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Author Talk: Sky Blue Stone—The Story of Turquoise

August 4, 2016
Fullerton Hall
Free with museum admission

Arash Khazeni, Pomona College, discusses his book Sky Blue Stone: The Turquoise Trade in World History, which recounts the origin, trade, and circulation of turquoise in Islamic Eurasia and global encounters between empire and nature.

From its remote point of origin in the city of Nishapur in eastern Iran, turquoise was traded through India, Central Asia, and the Near East, becoming an object of imperial exchange between the Safavid, Mughal, and Ottoman empires. Along this trail unfolds the story of turquoise--a phosphate of aluminum and copper formed in rocks below the surface of the earth--and its discovery and export as a global commodity.

In the material culture and imperial regalia of early modern Islamic tributary empires moving from the steppe to the sown, turquoise was a sacred stone and a potent symbol of power projected in vivid color displays. From the empires of Islamic Eurasia, the turquoise trade reached Europe, where the stone was collected as an exotic object from the East. The Eurasian trade lasted into the nineteenth century, when the oldest mines in Iran collapsed and lost Aztec mines in the Americas reopened, unearthing more accessible sources of the stone to rival the Persian blue.

Sky Blue Stone: The Turquoise Trade in World History will be available for sale during the event. A book signing follows the lecture.

About the Author:

Arash Khazeni earned a Ph.D. in history from Yale University and teaches Middle Eastern, South Asian, and world history at Pomona College.  His research is focused on the imperial and environmental histories of the early modern and colonial Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. His publications include Sky Blue Stone: The Turquoise Trade in World History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014), Tribes and Empire on the Margins of Nineteenth-Century Iran (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010), recipient of the Middle East Studies Association Houshang Pourshariati Book Award, and “Across the Black Sands and the Red: Travel Writing, Nature, and the Reclamation of the Eurasian Steppe, circa 1850,” International Journal of Middle East Studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).  He is currently working on a history of Indo-Persian encounters in Southeast Asia during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries under contract with the University of California Press.