MESA 2019–Medieval and Early Modern Panels

The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) is holding its annual conference, one of the largest gatherings of scholars working on the history of the greater Middle East and North Africa region from Late Antiquity to the present, in the amazing city of New Orleans this November. Based on the conference program (available here or here),  it looks like a particularly good year to attend, with excellent panels covering a wide range of topics and chronologies.


I’m looking forward to attending and presenting this year. My paper is titled ““The Last of the Himyarites”: Pre-Islamic Genealogy and Royal Legitimacy in the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada.” I’ll be part of a panel titled “The Vocabularies of Islamic Sovereignty: Fashioning Authority in the Medieval Maghrib and Mashriq,” which brings together scholars working on the questions of sovereignty and political legitimation during the Middle Ages. Our panel takes a comparative look at the vocabularies of sovereignty used by medieval Muslim rulers between the Central Islamic Lands and the Islamic West. It aims to disrupt the regional division between the two zones by considering parallel and shared developments in the languages of political rule. As studies on the diverse political and social worlds of premodern Muslim kings proliferate, this panel aims to engage in a horizontal conversation that considers how universal discourses were localized and adapted as specific articulations of personal propaganda. If you’re around, you’re welcome to attend.

I’ve also compiled a (partial) list of some of the medieval and early modern panels that may be of interest to the readers of this blog. It’ll give you an idea of the various type of work and intellectual trends that are redefining the study of the premodern Middle East and North Africa. If you are reading this and want me to add your own panel to the list below, let me know!

Thursday November 14th

5.30 pm

[P5742] Sufism in Medieval and Ottoman Times

Chair: Madeline Zilfi, U Maryland (College Park)

Mustafa Kaya, (U Chicago)–Between Comradery and Conflict: Narratives of Encounters between Sufis in the Fifteenth Century

Caitlyn Olson, Harvard–Commanding Right Belief and Forbidding Wrong: Islamic Theology for the 10th/16th-Century Moroccan Masses

Christian Blake Pye, U Texas Austin–Tahqiq and Human Perfection: The Impact of the Philosophy of Ibn ‘Arabi on Early-Modern Sovereigns

Baris Basturk, U Arkansas–E?refo?lu Rumi: A Shaykh Between “High” and “Popular” Sufi Islam


Friday November 15th

10.15 am

[P5454] Studying the Sira in the Digital Age

Chair: Claire Savina, Aga Khan Centre, London

Kevin Jaques, Indiana U–Tubba’ and How the Ka’bah Got the Kiswah: The Differing Versions in the Ibn Ishaq Sirah Tradition

Sarah Bowen Savant, Aga Khan U-ISMC–The Written Legacy of Orality: Ibn Ishaq’s Text and Its Versions

Maxim Romanov, U Vienna–Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed: Computational Analysis of Writing Practices of Islamic Scholars


[C5537] The Semantics of Slavery and Strong Asymmetrical Dependencies

Elizabeth Urban, West Chester U

Karen Moukheiber, U Balamand

Chris PreJean, UCLA

Matthew Gordon, Miami U

Parisa Vaziri, Cornell U

Stephan Conermann, U Bonn, Germany

Hannah Barker, Arizona State U


[P5640] “Ancient” Knowledge and “New” Learning in the Early Modern Ottoman World

Carlos Grenier, Florida International U–Solomon, His Temple, and Ottoman Imperial Anxieties

Tunç Sen, Columbia U–Rivalry of “Occult” Powers and Sufi Disdain for Astrologers in the Ottoman World

Side Emre, Texas A&M U–“Mystical Cosmologies” in Early Modern Ottoman Sufi Literature: An Analysis of Letters, Numbers, and Diagrams

Emin Lelic, Salisbury U–Physiognomical Roots of Early Modern Ottoman “ProtoEthnology”


[P5478] Medieval Armenian Entanglements

Tamar M. Boyadjian, Michigan State U–The “Eastern” Queen: Intersecting Representations of Armenian Princesses in Medieval Mediterranean Literature

