Whither Islamicate Digital Humanities? (CFP)

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Academy Colloquium: Whither Islamicate Digital Humanities? Analytics, Tools, Corpora

International Conference
Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
Amsterdam (NLD), 13-15 December 2018


Funded by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences & the Netherlands eScience Center
Hosted by the “Bridging the Gap” project, Utrecht University (NLD), and the Digital Islamic Humanities Project, Brown University (RI, USA)


“Whither Islamicate Digital Humanities? Analytics, Tools, Corpora” is a three-day international conference dedicated to the budding field of Islamicate Digital Humanities (IDH). In recent years, the number of projects, initiatives and research programs in this field has greatly increased. Recognition of these efforts has already resulted in the formulation of guidelines for the evaluation of digital scholarship by the Middle East Studies Association, as well as a recent proposal for a set of principles to guide scholarly corpus building (IJMES 50, “Roundtable”). These developments signal a field gradually coming of age. Yet, most scholars would also agree that much work remains to be done before a plug-and-play, one-click survey of the vast Islamicate textual heritage becomes even remotely realistic. This conference seeks to take stock and showcase efforts currently underway in global IDH text-mining and identify ways of promoting collaboration and synergy.

PROPOSALS (< 500 WORDS) FOR 20-MINUTE PRESENTATIONS ARE SOLICITED BY 31 MAY, 2018, IN THE FOLLOWING AREAS:

Corpora

The building of scholarly corpora is a crucial factor in the further development of IDH. How to make sure that these corpora are not only useful for the researchers who created them, but also for others who wish to benefit from them in the future? How to address the issue of past and present selection biases in the building of corpora? How truly Islamicate are existing efforts in linguistic terms? How should we take into account issues of copyright and citability in the building of pre-modern and modern corpora? Which corpora have been built in the area of Islamicate DH? Which ones are currently under construction? Which ones should (or should not) be built in the future?

Tools

From stemming to text-reuse and topic modelling, a range of analytical tools have been developed in recent years (or are being developed) to enable digital analysis of various corpora. This section will feature hands-on presentations that introduce and critically discuss a number of these tools. Which tools deliver the best results? Which are useful for the broader scholarly community? How can we promote the interoperability and sustainability of these tools? How can we create tools that use the peculiarities of the Islamicate textual heritage?

Analytics

While many successful applications of IDH replicate existing and well-proven qualitative research methods, how does IDH open up possibilities for new questions and methods? Thissection invites papers especially in the emergent area of Cultural Analytics, that is, “the analysis of massive cultural datasets and flows using computational and visualization techniques”. How can we combine the possibilities of computational analysis of quantitative data (distant reading) with qualitative research methods (close reading)? What is good practice in Islamicate, digitally driven Cultural Analytics? What are convincing (and perhaps not so convincing) examples of the research done so far in IDH?

The conference organizers explicitly welcome papers about Islamicate languages other than Arabic, with the intention of discussing the contours of a globally conceived Islamicate DH.

Please send, by the deadline of May 31, your title and paper proposal (< 500 words) to martine.wagenaar@knaw.nl

A number of travel grants are available for speakers. Please indicate when submitting your proposal whether you think you may need financial assistance in order to attend the conference, and whether you’d be able to come with no or partial funding.

The Mamluk Prosopography Project

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La réception des ambassadeurs vénitiens à Damas (Anonymous artist, 1511, Musée du Louvre)

Ghent University (Belgium) is starting up a digital humanities project for the development of a data-infrastructure for the study of late medieval  Syro-Egyptian elites, their networks, and their social and cultural practices, including their textual production and consumption (13th-15th century).

This Mamluk Prosopography Project (MPP), which will build on the achievements of preceding prosopographical projects, will be developed as a new application with web-based multiple user-, input- and analysis functionalities. MPP’s development is scheduled to be achieved between 2016 and 2020, and will be funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (Medium-Size Research Infrastructure), and by the European Research Council.

