and Modern Nation-State, will compare Bukhara's transformation into a Russian protectorate with the Indian princely state of Hyderabad's parallel trajectory into semi-colonial status. It is especially concerned with cultures of documentation in relation to the state.