Alison Vacca, U Tennessee–The Women and the Foreigners of Abbasid Armenia, a Study of Sasna Crer

Sergio La Porta, CSU Fresno–Hell Hath No Fury: Sexual and Communal Relations in Twelfth-Century Arts‘akh

Michael Pifer, U Michigan–“Straight Like a Minaret”: Armenian Riddles in a Mediterranean Milieu


12.30 pm

[R5653] Middle Eastern Studies Within Jewish Studies and Vice Versa

Chair Mark Wagner, Louisiana State U

Alma Rachel Heckman, UC Santa Cruz

Annie Greene, U Penn

Nancy E. Berg, Washington U in St Louis

Alon Tam, U Penn

Ari Ariel, U Iowa


2.45 pm

[P5435] Approaching Enslavement in the Ottoman Empire and Crimean Khanate (16th and 17th Centuries)

Suraiya Faroqhi, Ibn Haldun U, Istanbul–African Slaves in Sixteenth-Century Ottoman


Firat Yasa, Düzce U–Born and Bred in Seventeenth-Century Crimea: Child Slavery, Social Reality and Cultural Identity

Guel Sen, U Bonn–Galley Slavery in the Mediterranean: The Organization of Unfree Labor for the Ottoman Imperial Shipyards

Maryna Kravets, U Toronto–Sexual Violence in the Slaving Zone of the Crimean Khanate: Fact or Folklore?


[P5438] Transitions in 7th-9th century Iraq and Syria: Muslims and non-Muslims

Chair: Alison Vacca, U Tennessee

Discussant: Luke Yarbrough, UCLA

Simcha Gross, UC Irvine–From Local Community to Transregional Authorities: The Spread of Babylonian Rabbinic Influence between the Sasanian and Early Islamic Periods

Pamela Klasova, Bowdoin Col–The Foundation of Wasit: History and Memory

Michael Payne, Brown U–Zandaqa, Race, and the Reactionary Politics of al-Jahiz

Jessica Mutter, Bowdoin Col–Syriac Christian Responses to Islam: Conversion and Apostasy in the Legal Literature


[P5748] Medieval Islam and Islamic Law

Sami Al Daghistani, Columbia U–Environmental and Economic Ethics: Revisiting the Islamic Tradition

Evan Metzger, UCLA–Not All Zakat Is Equal: Zakat and Legality in Mamluk Egypt

Yasser Sultan, Georgetown U–Space & Gender in Islamic Law: The Early Discourses

Mariam Sheibani, Harvard–Innovation, Borrowing, and the ‘Anxiety of Influence’ in Mamluk Legal Thought: The Case of Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam and al-Qarafi’s Canon Collections

Mohammed Al Dhfar, U Nottingham–Tafsir and the Conflict of the Empires in the 14th Century: Al-Subki on al-Zamakhshari’s Kashshaf


5.00 pm

[P5391] Modes and Methods of Manuscript Publication in the Early Modern Period: The Ottoman, Safavid, and European Realms

Chair/Discussant: John Curry, U Nevada Las Vegas

Aslihan Gurbuzel, McGill U–Manuscript as Family Archive: Notes on the Life of an ‘Ulama Family in Early Modern Ottoman Bursa

Evren Sunnetcioglu, Central European U– From Archival Documents to a Reference Book of Jurisprudence: A Culture of Compiling Legal Opinions in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire

Melis Taner, Özyeğin U–An “Elegant” Compilation

Paul Babinski, Princeton–Haqvirdi’s Manuscripts: A Persian Amanuensis in Early Modern Europe


[P5573] Slavery, Power, and the State in the Premodern Islamic World

Chair: Matthew Gordon, Miami U

Craig Perry, Emory U–Nubia, the Buja, and the Slave Trade at the Frontiers of Medieval Egypt

Hannah Barker, Arizona State U–Flight, Apostasy, Murder: Resistance by Elite Slaves in the Mamluk Era

Thomas A. Carlson, Oklahoma State U–Enslaving Dhimmis: Rulers, Fiqh, and Religious Diversity in Late Medieval Türkmen States