We are currently starting up the required public tender procedures to inform potential candidates in the private sector of this opportunity. The contract for this development project will be awarded via a European negotiated e-tender procedure with publication of a contract notice. The selection guideline for application was published earlier this week, and may be accessed via https://enot.publicprocurement.be, ‘search for publication’, ‘dossier number’: 16OMB003.

Digitizing Early Arabic Printed Books: A Workshop

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The Digital Islamic Humanities Project, a signature initiative of Middle East Studies at Brown University, is pleased to announce its annual scholarly gathering, a workshop on the topic of print culture in the early modern and modern Middle East. The event is organized in partnership with Gale Publishers, which will present its new digital text archive entitled “Early Arabic Printed Books from the British Library”. The archive is based on A. G. Ellis’s catalog of the British Library’s collection of early printed materials from the Arabic-speaking world, and contains approximately 2.5 million pages from historic books on diverse genres, including literature, law, mathematics, medicine, geography, and other topics.

The workshop will include a featured lecture entitled “Towards a New Book History of the Modern Middle East” by Dr. Kathryn Schwartz, Postdoctoral Fellow for the Digital Library of the Eastern Mediterranean at Harvard University.

Date: Friday, October 21 2016
Time: 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Location: Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute
Website: islamichumanities.org

Further information about the event program will be posted by September 1. Please contact the event organizer, Professor Elias Muhanna, with any questions.

New Publication on Islamic Digital Humanities

DH-finalcoverWe are pleased to announce the publication of a new edited volume from De Gruyter entitled The Digital Humanities and Islamic & Middle East StudiesMany of the articles in this volume were given as papers at the 2013 conference of the same name, organized by Middle East Studies at Brown University.

Table of Contents
  • Elias Muhanna, Islamic and Middle East Studies and the Digital Turn
  • Travis Zadeh, Uncertainty and the Archive
  • Dagmar Riedel, Of Making Many Copies There is No End: The Digitization of Manuscripts and Printed Books in Arabic Script
  • Chip Rossetti, Al-Kindi on the Kindle: The Library of Arabic Literature and the Challenges of Publishing Bilingual Arabic-English Books
  • Nadia Yaqub, Working with Grassroots Digital Humanities Projects: The Case of the Tall al-Zaʿtar Facebook Groups
  • Maxim Romanov, Toward Abstract Models for Islamic History
  • Alex Brey, Quantifying the Quran
  • Till Grallert, Mapping Ottoman Damascus Through News Reports: A Practical Approach
  • José Haro Peralta and Peter Verkinderen, “Find for Me!”: Building a Context-Based Search Tool Using Python
  • Joel Blecher, Pedagogy and the Digital Humanities: Undergraduate Exploration into the Transmitters of Early Islamic Law
  • Dwight F. Reynolds, From Basmati Rice to the Bani Hilal: Digital Archives and Public Humanities

Distant Reading and the Islamic Archive

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The Digital Islamic Humanities Project at Brown University is pleased to announce its third annual conference, titled “Distant Reading and the Islamic Archive,” which will be held on Friday, October 16, 2015. Speaker biographies, paper abstracts, and the conference program may be found here.

Please note that the event is fully subscribed. A live webcast will be available at this link, beginning at 8:45am on the day of the event. A recording of the proceedings will also be available on the website of the Digital Islamic Humanities Project (islamicDH.org).

Job Opening: Visiting Research Assistant Professor in Syriac Studies and Digital Humanities (Vanderbilt)

Vanderbilt University and Syriaca.org invite applications for the open position of Visiting Research Assistant Professor in Syriac Studies and Digital Humanities. The term of appointment is one full year, beginning in fall 2015, with the possibility of renewal for one further year.

