skip to content

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Middle Eastern Studies
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow
Email address: 
01223 335129
Fellow of: 
Darwin College

Columbia University

Ph.D. in Middle Eastern, South Asian & African Studies, and the Institute for Comparative Literature & Society (2013)

M.A. in South Asian Studies (2008)

Princeton University

A.B. in Classics (2005)

Teaching responsibilities: 

Dr Dudney teaches undergraduate courses relating to the history and culture of the Middle East

Research interests: 

For much of the last millennium, Persian was a language of high culture, literary production, and administration across much of Asia. Though Persian was its common currency, this vast cultural zone was multilingual (and even within Iran a courtly standard Persian always coexisted with local dialects). My Leverhulme-funded project "Making Persianate People: Histories of Persian Literary Education Beyond Iran" will provide a long history of Persian-language literary education with the aim of better understanding the Persianate (that is, the Persian language-using) world. With a focus on pre-modern India, it uses largely untapped sources to offer new perspectives on the historical relationship of trans-regional cultural forms with local contexts.

As the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Early-Modern Indian Cultures of Knowledge at Oxford (2013-15), I used Persian lexicography as a source for intellectual and cultural history. This approach is still a key part of my new project. Dictionary-making was the site of a great deal of scholarly effort and contestation in early-modern South Asia. Dictionaries were encyclopaedic in scope and so can help us to answer fundamental questions about society and thought. My particular interest is making use of these little-studied texts to trace the development of concepts. The dictionary-writers were a remarkable group of intellectuals from different religious backgrounds who were often members of the elite corps of Mughal administration. They actively engaged with the question of how India fit into the Persianate world, but later scholarship has done them a disservice by typically reading these debates through anachronistic concerns about linguistic nationalism, which my work attempts to redress through reconsidering primary sources.

Both projects build upon my PhD thesis, which explores the thought and influence of Siraj al-Din ‘Ali Khan (d. 1756), known as Arzu. He was an Indian courtier who brought the study of literary language in Persian to its premodern apogee, and was also regarded as a pioneering educationalist and lexicographer. Literary criticism of the sort practised by Arzu and his circle was not a leisure-time activity but had for centuries been seen as crucial to political legitimacy. My work has demonstrated his importance in Persian stylistic debates as well as his foundational role in Urdu literature, which is widely acknowledged but has not been analysed holistically in light of his Persian literary theory.


Delhi: Pages from a Forgotten History New Delhi: Hay House Books (2015)

Articles, Book Chapters etc

Urdu as Persian: Some Eighteenth-Century Evidence on Vernacular Poetry as Language Planning Jack Hawley, Anshu Malhotra, and Tyler Williams (ed.) Texts and Traditions in Early Modern North India (2018)
Hermeneutics: Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain Purushottama Bilimoria (ed.) Routledge History of Indian Philosophy (2018)
Metaphorical Language as a Battleground for Tradition and Newness in Late Mughal Persian International Journal of Persian Literature Vol. 2, No. 1 pp. 138-160 (2017)
Going Native: Iranian Émigré Poets and Indic Languages Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, Volume 37, Issue 3 (2017)
Review of PhD thesis A Market for Speech: Poetry Recitation in Late Mughal India, 1690-1810 by Nathan Tabor Dissertation Reviews (2016)
Khān-e Ārzu’s Middle Way for Poetic Authority in Eighteenth-Century Indo-Persian Journal of Persianate Studies, Volume 9, Issue 1 pp. 60 – 82 (2016)
Review of Neguin Yavari’s Advice for the Sultan: Prophetic Voices and Secular Politics in Medieval Islam Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 25:4 pp. 197 (2015)
Review of PhD thesis Bâzgasht-i Adabî (Literary Return) and Persianate Literary Culture in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Iran, India, and Afghanistan by Kevin Schwartz Dissertation Reviews (2015)
Lines in the Sand: Some Thoughts on Pre-Colonial Language in South Asia in Response to Shreesh Chaudhary Indian Linguistics, vol. 74 (2013)
Braj Reinvented: Colonial Approaches to Hindi Dialects Imtiaz S. Hasnain and Chaudhary Shreesh (ed.) Problematizing Language Studies: Cultural, Theoretical and Applied Perspectives (2010)
The Wonders of Words, or the Role of Ḳhān-i Ārzū’s Navādir al-alfāz̤ in the Development of Urdu Shamsur Rahman Faruqi felicitation volume (2010)