Baki Tezcan, UC Davis–Empowering the Emasculated: Arabic and Turkish Literary Sources on African Eunuchs


[P5585] Magical Materialities: Toward A History of (Occult) Technology in the Islamicate World from the 13th to the 21st Century

Chair: Side Emre, Texas A&M U

Taylor M. Moore, Rutgers U–Occult(ed) Ontologies

Noah Gardiner, U South Carolina–Are Islamic Books of Magic Magical Books? Materiality and Textuality in Medieval Arabic Occult Texts

Nicholas Harris, U Penn–Becoming a Time-Lord: Later Islamicate Alchemy as a Technology of Time

Matthew Melvin-Koushki, U South Carolina–Talismans as Technology: The Construction and Operation of Magical Machines in Early Modern Persian Grimoires and Chronicles

Alireza Doostdar, U Chicago–Sensing Jinn


Saturday November 16th

8.30 am

[P5552] The Vocabularies of Islamic Sovereignty: Fashioning Authority in the Medieval Maghrib and Mashriq

Discussant: Sara Nur Yildiz, Max-Planck Inst for History of Science

Jonathan Brack, Hebrew U–“The King’s Speech”: The Muslim, Persian, Buddhist and Mongolian Contexts of the Ilkhan Öljeitü’s Questions

Mohamad Ballan, Stony Brook U–“The Last of the Himyarites”: Pre-Islamic Genealogy and Royal Legitimacy in the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada (1238–1492)

Ali Karjoo-Ravary, Bucknell U–Muhammad’s Song, Firaydun’s Wine: Language and Kingship in 14th Century Anatolia

Enass Khansa, AUB–From Damascus to Córdoba: Kinship and the Construction of the Umayyad Caliphal Model


[P5767] Pre-Modern Minorities

Chair: Saghar Sadeghian, Willamette U

Sona Tajiryan, UCLA–Indian Diamonds for Mediterranean Coral: A Global Armenian Family Firm of Gem Merchants in Early Modern Safavid Iran

Armen Abkarian, U Michigan–“HumanFaced Beasts”: Racial Depictions of the Mongols in Armenian Manuscript Colophons

Luis Salés, Scripps Col–Systems-Intelligent Microbehaviors and ‘Abbasid-Era Syriac Christian Courtroom Manuals: An Unexpected Angle on Early Christian-Muslim Relations

Susan Abraham, U Virginia–Ink, Agency, and the Writing of Truth in a Seventeenth Century Morisco Text


11 am

[P5432] Geographical Cognizance of the Indian Ocean in West Eurasian Scientific and Political Practices, 700-1700

Chair/Discussant: Zayde Antrim, Trinity Col

Hyunhee Park, John Jay Col and Graduate Center CUNY –Mapping India in West Asia during the 7th through 14th Centuries

Kaveh Hemmat, Benedictine U–The Geography of Kingship in Persian Epics, 1000–1400

Malika Dekkiche, U Antwerp–“A World of Kings and Realms”: Mamluk Diplomacy and the Spatial Turn

Pinar Emiralioglu, Sam Houston State U–Indian Ocean in Early Modern Ottoman Geographical and Imperial Consciousness

[P5442] The Dialogic Persianate: Historical Models of Literary Production and Cultural Exchange (1700-1950)

Chair: Aria Fani, UC Berkeley
Discussant: Domenico Ingenito, UCLA

C. Ryan Perkins, Stanford–The Vernacular Strikes Back: Pashto and Tales from the Other Side

Nathan Tabor, Western Michigan U–The Necklace of the Pleiades: Uncharted Rekhtah and Persian Literary History in a 1780s Tazkirah

Aria Fani, UC Berkeley–Eqterah and the Proliferation of Adabiyat as a New Discourse of Literature in Iran and Afghanistan (1916-1949)

Mana Kia, Columbia U–The Imprint of History: Sociality and Commemoration between Empires

[P5566] Ibn Khaldun in the Ottoman Empire

Chair: Vefa Erginbas, Providence Col

Kenan Inan, Avrasya U–Tursun Bey’s Tarih-i Ebü’l-Feth (1488) and Ibn-i Haldun’s Mukaddime