The Visiting Research Assistant Professor will work full time under the direction of Prof. David Michelson on the publications of Syriaca.org: The Syriac Reference Portal (http://syriaca.org/), a digital reference project sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The researcher will be affiliated with an academic unit at Vanderbilt University depending on expertise (Classics,Divinity, History, Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, Religion, etc.). The scholar will also be invited to take an active role in the life of Vanderbilt’s Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, including its Digital Humanities seminar.

The person hired for this position will be a specialist in Syriac studies with strong linguistic skills (ancient and modern) and considerable experience working with Syriac texts, both editions and manuscripts. There will be a strong preference for a candidate who has experience with digital humanities, especially TEI XML, but additional training in digital technology specific to the project will be provided as needed.

The researcher will be a contributing author to SPEAR (Syriac Persons, Events, and Relations), the New Handbook of Syriac Literature, Gateway to the Syriac Saints, and other Syriaca.org publications as needed. The researcher will collect and interpret data in Syriac and other languages, contribute to evolving data models, test user interfaces and XForms, collaborate with other project researchers, and perform additional project duties as needed.

Term of Appointment
The term of appointment is one full year, beginning in fall 2015, with the possibility of renewal for one further year. Applicants are expected to be in residence for the duration of the appointment.

How to Apply
Applications should be submitted online at: https://vanderbilt.taleo.net/careersection/jobdetail.ftl?job=1504387&lang=en

Please contact Prof. David A. Michelson (david.a.michelson@vanderbilt.edu) with any questions about the position or about the online application system.

A complete application will include the following materials:
1. A cover letter indicating applicant’s qualifications in Syriac studies and, if applicable, digital humanities;
2. A current curriculum vitae;
3. A scholarly publication, dissertation chapter, or digital project representing the applicant’s scholarly achievement or potential (these should be uploaded as attachments in the section marked “Resume and Cover Letter”);
4. Contact information for three referees.

The committee will begin review of applications immediately, with priority given to those applications received by May 22. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

Required Qualifications:  
The Candidate must have previous research experience in Syriac studies, particularly Syriac literature. Reading ability in classical Syriac and at least one other ancient or medieval language as well as relevant modern languages is required. Candidate must hold a Ph.D. or equivalent by January 1, 2016.

Preferred Qualifications:  
We welcome candidates with an interest in digital research methods, such as the use of TEI XML. Ideal candidates should have additional expertise in one or more fields contiguous to Syriac studies, such as Jewish studies, Islamic studies, Middle Eastern or Mediterranean history, Byzantine studies, history of Christianity, Classics, or medieval history.

Vanderbilt University is committed to principles of equal opportunity and affirmative action.

Harvard CMES: Digital Scholarship Workshop in Islamic Studies

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On Thursday, April 23, Prof Elias Muhanna will lead a Digital Resources Workshop for Islamic Studies, with Professor Roy Mottahedeh and András Riedlmayer. This workshop introduces various digital tools and methodologies that may be of interest to scholars of Islamic civilization. The topics discussed will include online text repositories, social network analysis, mapping tools, text encoding, image research, and other areas. No prior experience is necessary to attend.This workshop is open to Harvard CMES & NELC graduate students but space is limited. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to Liz Flanagan, elizabethflanagan@fas.harvard.edu, by Friday, April 17.

April 23
2:00-4:00 pm
CMES, Room 102
38 Kirkland Street

Elias Muhanna, Manning Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature, Brown University
qifanabki.com; islamichumanities.org

Roy P. Mottahedeh, Gurney Professor of History, Harvard University

András Riedlmayer, Bibliographer in Islamic Art and Architecture, AKPIA Documentation Center,
Fine Arts Library, Harvard University
Documentation Center of the Aga Khan Program
Harvard Library Guide to Islamic Art

Call for Papers: Distant Reading and the Islamic Archive

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Each year, the number of digitized books, inscriptions, images, documents, and other artifacts from the Islamic world continues to grow. As this archive expands, so too does the repertoire of digital tools for navigating and interpreting its diffuse and varied contents. Drawing upon such tools as topic modeling, context-based search, social network maps, and text reuse algorithms, the study of large-scale archives and textual corpora is undergoing significant and exciting developments.

