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

Harvard CMES: Digital Scholarship Workshop in Islamic Studies


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,, 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;

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

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)

Prosop: A Social Networking Tool for the Past

This presentation will concern an NEH funded project I’m heading to develop a tool called Prosop. Prosop’s first aim is to assemble a database of descriptions of a very large number of historical individuals, of inferior socio-economnic rank to those who feature in most prosopographic projects. The tool is meant to preserve such information in its native format, without any fixed category requirements. It will then find connections within a very large pool of demographic data, and allow aggregate analysis. Ultimately, Prosop aims to make the various historical description and categorization schemes themselves the subject of research.,

Prosop is intended to help three kinds of users: microhistorians who have completed research projects and want to preserve their data, the collection of which cost them their eyesight and at least one marriage; microhistorians doing new work, who want to collect material in a format more useable than a word processor document or spreadsheet; and family historians, who are currently doing tremendous “crowd-sourcing” style work with primary documents, work that is being captured by for-profit sites such as but passed over by professional historians.

This presentation treats a methodological issue: the techniques that we use to deal with the tremendous volume of data generated by Middle East microhistories. I will describe my sense of the challenges and potentialities of this aspect of our work, and discuss ways that I think Prosop can support collaborative historical work. I will explain, in fairly general terms, the features of the data structure of Prosop and its most innovative aspect, which is on-the-fly ontology. I will invite participants to describe the technical characteristics of their own work, their needs, and the solutions they imagine. I will focus this conversation around the ongoing design of Prosop, but my aim is to facilitate a conversation that treats the broadest issues raised by technology-assisted prosopography.

Author: Will Hanley (Florida State University)