Vefa Erginbas, Providence Col–Ibn Khaldunism in the Seventeenth Century: Khaldunian Concepts in Katip Celebi’s “Fadhlaka”

Uygar Aydemir, Üsküdar U–Mahmud Nedim Pasha’s “Ayine-i Devlet” as a Modern Khaldunian Political Credo

Madeleine Elfenbein, U Göttingen– Namik Kemal and Ibn Khaldunism in an Age of Nationalist Historiography

Yeliz Cavus, Ohio State U–Between Ibn Khaldunism and Ottoman Exceptionalism: Abdurrahman Seref Efendi’s “Tarih-i Devlet-I Osmaniyye” (“History of the Ottoman State”)

[P5652] Race in the Middle East and North Africa: “Blackness” in Literature, Media, and Legal Scholarship

Razan Idris, U Penn–Blackness and Marriage in al-Mudawwana: A History of Maliki Legal Interpretation

Sara Seweid-DeAngelis, U Minnesota–Blackness in Medieval Arabic Literature: Deviance and Animality in “Alf Layla W Layla”


3 pm

[R5419] An Encyclopaedic Collection of Early Modern Knowledge: The Library Inventory of Bayezid II

Chair: Gulru Necipoglu, Harvard

Cornell Hugh Fleischer, U Chicago

Cemal Kafadar, Harvard

Noah Gardiner, U South Carolina

Tunç Sen, Columbia U

Guy Burak, NYU

Murteza Bedir, Istanbul U

Nukhet Varlik, Boğaziçi U-Newark

Pinar Emiralioglu, Sam Houston State U

Sooyong Kim, Koç U

Nikolay Antov, U Arkansas

Aleksandar Shopov, Max Planck Inst for the History of Science

Himmet Taskomur, Harvard


[P5480] Intersections of Sufism and Law in the Maghreb and Mashreq

Chair: Nina Safran, Penn State U

Discussant: Jamal J. Elias, U Penn

Nathan Hofer, U Missouri–Bureaucratic Sufism in the Ayyubid and Mamluk Sultanates

Elias Saba, Grinnell Col–Sufis and Sufism in the Jamal al-Din al-Asnawi’s Biographical Dictionary

Carolyn Baugh, Gannon U–Ibn Khaldun’s Fatwa on Sufism: The Shifa’ al-sa’il fi tahdhib al-masa’il

Kameliya Atanasova, Washington & Lee U–Ibn ‘Abbad’s Fatwa on the Prophet’s Birthday: An Example of Sufi-Legal Discourse in Fourteenth-Century Maghreb

Matthew Ingalls, American U in Dubai–Reconstructing Sixteenth-Century Sufism through the Fatwas of Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (d. 974/1567)


[P5489] The Ottoman Capitulations “revisited:” new approaches and new perspectives on a much-discussed Ottoman institution

Chair: Joshua White, U Virginia

Tommaso Stefini, Yale–An Ottoman Institution or Part of a Mediterranean-Wide Tradition of Charters for Foreign Merchants? The Ottoman Capitulations in a Comparative Perspective (16th-Century)

Ana Sekulic, Princeton–The Making of an Ottoman Document: Tracing the History of the Franciscan Ahdname, 16th-19th Century

Ian Hathaway, European U Inst–Permits, Passes, and the Capitulations. A Comparative View of Travel Papers and Practices from the Venetian Republic and the Ottoman Empire


[P5561] The Dimensions of Sacred Sound: Historicizing the Various Lives of the Islamic Call to Prayer in the Medieval World

Chair: Laura Thompson, Harvard

Discussant: Lisa Nielson, Case Western Reserve U

Sihem Lamine, Harvard–Minarets in Times of Discord in Fatimid Tunisia

Ali Asgar Alibhai, U Texas Dallas (EODIAH)–Melodies of Power: Understanding Sacred Sound and the Demarcation of Space in Almohad Andalus and the Maghrib