With this in mind, the Middle East Studies program at Brown University is pleased to announce its 3rd annual Islamic Digital Humanities Conference, to be held onOctober 16-17, 2015. We cordially invite proposals for papers related to distant reading and other computational approaches to the study of the pre-modern and early modern Islamic world.

Faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, archivists, librarians, curators, and other scholars are welcome to apply. Candidates are requested to submit a title and abstract of 300 words and a CV to the conference organizers at digitalhumanities@brown.edu. The deadline for submissions is April 30, 2015, and successful applicants will be notified by the end of May.

Papers should be no longer than twenty minutes and read in English. A collection of abstracts from previous conferences and workshops may be found on our website (islamichumanities.org) along with recorded webcasts, a list of digital resources, and announcements for related events.

There may be limited funding available to cover travel expenses and hotel accommodation for junior scholars. All other participants are asked to cover their own expenses. The conference will begin at noon on Friday, October 16 and conclude by the early afternoon of Saturday, October 17.

Brown University is located in Providence, Rhode Island, one hour south of Boston and easily accessible by train and plane. For any questions, please contact Dr. Elias Muhanna at the email address above.

Here is a PDF version of this call for papers; please feel free to circulate it.

Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Digital Humanities at Boston College

The Institute for the Liberal Arts at Boston College invites applications for a one-year post-doctoral fellowship in Digital Humanities. We welcome applications from recent PhDs in any humanities fields who have expertise in digital approaches to scholarship, especially data mining, mapping and GIS, and/or visualization.   The DH Fellow will teach one class per semester, will be available to consult with faculty on the use of digital technologies in their research projects, and will organize workshops for faculty and graduate students on DH topics.

Candidates should have received a Ph. D. in an arts or humanities discipline by August, 2015.  They will be affiliated with the appropriate department at Boston College.  Salary is $65,000 with a $5,000 research budget.  Please submit a letter of application, CV, article-length writing sample, statement describing experience with digital technology, syllabus for a digital humanities course at either the undergraduate or graduate level, and three letters of recommendation by March 30, 2015.  Applications should be submitted online at apply.interfolio.com/28956

The search committee is being chaired by Professor Mary Crane.

Boston College is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, protected veteran status, or other legally protected status. To learn more about how BC supports diversity and inclusion throughout the university please visit the Office for Institutional Diversity at http://www.bc.edu/offices/diversity.

Digital Humanities Institute – Beirut (2-6 March 2015)

aubIf you’re based in the Middle East and have an interest in the digital humanities, there’s a promising new initiative being organized at the American University of Beirut:

Digital Humanities Institute – Beirut
American University of Beirut
2-6 March 2015
#DHatAUB

The humanities in the twenty-first century have taken a decidedly digital turn. In some cases this means traditional questions are addressed with new digital skills or new modes of scholarly communication, in others, entirely new research questions are emerging with technology.

The main goal of the Institute is to create an environment where different stakeholders in the academic communities of Lebanon and the region learn together about new computing technologies and their impact on the humanities. This institute comes at a time when a number of experiments in digital approaches to the humanities have already been launched at local and regional levels.

DHI-Beirut is designed as a meeting place, between departments, between units of the university, between universities and research centers. It features courses, presentations and lectures, conceived with a collegial spirit of collaboration in mind. The courses bear no credit and there are no exams, just learning and experimentation. They should provide graduate students an introduction to selected digital skills for research for their theses. They are designed with students, faculty, IT and staff in mind. They will be taught by MA and PhD students, librarians, instructors and professors.

Courses will run from 2-6 March 2015. On 7 March 2015, we will hold the Arab World’s first ThatCamp, an unconference designed to bring those interested in humanities and technology together to discuss common goals. All are welcome at this event, if you have attended the institute or not.

