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Abstract

The zurkhaneh of early modern Safavid Iran was an institution where men undertook physical training, in some ways reminiscent of a modern-day gymn. This paper attempts to theorize the zurkhaneh as a public space in which primarily non-elite men participated in the social economy of early modern Safavid Iran based upon their pursuit of the ideal of javanmardi, or young manliness. To accomplish this, this paper will combine the themes of publicity, the social utility of the body, and the authority of textuality with an examination of the physical culture of the zurkhaneh to theorize the utility, representation, and experience of non-elite male bodies in early modern Safavid Iran. Insights gleaned from this will be applied to theories about the subjectivity of male commoners in early modern Indo-Persianate society and juxtaposed against scholars like who take masculine modes of comportment primarily as a construction of the imperial court for managing the nobility. Thus it will be argued that it is possible to observe through the zurkhaneh one way that the construction of Persian masculinity occurred non-hierarchically.

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