CALL FOR ABSTRACTIgnaz Goldziher and his Correspondents: Islamic and Jewish Studies around the Turn of the Twentieth Century (Conveners: Schmidtke, Sabine; Günther, Sebastian; Dévényi, Kinga; Becker, Hans-Jürgen).


All meetings via Zoom, from 12:00 to 1:30 pm.

October 21: Near Eastern Studies Lecture, Maghribi Theology in Manuscript: Reason, Belief, and the Common Folk, Caitlyn Olson (Harvard University) and Jan Thiele (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas [CCHS-CSIC], Madrid). The history of Islamic theology in the Maghrib is an understudied field, due in part to the fact that many relevant sources remain in manuscript. This presentation will begin by addressing the contours of the manuscript archive and then turn to some of the major themes that we have found in our initial study of the sources therein. We highlight in particular the significance that pre-modern Maghribi theologians assigned to reason in their conceptualization of religious belief. After examining the theoretical underpinnings of this discussion, we examine the ways that theologians debated its implications for the general, less educated Muslim populace and their status as believers. For the recording of this event click here.

October 28: Near Eastern Studies and Digital Scholarship Conversations @IAS Joint Lecture, Hidden gem of a bygone era: A polythematic work from Rasulid era, Kinga Dévényi (Corvinus University of Budapest, and The Oriental Collection of the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences). The Oriental Collection of the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences is home to a great variety of manuscripts, and early printed books. Its holdings range from one of the largest collection of Tibetan manuscripts and blockprints in Europe, through a complete series of books in Ottoman Turkish printed in the first half of the 18th century by the Müteferrika Press in Istanbul, to the Kaufmann collection, one of the most well-known libraries of Hebrew manuscripts, early printed books and genizah fragments. After a brief overview of the history of the Oriental Collection, the lecture demonstrates the use of digital humanities through the example of an undated manuscript of a polythematic work from the Rasulid era, the Unwan al-sharaf of Ibn al-Muqri’ (d. 837/1433). For the recording of this event click here.

November 11: Near Eastern Studies Lecture, The Egyptian Army in the Six-Day Arab-Israeli War, Khaled Fahmy (IAS School of Historical Studies and University of Cambridge). This presentation offers a close look at the performance of the Egyptian army during its catastrophic defeat in the June 1967 War. It starts by wondering why President Gamal Abdel Nasser issued a series of orders in May of that year that greatly raised the probability of a military confrontation with his main adversary, Israel, at a time when his army was woefully unprepared for war. The talk then weaves a narrative of the actual performance of the army in Sinai with an account of tensions within military HQ in Cairo in order to explain exactly when and how the army collapsed after only 48 hours of combat. It then follows the fate of the defeated generals in the weeks and months following the defeat, as well as Nasser’s efforts to rebuild not only his shattered army but also his bereaved nation. The talk’s main argument is that a true understanding of one of the most devastating defeats in modern history has to be built as much on a detailed analysis of what happened on the battlefield as on a close scrutiny of civilian-military relations. For the recording of this event click here.

November 17, 12:00-1:30 pmIAS Ethiopian Studies Series*The Beta Israel and Ethiopian Christian Views of Jews and Judaism. Panelists: Steven Kaplan (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Sophia Dege-Müller (Ruhr-Universität Bochum), Marcia Kupfer (Washington, DC), and Aaron Butts (Catholic University of America / Institute for Advanced Study). Moderator: Samantha L. Kelly (Rutgers University / Institute for Advanced Study). For the recording of this event click here.
* Conveners for this series are: Suzanne Akbari (IAS), Aaron Butts (CUA/IAS), Samantha L. Kelly (Rutgers U/IAS), Sabine Schmidtke (IAS). For the recording of this event click here.

November 18: Near Eastern Studies Seminar, Early modern pilgrimage: literature and practice in the Arab East, Björn Bentlage (IAS School of Historical Studies and Orientalisches Institut, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg).

December 2: Near Eastern Studies Seminar, Understanding Sect and Sectarianism in the Early Modern Middle East: Ottomans, Safavids, and the Qizilbash, Ayşe Baltacıoğlu-Brammer (IAS School of Historical Studies and New York University).