DHI-Beirut is sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Initiative (AHI), the Departments of Arabic, Computer Science and English as well as the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR), the Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies (CAMES) and the Orient Institut – Beirut.

British Library Write-Up On 2013 Islamic DH Conference

BLHere’s a write-up by the good folks at the British Library about our 2013 Conference on the Digital Humanities and Islamic + Middle East Studies. Check out the original post for lots of beautiful images accompanying the write-up. Thanks to Nur Sobers-Khan and Daniel Lowe. 

Two representatives from the British Library attended the recent conference, ‘The Digital Humanities + Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies’, hosted by the Middle Eastern Studies Department of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Organised by Dr Elias Muhanna and held on 24-25 October 2013, this conference sought to bring together for the first time researchers and librarians using digital technologies in innovative ways to create and disseminate knowledge in the fields of Islamic and Middle East Studies

Throughout the lively conference discussion, particular themes were pursued that are very relevant to our own work at the British Library. Professor Beshara Doumani, director of Middle East Studies at Brown University, opened the conference by posing a number of important ethical questions about digital scholarship. For example, what ‘acts of violence’ are done to texts in the process of digitisation, translation, transliteration and indexing? What effect does the political economy of funding for digital projects have on the production of knowledge?

These questions became a running theme throughout the conference and were picked up by Travis Zadeh (Haverford College) in his talk “Uncertainty and the Archive: Reflections on Medieval Arabic and Persian Book Culture in the Digital Age”. He demonstrated how important textual elements are lost in the modern proliferation of searchable digital forms of Arabic and Persian classical texts. Moreover, he showed how certain genres of literature, for example, manuscripts on the occult and magic, are often excluded from digitisation projects since they reflect a social history that is at odds with organisations that fund and produce these new digital archives.

Other highlights from the conference include the keynote speech of Dr Dwight Reynolds (Professor of Religious Studies, UCSB), who focused on the monumental Sirat Bani Hilal Digital Archive. This archive contains audio recordings of poets and musicians from Upper Egypt whose artistic legacy would otherwise be lost. This resource also constitutes a teaching tool, with English translations, written transcriptions from Arabic oral recitations of the thousand-year-old epic, and an explanation of the historical background of the text.

Dr Afsaneh Najmabadi (Harvard) presented her important project Women’s Worlds in Qajar Iran in a talk entitled “Making (Up) an Archive: What Could Writing History Look Like in a Digital Age?”. She introduced ways in which technology can be used to document and disseminate objects central to social and cultural history that would not normally be accessible to researchers using administrative and national archives. These objects include women’s household items, dowry registries and marriage contracts, family letters and personal photographs, as well as oral history interviews.

The difficulties and possibilities of using text mining techniques for the querying of biographical dictionaries were presented in a talk by Dr Maxim Romanov (Tufts) entitled “Abstract Models for Islamic History”. Dr Romanov accessed 29,000 biographical records to search for names, toponyms, and dates that allow the researcher to trace cultural or religious developments over an extended period or large geographical expanse. You can download a full copy of his fascinating paper here.

Dr Kirill Dmitriev (St Andrews University) presented the Language, Philology, Culture: Arab Cultural Semantics in Transition project to develop The Analytical Database of Arabic Poetry which will include comprehensive data on the vocabulary of early Arabic poetry (6th-8th centuries AD) in the form of an electronic dictionary.

Yemeni Manuscript Digitization Initiative’s partners, Princeton University Library and Free University, Berlin, to create the groundwork for the preservation of manuscripts in private libraries in the Yemen together with the Imam Zayd ibn Ali Cultural Foundation.

