We are pleased to announce the publication of a new edited volume from De Gruyter entitled The Digital Humanities and Islamic & Middle East Studies. Many 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
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)
I will discuss approaches to the digitization of Islamic books to explore its impact on Islamic and Middle East Studies, drawing on my research about the manuscript-print transition in Muslim societies within the context of technology transfer across Eurasia.
The digitization of books is widely accepted, because the digital processing of written language is merely the latest technology used for the display and storage of texts. E-books are on the verge of making the printed book an obsolete object, since for readers access to texts is all that matters. But the naturalization of the e-book is accompanied by the risk of diverting resources from the preservation of the material artifacts. Not every digital text has metadata which link the digital copy to its physical original whose whereabouts and provenance are known. Moreover, the long-time costs of digitization are rarely considered, even though the future functionality of digital surrogates, despite their immaterial appearance on our screens, depends on the continued investment into hardware and software, as well as into human labor.
The ubiquitous use of digitization by a wide range of institutions reflects that scholars, libraries, and grantmaking agencies, such as CLIR and the Imam Zayd Cultural Foundation, employ digitization for reasons quite different from those of commercial publishers. In North America the digitization of Islamic books is used to facilitate access to rare texts (e.g., Caro Minasian Collection, Hathi Trust Digital Library), to preserve endangered cultural heritage (e.g., Afghanistan Digital Library, Yemini Manuscript Digitization Initiative), or to allow for the crowdsourcing of uncataloged manuscripts (e.g., Collaboration in Cataloging). I will argue that in Islamic and Middle East Studies digitization receives little critical attention, because the access to a rare text is valued more highly than the historical interpretation of a specific book as material evidence for the transmission of knowledge.
Author: Dagmar Riedel (Columbia University)