Signs of the Azure: Kakheti in Picture and Story

A presentation I did, posted on my travel blog.

Rex and Kirsten's Adventure Blog

This informal paper was presented on May 7, 2016, at a teacher training course in Tsqaltubo, Georgia. Although the setting was not ideal and I had difficulty with the delivery, I really enjoyed writing Signs of the Azure, as the topic fascinates me, and it has been only lately that I have managed to dig into some of the ancient mythologies of eastern Georgia. As I wrote this paper for verbal presentation, I have not included footnotes, but I can provide my sources on request. All photos are mine and were taken in the Alazani Valley region during the past two years.

101 The Alazani Valley from Vejini’s Monastery of the Ascension

Today I want to explore what it means to be a human being in a geographical and historical context. Through these photos, I will raise the question of the meaning of place. My emphasis is on particularity. I will not…

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The Assyrian Fathers of Kakheti

From my travel website, some interesting (to me) church history.

Rex and Kirsten's Adventure Blog

In the sixth century, the Georgian people were relatively young in the Christian faith, whose presence might have seemed tenuous. Widespread conversion of the eastern heartland, Iberia, began a mere two centuries before when St Nino, a wandering nun from Cappadocia, brought the Gospel to the Chosroid monarchy. Paganism lingered still in the mountains, and the Chosroids were vassals of an ardently Zoroastrian empire, Sassanid Persia. Many of Iberia’s most powerful nobles were Persian aristocrats who espoused–and sometimes violently spread–the religion of their homeland.

St Shushanik

Georgian politics, meanwhile, played in the overlapping shadows of Persia and her rival Rome, and despite Persian regional dominance, the Chosroid royal family looked west to the political center of their new faith. Tensions between Georgians and their Persian overlords were catalyzed into war during the reign of King Vakhtang I, when an Ibero-Persian noble killed his Christian wife, Shushanik, an Armenian princess renowned…

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A Brief History of Vejini (ვეჯინი)

From my travel blog. This is the village where we live.

Rex and Kirsten's Adventure Blog

IMG_8941a (1024x768)Or, information you’d never get from the average local. I drew virtually all this information from the Georgian Chronicles (Kartlis Tskhovreba), the official historical corpus of Georgia composed in the medieval period. It can be found online here.

To properly present the history of this ordinary village in Kakheti, immediately south of Gurjaani, some background in the broader history of the region is necessary.

In the remote past, the part of the Caucasus now occupied by Georgia was divided into two major kingdoms: Colchis (Lazica) in the west and Iberia (Kartli) in the east. These kingdoms were passed back and forth between the two great empires of Rome and Persia for century after century. Eventually the Iberian monarchy was abolished by the Persians, and in the seventh century the Arabs showed up and established the Emirate of Tbilisi, leaving only the divided principalities of the northwest free.

However, with…

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Outside Civilization: An Essay

New essay, and not the last before semester’s end.


Long exile from Christendom and civilization inevitably restores a man to that condition in which God placed him, i.e. what is called savagery. Your true whale-hunter is as much a savage as an Iroquois. I myself am a savage, owning no allegiance but to the King of the Cannibals; and ready at any moment to rebel against him.

— Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Outside Civilization: James C. Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed as History

In the preface to his 2009 book The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia, James C. Scott writes, “To my mild astonishment, I find that I have become a kind of historian—not a particularly good one, perhaps, but a historian nonetheless.”[1] Scott, a professor of political science, anthropology, and agrarian studies at Yale University, has published groundbreaking books on the Southeast Asian peasantry, often branching into larger sociopolitical themes such as subaltern resistance, for which he is well known. His works offer philosophic challenges to traditional ways of thinking, from 1976’s The Moral Economy of the Peasant to 1985’s Weapons of the Weak and his theoretical 1998 monograph Seeing Like a State. In Not Being Governed, his most recent major work and potentially his last,[2] Scott attempts to sketch the story of peoples beyond the reach of state hegemony, and in so doing presents a dissident, even unabashedly radical politicized discourse to a field typically dominated by the stories of states.

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Three Essays: Mughals, Wendell Berry, and Nazis

I have decided to put up three essays I have written recently. The first was written for Islam in South Asia–I’m not sure how well I did, but my tack was different than my last attempt, which I was told lacked clarity. This time I stuck pretty close to the texts in a strict compare/contrast/assimilate. I’ll probably get a grade on it tomorrow. The other two are reflection papers, my third and fourth respectively, which I think more interesting than my second. I am not expecting a high grade on the third; the teacher for the Totalitarianism class has been progressively revealing what he wants for these papers, and I may have missed the boat in my focus; however, I have high hopes for my fourth, which I submit tonight.


Equipoise and Public Image in Emperors Aurangzeb and Akbar

“To the Mughals,” writes Muzaffar Alam, “sharī‘a came to be synonymous with the nāmūs-i Ilāhī (divine law), the most important task of which was to ensure a balance of conflicting interests, of harmony between groups and communities, of non-interference in their personal beliefs” (78). In this statement Alam explains the akhlāq posture on sharī‘a adopted by the Mughal emperors, which insists on the continuity, even unity, of sharī‘a with secular justice. The Mughal emperors perpetuated an image of themselves that ran parallel to this view of law, one which idealized justice and equipoise. In this essay I will compare the description of Aurangzeb in Katherine Brown’s “Did Aurangzeb Ban Music?” to a letter by Akbar to offer a partial picture of how the Mughal emperors would try to present themselves in harmony with their philosophy of sharī‘a.

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Three Description Exercises

The assignment was to write 300-500 words on three of a list of possible times/locations/events, an emphasis being on description. These were the three I wrote. They aren’t, perhaps, some of my best description work, but I nevertheless derived great pleasure from writing each of them.

Exercise One: Doomed Ship, 1880

The dark, ruminative bell of the church tolled for midnight on pine-covered Fidalgo Island. The loggers and the townsfolk alike were abed when the schooner crept through Puget Sound, seeking haven for the night. It had been a rough day; most of the crew on watch were sore and tired, and the November cold increased their weariness. It went unnoticed at first when the mate, leaning against the forward mast, drifted briefly into sleep and dropped his burning pipe onto a deck recently coated in thick-smelling tar.

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Dromaius Letter

I was going to post the letter a few days ago, and then discovered the difficulties of uploading the files. Well, the Dromaius Letter transcript, translation, and scholarly analysis are attached now, I think…. On the first, I apologize for having the same image three times, but I was trying to be sure it scanned.

Scan of the original: Dromaius

Transcript, etc.: Dromaius-Letter