This conference was an excellent opportunity for us to share information about the British Library’s major digitisation projects related to the Middle East, for instance the Endangered Archives Programme and the British Library’s partnership with the Qatar Foundation to digitise material related to the Persian Gulf and Arabic scientific manuscripts. We also had the opportunity to showcase current digitisation projects in the Asian and African Studies section of the Library, in particular, the Hebrew Manuscripts ProjectMalay Manuscripts Digitisation Project and Persian Manuscripts Digitisation Project, as well as the smaller Southeast Asian Manuscripts digitisation project funded by the Ginsburg Legacy, all of which are expected to come to fruition in the next few years. These projects will make thousands of the British Library’s manuscripts freely available to the public on our Digitised Manuscripts website and greatly open up access to our collections.

Daniel Lowe, Gulf History and Arabic Language Specialist, British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership, @dan_a_lowe

Nur Sobers-Khan, IHF Curator for Persian Manuscripts

A Database and Handbook of Classical Islamic Pedagogy: A Digital Islamic Studies Project at the University of Göttingen

Given the challenges Arabic and Islamic studies are facing in the increasingly culturally diverse contexts of contemporary societies, meaningful new methodologies and tools of research need to be explored. The Göttingen Database and Handbook of Classical Islamic Pedagogy is devoted to addressing some of these issues in a three-year research project conducted at the University of Göttingen, Germany.

The main objectives of the project are, in a first step, to identify, collect, and systematically analyze large amounts of data on Islamic educational theory and practice, drawn from a large variety of classical Arabic texts. This will facilitate, in a second step, to elucidate key principles and theories of classical Islamic education, reintroduce them into contemporary intellectual discourse and, thus, respond to the very real need to better understand the larger purposes and values that underlie and animate Islamic education on social, ethical, psychological and religious levels.

In order to document, administer, and examine the data on Islamic education extracted from the classical Arabic sources, a specific database was designed. This presentation discusses the underlying themes and theoretical premises of this database and handbook project, along with its structure and research opportunities within the context of digital humanities.

Author: Sebastian Günther (Univ. of Göttingen)

Uncertainty and the Archive: Reflections on Medieval Arabic and Persian Book Culture in the Digital Age

The epistemological basis for the modern critical edition is fundamentally taxonomic: it assumes the notion of prior simplicity, whereby in a vertical fashion the proliferation of textual variants, which are naturally distributed across manuscripts, and are inherent in the very idiosyncratic nature of manuscript production, all descend from an original common source. Also generally assumed is a monogenetic origin from a single parent. Both assumptions prove to be highly problematic for understanding medieval Arabic and Persian book culture. The messy reality of multiple recensions that inhabit medieval manuscripts as testaments to the collaborative process of textual production may be, in part, preserved in the form of a critical apparatus within an edition. In the process of mechanical reproduction, this multivalent record of dissemination is displaced largely into the space of the margins. However, as with any act of translation, the technology of the printed page produces both a surplus and deficit of meaning. While codicological cacophony may be lost or marginalized, what is gained is the ability to telegraph this information to an even broader audience.

In this ever iterated process of surplus and deficit, we have today with many of the digitally searchable forms of Arabic and Persian medieval archival material, the complete removal of the critical apparatus, if one ever existed, and with it any semblance of this polyphonic reception history. Likewise, what is available either digitally, or in print, is usually based on the narrow selection of what has been edited. Significant parts of this reception history have been lost in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century constructions of medieval Arabic and Persian writings. Furthermore, the medium of transmission, from manuscript, to printed page, to searchable text, inevitably shapes not only what information is presented, but how it is accessed; this in turn guides both reading practices and modes of analysis. In this paper I draw on examples from medieval Arabic and Persian manuscripts, along with their print and their digital forms, to explore the process of loss and recovery structuring technologies of transmission.

