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The History of the Arabic Book: A New Chapter
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 Qatar National Library and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Presenters will be Mathew Barber, Lorenz Nigst, Sarah Bowen Savant, and Peter Verkinderen.
The webinar will be hosted by Sabine Schmidtke (IAS)

Feb 3, 2021 12:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Speakers

Sarah Bowen Savant
Professor @The Aga Khan University
Professor Sarah Bowen Savant, is a cultural historian specialising in the Middle East and Iran ca. 600-1100. She received her MA from the University of Chicago and her PhD from Harvard University. Prior to joining AKU-ISMC in 2007, she was a Sultan Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of The New Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran: Tradition, Memory, and Conversion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), which won the Saidi-Sirjani Book Award, given by the International Society for Iranian Studies on behalf of the Persian Heritage Foundation. Her other publications include The Excellence of the Arabs: A Translation of Ibn Qutaybah’s Faḍl al-ʿArab wa l-tanbīh ʿalā ʿulūmihā (with Peter Webb; The Library of Arabic Literature; Abu Dhabi: New York University Press, 2016), as well as articles and edited volumes dealing with ethnic identity, cultural memory, genealogy, and history writing.