Skip to main content

IMC 2020: Sessions

Session 1014: Borders in Arabic Literature and Historiography

Wednesday 8 July 2020, 09.00-10.30

Organiser:Fozia Bora, School of Languages, Cultures & Societies - Arabic, Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies, University of Leeds
Moderator/Chair:Andrew Marsham, Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge
Paper 1014-aIslamisation Narratives in Early Arabic Local Histories
(Language: English)
Harry Munt, Department of History, University of York
Index terms: Islamic and Arabic Studies, Local History
Paper 1014-bSerious Men: Scholarly Conduct and the Limits of Jest in Abbasid Society
(Language: English)
Arafat Razzaque, Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies University of Cambridge
Index terms: Islamic and Arabic Studies, Language and Literature - Other
Paper 1014-cThe Porous Boundaries of Genre: Document-Narrative Symbiosis in Middle Period Arabic Historiography
(Language: English)
Fozia Bora, School of Languages, Cultures & Societies - Arabic, Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies, University of Leeds
Index terms: Historiography - Medieval, Islamic and Arabic Studies

Paper -a: Memories of how towns and regions became 'Islamic' played an important role in the development of Arabic historical writing over the 7th-10th centuries. In this paper, I will look at the different functions that narratives and memories of the early moments of Islamisation (sometimes, but not always, conquest narratives) could play in some works of local history. The moment(s) of Islamisation played a vital role in these 'histories', although historians of different towns shaped different memories of the process(es) involved. In this paper, I will examine some of these different local memories and discuss the roles they played in local accounts of conversion and Islamisation.

Paper -b: Accounts of medieval Islamic learning typically emphasize its personalist ethic, as manifest in the master-disciple relationship. Arguably, however, biographical and other sources occasionally also reveal anxieties about the boundary between the personal and the professional in the lives of scholars. Drawing from the work of the 11th-century historian and ḥadīth specialist al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, this paper examines ideas about scholarly sobriety and the problem of individuals known for jocular personalities. The Arabic literary trope of 'al-jidd wa l-hazl' (the serious and the playful) thus reflects both real social tensions and the possibility of negotiating them through the functions of genre.

Paper -c: In typically resourceful fashion, Mamluk chroniclers often procured a range of documents (letters, state decrees, legal or administrative specimens acquired from decommissioned archives, etc) which they incorporated into historiographical works. This practice was more prominent for the history of the Mamluk era, for which documents were in plentiful supply (note, for example, Ibn al-Furāt’s (d. 1405) adducing of exactly-dated documents for the reign of Baybars (r. 1260-1277)), but is also evinced for pre-Mamluk history, for example that of the Fatimids (969-1171). This talks explores the heuristic and hermeneutic implications of a fixed boundary between 'narrative' and 'document' as a product of early modern Orientalist taxonomic norms, and explore the prospects for regarding these categories as reductive of an epistemic culture in which historiographical inscription took in and synthesised 'information' from a variety of sources and rubrics.