Author: Travis Zadeh (Haverford College)

Working with Indigenous Digital Humanities Projects: The Case of the Mukhayyam al-Sumud al-Usturi Tal al-Za`tar Facebook Group

Scholarship on the Arab world, as in other regions, is always haunted by the absent voices of those who cannot be heard.  Our understanding of events, our perspective on times and places are always skewed by the uneven record that comes to us for interpretation. At first blush it may appear that the spread of internet access and the rise of social media, and in particular Facebook whereby anyone can distribute reams of information and images globally at low or no cost mitigates this problem. However, the rise of such technologies brings their own technical and ethical challenges.  I propose to address some of these challenges through a discussion of what I have described as an indigenous digital humanities project: a Facebook group called “Mukhayyam al-sumud al-usturi tal al-Za`tar.”  Created by survivors and descendants  of the 1976 siege and destruction of the Tal al-Za`tar refugee camp in Beirut, the site aims to serve as a node in the network of former residents of the camp who are now globally dispersed, as well as a depository for images, documents, and crowd-sourced reconstructions of memories and geographies.  The site (and others like it) and its contributors may serve as a rich source for scholars interested in creating more authoritative repositories or digital reconstructions of this and other neighborhoods and towns that were erased or irrevocably altered during the violence of the Lebanese civil war.  However, they, too, are marked by dominant voices and aesthetics that may skew our understanding of the past.

Author: Nadia Yaqub (Univ. of North Carolina – Chapel Hill)

Al-Kindi on the Kindle: The Library of Arabic Literature and the Challenges of Publishing Bilingual Arabic-English Books

In 2010, a grant from the New York University Abu Dhabi Institute launched the Library of Arabic Literature, a book series that aims to publish key works of pre-modern and classical Arabic literature in bilingual editions, with the Arabic edition and English translation on facing pages.  The General Editor of the series is Philip Kennedy, Associate Professor of Arabic at New York University, who is aided by an eight-member Editorial Board consisting of scholars of Arabic and Islamic studies. The five-year grant envisioned an initial library of thirty-five published books, with translations to be done by scholars of Arabic. It also specified an XML-first production system to ensure maximal flexibility in future digital uses of the Arabic texts and English translations. The series is published by New York University, which drew on its previous experiences in bilingual publishing through the now-defunct Clay Sanskrit Library series.

As Managing Editor of the Library, I will present in this paper an overview of the experiences of the Library of Arabic Literature series in the past two years, particularly with respect to the digitization and XML-tagging of Arabic texts. The first three books have just been published, and we are currently confronting the challenges of rendering Arabic text correctly on commercially available e-readers. Eventually, once we have a critical mass of published books, the Library of Arabic Literature hopes to make the full series accessible as a searchable electronic corpus. In this paper, I hope to highlight and share some of the insights the Editorial Board and I have gleaned through our work on this series.

Author: Chip Rossetti (Managing Editor, Library of Arabic Literature)

Abstract Models for Islamic History

Latest developments in the digital sphere offered new opportunities and challenges to the humanists. Equipped with new digital methods of text analysis, scholars in various fields of humanities are now trying to make sense of huge corpora of literary and historical texts. Perhaps the most prominent of such attempts is the work of Franco Moretti and his abstract models for literary history that trace long-term patterns in English fiction. Inspired by Moretti’s approach, I seek to develop abstract models for the analysis of pre-modern Arabic historical literature, relying mainly on various textmining techniques that are being developed at the intersection of statistics, linguistics and computer science. At the moment, I concentrate primarily on biographical collections, a genre that includes several hundred multi-volume titles (The largest collection—al-Dhahabī’s “History of Islam”—covers 700 years and contains about 30,000 biographies). Working with the corpus of 10 biographical collections (about 125 printed volumes; 45,000 biographical accounts), I am developing an analytical tool that can be later used to study other biographical collections—ideally, all of them together. In the long run I hope that the results of my work will pave the way to the development of analytical tools for other genres of pre-modern Arabic literature such as chronicles, ḥadīth collections, interpretations of the Qur’ān, compendia of legal decisions, etc.