[P5572] Revisiting Rome in the Medieval Middle East

Mohammed Allehbi, Vanderbilt U–Parallels in Criminal Justice: The Abbasids and Imperial Rome

Alexander Brey, Wellesley Col–A Tale of Two Tents: Roman-Byzantine Tents in Umayyad Visual Culture

Emily Selove, U Exeter–Donkeys across Time and Space: Some Shared Features of Roman and Medieval Arabic Literature

Jordan Pickett, U Georgia–Roman and Byzantine Hydraulic Infrastructure Survivals in the Umayyad Levant

Salam Rassi, U Oxford–The Figure of Heraclius in Medieval Arabic Alchemical Literature


[P5770] Ottoman Politics, Governance, and Authority

Chair: Carter V. Findley, Ohio State U

Doga Ozturk, Ohio State U–Ottoman Orders and Medals in Egypt: Symbols of Ottoman Consciousness, 1841-1909

Ashley Sanders Garcia, UCLA–Dependent Power: Ottoman Governors and Algerian Elites in Constantine, 1567-1837

Gunes Murat Tezcur, U Central Florida and Yusuf Magiya, Columbia U–Provincial Power & Representation: An In-depth Analysis of the Ottoman and Turkish Governors between 1876 and 2014

Peter Kitlas, Princeton–Ragusa in the Middle?: Exploring 18th Century Diplomatic Mediations between Morocco and the Ottoman Empire

Charles Wilkins, Wake Forest U–Mustafa b. Taha (d. 1681) and the Rise of the Urban Notables of Aleppo


5.30 pm

[P5504] Between Damascus and Delhi: travelers and pilgrims in the early modern Middle East and Indian Ocean

Discussant: A. Azfar Moin, U Texas Austin

Jyoti G. Balachandran, Penn State U–From Nahrawal to Mecca and Istanbul: The Networks of a Muslim Intellectual

Nir Shafir, UC San Diego–When is a Travelogue Not a Travelogue? Early Modern Arabic Travelogues in the Ottoman Empire

Rishad Choudhury, Oberlin Col–Pilgrim Passages: Tradition and Transition in the South Asian Hajj


[P5747] Medieval Islamic History and Thought

Chair: Christian Mauder, Yale

Brian J. Ulrich, Shippensburg U–The Qualities of a Sayyid: A Case of Bedouin Ideals and Cultural Construction in the Ninth Century

Rachel T. Howes, CSU Northridge–The Great Crisis: The Political, Environmental, Intellectual, and Social Dimensions of the Egyptian Famine and Civil War of 1058-1074CE

Elaine van Dalen, Columbia U–Should Physicians Theorize? Ibn Rushd’s Redefinition of the Medical Discipline

Kaveh Niazi, Stanford Online High School–Rhetoric and Power: Political Expediency in Tusi’s Risala-yi Muiniya

Tamer El-Leithy, Johns Hopkins U–The Various Traces of Moral Regulation: New Evidence on the Damascus Fire of 1340


Sunday November 17th

8.30 am

[P5642] Networks of Knowledge and Connectivity in the Early Modern Mediterranean and the Near East

Samet Budak, U Michigan–Reframing Intellectual History of the Eastern Mediterranean in the Late Middle Ages: Intellectual Networks and Epistemological Commonalities

Emire Cihan Yuksel, U Houston–Fifteenth Century Ottoman-Mamluk Networks: Trade and Knowledge

Ertugrul Okten, Istanbul 29 Mayis U–A 14th Century Scholar in Mecca: Imam al-Yafi‘i (d. 768/1367) and His Circle

Abdurrahman Atcil, Istanbul Sehir U–The Kanun Laws and Sharia Courts in Egypt during the Mamluk-Ottoman Transition (1517–1524)


11.00 am

[P5455] The Figuration of Elites during the Mamluk Period: Fresh Approaches

Chair/Discussant: Stephan Conermann, U Bonn

Florian Saalfeld, U Bonn–The Awlad alNas and Their Agency: Tracing a Neglected Elite

Christian Mauder, Yale–The Participation of Mamluks in Arabo-Islamic Scholarship: How Did it Develop, and Why Did it Take Place at All?

