Dr. Sarah Waheed explores history as both an evidence-claim based academic field and an opportunity for historical fantasy and speculative fiction, for creative writing. She then recounts her own magical experience and relationship to a 16th century queen, Chand Bibi Sultan, and how it has provoked her personal projects and deepened her understandings of the Islamic traditions of dreaming and jinns. Dr. Waheed also considers astrology, speculative fiction, and the imaginations of the most marginalized communities as forms of prediction and knowledge, as she argues for writing histories that are alive rather than dead. She then introduces her own creative project and its involvement of historical and contemporary maps and images, doppelgängers (specifically Qareen), feminist and gender non-conforming utopias, and the zenana as a women’s space of possibilities. For herself, she imagines being a Sila, taking on protective and caring roles, and/or a phoenix. Finally, she describes how she enjoys loving and being loved and the importance of appreciating small wonders and expressing gratitude.
(Interview conducted on April 20th, 2021)
History, imagination, speculative fiction, creative writing, Chand Bibi Sultan, Islamic traditions, dreaming, jinns, astrology, marginalized communities, traditions, maps, city spaces, doppelgängers, Qareen, utopia, zenana, Sila, shapeshifters, phoenix, love, wonder, gratitude
- 0:00 Intro
- 0:26 History, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction
- 4:45 Coming across Chand Bibi Sultan: homespaces, dreaming, possibility of stories from pre-modern and pre-colonial pasts still living within us, carrying generational stories in our psyche, jinn
- 12:48 Astrology and prediction
- 14:58 How communities can be predictive, learning from the imaginations, stories, and dreamscapes of the most marginalized/Third World communities
- 23:54 Dr. Waheed’s creative work: using maps and images and myths to create stories and fantasies, weaving the supernatural with the historical
- 28:15 Dr. Waheed’s worldbuilding: doppelgängers, Qareen, shadow-self, fantasy city, feminist and gender non-conforming utopias
- 36:20 The zenana as a space of possibilities
- 41:52 Imagining an “ultimate self”—Sila, rescuing others through magic powers, shapeshifting, the figure of the phoenix
- 48:30 Loving and being loved
- 56:33 Gratitude as an intentional experience and habitus
Dr. Sarah Waheed (she/her) is currently a professor of History, South Asian Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Studies at Davidson College. Dr. Waheed’s research centers global South Asian Muslim history and community formation, as well as the India Pakistan divide and the progressive political movements existing across it. She has an upcoming book, Hidden Histories of Pakistan: Censorship, Literature and Secular Nationalism in Late Colonial India, being published by Cambridge University Press. She is also working on a project researching Chand Bibi Sultana, a 16th century “warrior queen” in medieval south India, which she discusses in this interview.