Working with my biographical collections I look primarily into such kinds of biographical data as “descriptive names” (nisbas), dates, toponyms, and, since recently, rather loosely defined linguistic formulae and wording patterns. The analysis of different combinations of these data allows one to trace various social, religious and cultural patterns in time and space. I am particularly interested in how the Islamic world changed over the period of 640–1300 CE: how cultural centers were shifting; how different social, professional and religious groups were replacing and displacing each other; how different regions were connected with each other and how these connections changed over time. The results of my analysis will be presented in the form of graphs and geographical maps (Some current examples of my work can be found at www.alraqmiyyat.org).

Author: Maxim Romanov (Univ. of Michigan)

Putting Middle East and Islamic Studies on the Map

Digitally-enabled spatial analysis can generate hypotheses, substantiate arguments, and communicate findings at a glance. In this paper, I will demonstrate how spatial analysis reveals the topography of readership in seventeenth-century Istanbul. Using WorldMap has allowed me to collate data from many different sources, including court records, probate inventories, and waqfiyyas, into a single map in order to identify larger patterns. Given the exploratory nature of the conference, I will briefly share the “messy” interim steps I took as well as the more polished maps that resulted. During the remainder of my talk, I will reflect on the promises and limitations of open-source, user-contributed mapping. WorldMap allows anyone to create a layer which can be combined with other users’ layers. In other words, it holds the potential to facilitate the kind of collaborative work that is said to be a hallmark of the digital humanities. At the same time, my experience as a consultant to digital humanities projects (while working for Ithaka before graduate school), provides some cautionary tales about the sustainability of digital projects and challenges presented by “user-generated” content.

Author: Meredith Quinn (Harvard University)

Making (up) an Archive: What could Writing History Look Like in a Digital Age?

Recent developments in digital humanities pose anew the challenge of sources, concepts, and possibilities for doing history differently. Much of the current debates have been focused on the vices and virtues of the quantity of (in addition to the ease of access to) the archives that digitization has made available to historians; on whether methods of quantitative social research could now be meaningfully employed by historians (and scholars of the humanities more generally). Based on a digital archive project,Women’s Worlds in Qajar Iran, started in 2009, this paper will probe the possibilities for doing different kinds of cultural and social history of nineteenth-century Iran, enabled by accessibility of a multi-genre archive. What happens to/in history if we could persistently read textual documents, visual material, objects of everyday life, recorded memories, etc. in relation to and through each other’s meaning-making work?

Author: Afsaneh Najmabadi (Harvard University)

Berlin Islam as Acoustic Ecology: An Ethnography in Sound

How can sonic phenomena best be represented in academic discourse?  While the question has long preoccupied music studies, recent developments in technologies of sound recording and dissemination have given rise to new possibilities for the inscription of knowledge through digital sound recordings.  With the growing discipline of sound studies, the role of knowing-through-sound has moved from periphery to center, challenging the ocularcentric tropes of modernity in favor of a more multivalent notion of sensation and knowledge.  The study of Islam has mirrored this development as well, as scholars have turned their attention to the rich acoustics of Islamic practice, underscoring the aurality of the Qur’an, devotional practices (salah, zikr, etc.), Islamic architecture and even a more general sense of a Muslim (counter)public.

In this paper and audio presentation, I explore the sonic idiosyncrasies of Islam in Berlin, especially in the context of migration from Turkey in the past half century, through the process of audio recording.  Through sound recordings I have made in the past two years, I argue that Berlin’s various Muslim communities (specifically Caferi Shi’ites, Halveti-Cerrahi Sufis, Alevis, and Hanefi Sunnis) articulate significant differences between one another through sound.  This sense of heterophony—a simultaneous sounding of difference and oneness—is critical to the formation of an acoustics of Islam, especially in contexts of migration and transnationalism, as groups that previously inhabited distant geographical homelands are now placed in close proximity.  While the sounding of these differences can be detailed verbally—that is, inscribed with words—they are in fact natively acoustic arguments, represented more directly and emphatically through sound itself.

Author: Peter McMurray (Harvard University)