December 9: Near Eastern Studies Seminar, Compendium of Pleasure: a 10th Century (?) Arabic Erotic Manual and its Sources, Pernilla Myrne (IAS School of Historical Studies and University of Gothenburg).

December 16: Near Eastern Studies Seminar, Beyond and Beside Text: What Objects Can Tell UsAmanda Phillips (IAS School of Historical Studies and University of Virginia).


All meetings via Zoom, from 12:00 to 1:30 pm.

January 27: Near Eastern Studies Seminar, Historical Consciousness and the Rise of the Ottoman Empire in the Fifteenth Century, Dimitri J. Kastritsis (IAS School of Historical Studies and University of St Andrews).

February 3: Near Eastern Studies and Digital Scholarship Conversations @IAS Joint Lecture, The History of the Arabic Book: A New Chapter, Mathew Barber (The Aga Khan University, KITAB), Lorenz Nigst (The Aga Khan University, KITAB), Sarah Bowen Savant (The Aga Khan University-ISMC), Peter Verkinderen (The Aga Khan University, KITAB). It is an exciting time to be thinking about Arabic book history, as many questions are now being re-framed and addressed in ways that speak to a wider field of scholarly investigation. These questions concern, for example, the arguably scant material evidence for books up until roughly the eleventh century C.E., the non-survival of books treating important topics, the great variability of witnesses to individual works, and the ways that recycling of parts of prior books operated across time and place. Such questions, which query the very nature of ‘the book’, are relevant for the first four Islamic centuries, but also for later periods. This jointly delivered lecture will present the KITAB project – a collaboration between historians and computer scientists that addresses these major questions. We have assembled a corpus of 1.7 billion words of Arabic texts, and are seeking specifically to understand transmission practices (ca. 700-1500), with a special focus on how authors recycled earlier works and how they cited their predecessors. Through this lecture, we hope to describe the frontiers of knowledge, the challenges and promises of our data, and what listeners themselves might now do with it. (KITAB is a European Research Council Consolidator Grant project funded under Horizon 2020 and also has received funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.) For the recording of this event click here.

February 10: Near Eastern Studies Lecture, The European Qur’an: The Qur’ān in European Religious and Cultural History, Mercedes García-Arenal (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas [CCHS-CSIC], Madrid), Jan Loop (Københavns Universitet), John Tolan (Université de Nantes) and Roberto Tottoli (Universita degli Studi di Napoli L'Orientale). For the recordings of this event click here.

“The European Qur’ān” (EuQu: is an ongoing project funded by a Synergy Grant of the European Research Council (ERC), dedicated to the important place of the Muslim holy book in European cultural and religious history. From the 12th century to the 19th, European Christians read the Qur’ān in Arabic, translated it into Latin, Greek and various vernacular languages, refuted it in polemical treatises, and mined it for information about Islam and Arab history. The “European Qur’ān”, in its various manifestations (Arabic editions, Latin and vernacular translations) should be conceived as scholarly efforts to understand Islam; as weapons in polemical exchanges between divergent versions of Christianity; as financial ventures on the part of printers and publishers; and as tools for the understanding of Semitic languages, Arab history and culture, and the history of monotheism.

The team that leads the project —Mercedes García-Arenal, John Tolan, Roberto Tottoli, Jan Loop— with their respective units in Madrid, Nantes, Naples and Copenhagen, will be dealing with various aspects of the transmission, translation, uses  and study of the Qur’ān in Europe, on the role the Qur’ān played in debates about European cultural and religious identities, and more broadly about the place of the Qur’ān in European culture.

February 19IAS Ethiopian Studies Series, The Turn to the Medieval in Ethiopian Studies – The Turn to Ethiopia in Medieval Studies I.  For the recordings of this event click here.