Mohammad Gharaibeh, U Bonn–When Intellectual and Political Collide. The Rise and Fall of the Muqaddima of Ibn al-Salah (d. 643/1245) in Damascus under the Mamluks

Anna Kollatz, U Bonn–A Son of the Mamluks Writes History: Locating Ibn Iyas al-Hanafi


[P5498] Contested Modes of Islamic Leadership

Chair: John Walbridge, Indiana U

SeyedAmir Asghari, Indiana U–Qāḍī Ṭabāṭabā’ī as a (Hidden) Sufi Master in the Shi’a Seminary

Neset Ulusal, Indiana U Bloomington–A Shaykh in the Ottoman Palace: Ismail Haqqi Bursawi’s Struggle against Moral Decline, Corruption, and Injustice

Andi Herawati, Indiana U Bloomington– Sufi Women in America: Innovation and Adaptation in Muslim’s Spirituality Today

Alexander Shepard, Indiana U Bloomington–Intra-Shi’ite Polemics in Kulayni’s “Usul Al-Kafi”


[P5635] Women as Patrons and Producers of the Islamic Sciences

Chair/Discussant: Behnam Sadeghi, Oxford U

Yasmin Amin, Exeter U–Umm Salamah: A Female Authority Legitimating the Authorities

Yusuf Unal, Emory U–Princesses, Patronage, and the Production of Knowledge in Safavid Iran

Edith Szanto, American U Iraq, Sulaimani–The ‘Alimat of Sayyida Zaynab: Female Shi’i Religious Authority in a Syrian Seminary

Mirjam Kuenkler, NIAS–Women Islamic Scholars and Jurists in Shi’i Lands


1 pm

[P5535] Ulamalogy and the Arabic Biographical Tradition

Chair/Discussant: Nancy Khalek, Brown U

Rich Heffron, U Chicago–Recovering the History of Early Islamic Hims: A Reconstruction and Analysis of Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Baghdadi’s (d. Late 3rd/9th C.) “Ta’rikh al-Himsiyyin” and `Abd al-Samad b. Sa`id al-Himsi’s (d. 324/936) Ta’rikh Hims

Nebil Husayn, U Miami–Al-Ka’bi, Josef van Ess and the Preservation of Early Mu’tazili Tabaqat

Arafat A. Razzaque, U Cambridge–Scandal and the Making of Biographical Narrative: Ibn Aktham between Theology and Personality

Jeremy Farrell, Emory U–When Did Sufis Ally with Shafiˋis? A Network Analysis of Multiple Prosopographical Traditions


[P5558] Syria in Transition from Mamluk to Ottoman in the Late 15th – Early 16th Centuries

Chair: Guel Sen, U Bonn

Discussant: Adam Sabra, UC Santa Barbara

Timothy J. Fitzgerald, James Madison U–Of Renegades and Renaissance Men: Ludovico di Varthema (d. 1517) in Late Mamluk Damascus

Wakako Kumakura, Research Inst for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa–Land Holding and Financial Activities of the Awlād al-Nās: Continuity and Change during the Transition Period

Aleksandar Shopov, Max Planck Inst for the History of Science–Agricultural Manuscripts and the Mobility of Agricultural Science and Practice between Cairo, Damascus, and Istanbul around 1500

Linda T. Darling, U Arizona–A Changing Geopolitical Role for a New Ottoman Province: The Mamluk-Ottoman Transition in Syria


[P5606] Undone Jinns and Dragons: The Limits of the Human and the Borders of the Other in Medieval Islamicate Literatures

Allison Kanner, U Chicago–Women of Paradise: Houris of the Qur’an and Early Islamicate Romance

Samantha Pellegrino, U Chicago–Gender, Magic, and Ontology in the Sirat Sayf bin Dhi Yazan

Alexandra Hoffmann, U Chicago–The Monster within: Sexuality in Iranshah b. Abi Khayr’s Kushnameh

Samuel W Lasman, U Chicago–Snakemen: The Anthropomorphic Dragons of Persian Epic


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