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The international conference will investigate the neglected history of Arabic-Islamic textual practices and interpretative methods in the early modern world from a global and comparative perspective.

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Although philology has always been a global knowledge practice, no such account of its history has ever been written. Indeed, wherever texts exist, a method of making sense of them has existed as well. What forms did these methods take in Arabic-Islamic scholarship before the encounter with European philology? How do salient aspects of the philological method, such as care for textual difference and variation, attention to contingency and change, and the need to make texts accessible and available, appear in Arabic philology, and what has become of them after this encounter?

Over the course of three days, the conference will focus on three interrelated areas:

  • Text Critical Practices: transmission, verification, care for the text, detecting corruption, emendation
  • The Growth and Evolution of Texts: reading, commentaries, glosses, polemic, abridgments, anthologies and encyclopedias
  • The Arabic Cosmopolis: Arabic textual practices as world philology

‘Arabic-Islamic textual practices’ refers to a range of scholarly practices and interpretative methods engaging with texts, written and oral, including religious, historiographical, legal, literary, and scientific. How did Arabic-Islamic scholarship approach the vagaries of establishing texts, verifying and transmitting them and detecting corruption and forgery? How did scholars recognize and cope with human error, bias and lapse of memory? What traditional disciplines engaged in such methodological matters? 

The conference also aims to investigate the growth and evolution of Arabic texts. Dismissed by previous scholarship as ‘secondary’ and ‘repetitive’, we will consider commentaries and glosses as original texts in their own right. Accordingly, we will examine the ways in which they were produced and how they flourished in early modern Arabic textual communities as loci of philological practices and methods. 

Moreover, the conference aims to encourage a global perspective on Arabic textual practices. In viewing Arabic script as a global script adopted by diverse literary communities from West Africa to South Asia, the conference will explore the reach and impact of Arabic textual practices throughout the Arabic cosmopolis, including South Asian, African, and Malay and Indonesian textual communities. Arabic script allowed diverse and disparate cultural communities to exchange literary knowledge across long distances.

Contrary to a previously published schedule, Muzaffar Alam and John-Paul Ghobrial will unfortunately not be able to join us due to personal circumstances.  

Conference Schedule

Thursday, 13 July 2017 Chair: Islam Dayeh (Freie Universität Berlin)

9:15 – 9:30: Arrival and Coffee

9:30 – 10:00

Islam Dayeh (Freie Universität Berlin) - What was Philology in Arabic? Some Preliminary Notes

Kathy van Vliet (Brill), Islam Dayeh (Freie Universität Berlin) - Launch of Philological Encounters (Brill) 

10:00 – 11:00

Lara Harb (Princeton University)

Philology and Aesthetics in ʿIlm al-maʿānī

11:00 – 11:30: Coffee Break

11:30 – 12:30

Adam Talib (Durham University)

Emblematic or Exceptional? aṣ-Ṣafadī’s Ghayth and ad-Damāmīnī’s Nuzūl

12:30 – 1:30

Mykhaylo Yakubovych (The National University of Ostroh Academy)

Tafsīr Glosses in the Ottoman Tradition

1:30 – 3:00: Lunch Break

3:00 – 4:00

Asad Q. Ahmed (University of California, Berkeley)

Palimpsests of Themselves: Commentaries and Glosses in Post-Classical Islam

4:00 – 4:30: Coffee Break

4:30 – 5:30

Ahmed El Shamsy (University of Chicago)

Anti-Philology in the Arabo-Islamic Tradition in the Sixteenth to Nineteenth Centuries

5:30 – 6:30

Ridwan al-Sayyid (Higher Institute for Islamic Studies, Beirut)

Islamic Studies and the Return to Philology 
(The presentation will be given in Arabic) 

Friday, 14 July 2017 Chair: Beatrice Gründler (Freie Universität Berlin)

9:30 – 10:30

Bilal Orfali (American University of Beirut)

Black Humor and Qurʾānic References in Hamadhānī’s al-Maqāma al-Mawṣiliyya

10:30 – 11:00: Coffee Break

11:00 – 12:00

Maria Mavroudi (University of California, Berkeley)

Byzantine Translations from Arabic into Greek

12:00 – 1:00

José Martínez Delgado (Universidad de Granada)

The Hebrew Word-Lore and the Judeo-Arabic Lexicography in al-Andalus (10th-15th Centuries)

1:00 – 2:30: Lunch Break

Chair: Olly Akkerman (Freie Universität Berlin)

2:30 – 3:30

Christopher Bahl (SOAS, University of London)

The Circulation of al-Damāmīnī’s Grammar Commentaries Across the Western Indian Ocean 

3:30 – 4:30

Torsten Tschacher (Freie Universität Berlin)

The Limited Universal: Arabic through a Tamil Lens

4:30 – 5:00: Coffee Break

Chair: Islam Dayeh (Freie Universität Berlin)

5:00 – 6:00

Ahmad Khan (Universität Hamburg)

Islam in an Age of Print: Editors, Antiquarianism, and a Republic of Letters

6:00 – 7:00

Jonathan Brown (Georgetown University)

How British Translators in India Revolutionized (Accidentally) Islamic Legal History

Saturday, 15 July 2017 Chair: Colinda Lindermann (Freie Universität Berlin)

9:30 – 10:30

Konrad Hirschler (Freie Universität Berlin)

Philology and Multiple-Text Manuscripts in the Middle Period

10:30 – 11:30

Shamil Jeppie (University of Cape Town)

The Making of a Timbuktu Biographical Dictionary

11:30 – 12:00: Coffee Break

Chair: Rossella De Luca (Freie Universität Berlin)

12:00 – 1:00

Kathryn A. Schwartz (Harvard University)

The Role of the Commissioner in Canonizing the Printed Canon

1:00 – 3:00: Lunch