Panelists: Andrea Achi (Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum), Marie-Laure Derat (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), Kristen Windmuller-Luna (Cleveland Museum of Art), Felege-Selam Yirga (The University of Tennessee Knoxville)

February 24: Near Eastern Studies Lecture, Early Modern European Humanism and the Syriac New Testament, George A. Kiraz (IAS School of Historical Studies and Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute). The Syriac Bible (specifically the New Testament) was first printed in Europe in the Early Modern period. The protagonists were European humanists who saw in Syriac holy symbolism. Its closeness to Hebrew gave them the illusion that they could use it to convert Jews to Christianity. Its closeness to Arabicat a time when the Ottomans are knocking on the doors of Europemisguided them into thinking that Moslem souls could be gained through it. The talk gives the history of how Syriac reached Europe and how humanists began to study it and published numerous editions of the Bible. For the recording of this event click here.

March 10: Near Eastern Studies Seminar, Preserving a Medieval Syriac 'Treasure' of 'Vocalized Words and Readings' from the Bible and Related Literature, Jonathan Loopstra (IAS School of Historical Studies).

March 17: Near Eastern Studies and Digital Scholarship Conversations @IAS Joint Lecture, An Egyptian Sheikh’s Literary World, Adam Mestyan (Duke University) and Kathryn Schwarz (University of Massachusetts Amherst). “An Egyptian Sheikh’s Literary World” digitally reconstructs the large book collection of Sheikh Mustafa Salamah al-Najjari (d. 1286/1870), an important intellectual in late Ottoman Egypt. We use the 480 print and manuscript titles and valuations listed in his inheritance inventory as the foundation for our data set. From there, we attempt to identify and track down these works, which we then consult to enhance our data set via information that we gather by hand. Our goal is to visualize bibliographic, economic, geographic, and network data, in order to analyze what we know — and have yet to discover — about this world of texts.  This ongoing project is the first empirical history of the coexistence of manuscript and print culture in Cairo, and we are just beginning to build our first visualizations. Our presentation will explore the stages of our work, the tensions between scholarly detail and digital remediation that have arisen at each of these stages, and what the current digital turn is allowing us to start to ’see’ about Cairene textual culture during this earlier watershed era. 

March 19: IAS Ethiopian Studies Series, The Turn to the Medieval in Ethiopian Studies – The Turn to Ethiopia in Medieval Studies II. The video recordings for this event can be seen here.

Alessandro Bausi (Universität Hamburg)
Verena B. Krebs (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)
Eyob Derillo (The British Library)
Samantha L. Kelly (Rutgers and IAS)

Panelists: Alessandro Bausi (Universität Hamburg), Verena B. Krebs (Ruhr-Universität Bochum), 
Eyob Derillo (The British Library), and Samantha L. Kelly (Rutgers and IAS)

March 25, 12-1:30 pmThe Author's Voice Inaugural Talk: The Road to the Quran Keyword DatabaseElie Wardini, Professor of Arabic, Department of Asia, Middle Eastern and Turkish Studies, Stockholm University. My work on the lexicon of the Quran stems from my interest in contact between Aramaic and Arabic. A question to ask is: ‘What has the Quran contributed to the lexicon of Arabic? And what are its sources?’ Using the digital Uthmani text of the Quran, I set up a relational database, using FileMaker Pro, in order to conduct a comprehensive analysis of keywords in context of the lexicon of the Quran contrasted to the lexicon of Ibn Hisham’s Sira. The data from the Quran nevertheless offered much more information than anticipated, and in more fields than were intended. In the talk, I will present some aspects of my approach and methods. For the recording of this event click here.

Hosted by Sabine Schmidtke, School of Historical Studies, IAS and George A. Kiraz, School of Historical Studies, IAS and Editor-in-Chief, Gorgias Press.

March 31: Near Eastern Studies Lecture, Castle to Castle: The Saadian Library in the El Escorial Collection, François Déroche (Collège de France, PSL, Paris) and Nuria de Castilla (École Pratique des Hautes Études, PSL, Paris). The title of Ferdinand Céline’s novel resumes the fate of the Saadian sultans’ library and the premonitory curiosity its founder, Aḥmad al-Manṣūr, is said to have had for the palace Philip II of Spain was building in the El Escorial.  Over the last few years, the ERC-funded SICLe project has been retrieving information from the roughly two thousand manuscripts of the collection. This thorough survey shows that the history of the Saadian library is more complicated than is commonly thought and that its contents, both material and immaterial, can shed a new light on the cultural and intellectual life in sixteenth-century Morocco. For the recording of this event click here.

April 14: Near Eastern Studies and Digital Scholarship Conversations @IAS Joint Lecture, Bibliotheca Arabica - A Digital Home for the Arabic Manuscript Tradition, Verena Klemm (Institute of Arabic Studies, University of Leipzig, Germany), and Stefanie Brinkmann, Boris Liebrenz, Thomas Efer (Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig). Arabic literatures are usually studied as purely creative products, a body of texts disembodied from their material life. Bibliotheca Arabica, in contrast, focusses on the context, the production, transmission, and reception of the manuscripts that for centuries carried the works we study today. Knowing what was copied, read, endowed, or owned when, where, and by whom, offers new perspectives on this immensely rich tradition. However, such a research agenda requires the collection, cross-reference, normalization, and visualization of widely diverse data created over more than one and a half millennia.

This presentation will offer an overview of the scope, progress, and challenges of Bibliotheca Arabica, illuminated through exemplary case studies of libraries and marginal commentaries. It will showcase the database tools that are being developed as the backbone of our analytical endeavor. 

April 23, 12-2 pm: Simtho: The Syriac Thesaurus. Launch of a Syriac textual corpus portal hosted by Sabine Schmidtke and George A. Kiraz from the Institute for Advanced Study.

Simtho [] is a Syriac corpus search engine with a textual database spanning almost two millennia.  A Beta version was revealed at the 2018 AAR/SBL meeting in San Diego with over 6 million words.  The upcoming Beta II zlaunch will uncover a textual database of over 13 million words with a new responsive and more attractive user interface.

Team member will discuss various digital humanities and computational linguistics techniques including corpus building, the power or regular expressions, building OCR and HTR models, metadata, and part-of-speech tagging.  While these techniques are applied to Syriac, they can be easily transferable to other (especially Semitic) languages.

For the recording of this event click here.

May 20, 12-1:30 pm: IAS Ethiopian Studies Series, Beyond Ethiopia: The Islamic Intellectual History of the Horn of Africa. This is the fourth and final event of a webinar series IAS Ethiopian Studies.

Much progress has been made over the past decade in the study of Muslim Ethiopia, and with the ongoing work of digitizing, cataloguing and analyzing the local Muslim manuscript tradition, scholars are in a better position than ever before to assess the intellectual strands prevalent among the Muslims of Ethiopia at any given time in history. Our objective for the webinar is threefold: First, we would like to get a clearer picture of what still needs to be done in terms of salvaging and providing access to the Muslim manuscript tradition of Ethiopia (or Ethiopian provenance) — what are the challenges and what would be the promises? Secondly, we hope to engage in a discussion that will assess the intellectual traditions prevalent among Ethiopian Muslims, e.g. legal traditions, doctrinal stances, and other prevalent expressions of Islamic identity, throughout history. Thirdly, we intend to engage in a discussion that will situate the intellectual history of Muslim Ethiopia beyond its core region and discuss how it intersected over the centuries with other prevalent strands and developments, such as the Horn of Africa (including Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia), Southern Arabia (Yemen), as well as East Africa or even the Indian Ocean network. Lastly, we are eager to think together about where the study of Muslim Ethiopia stands within the larger picture of Ethiopian Studies. Register in advance for this meeting here.

Maria Bulakh (Institute for Oriental and Classical Studies, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow)
Alessandro Gori (University of Copenhagen)
Hassen Muhammad Kawo (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Paul M. Love (Al Akhawayn University)
Anne Regourd (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris)

September 9-10: Near Eastern Studies Workshop, Colophons in Middle Eastern Manuscripts. Conveners: Sabine Schmidtke, School of Historical Studies, IAS and George A. Kiraz IAS School of Historical Studies and Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute.

November 12-13: Conference, Ignaz Goldziher and his Correspondents: Islamic and Jewish Studies around the Turn of the Twentieth Century (Conveners: Schmidtke, Sabine; Günther, Sebastian; Dévényi, Kinga; Becker, Hans-Jürgen).


Past Near Eastern and Islamic Studies Events