Konrad Hirschler (Freie Universität Berlin)
Tuesday, 02 April 2019, 06.00 PM-08.00 PM
Libraries and book collections were a conspicuous feature of towns and cities in Bilad al-Sham from the 12th century onwards. They spread well beyond the central institutions of learning to modest madrasas, khanqahs and dar al-hadiths right across the urban topography. In addition, considerable book collections were held in residential homes. These book collections did not just ‘reflect’ individual and communal interests of learning and cultural interests. Rather, they were meant to do something and also played an active role in shaping, reinterpreting and contesting communal identities. One function that has been hardly studied so far is the role of book collections in the formation and reshaping of spatial identities, be it on the regional level, the level of cities or of neighbourhoods. This lecture will discuss what role book collections in Mamluk Bilad al-Sham were meant to play in this regard: How did the spatial profile of the books’ authors, copyists, transmitters and previous owners shape decisions to include or exclude them? What role did the place of the books’ production and transmission play? What was the significance of the spatial placement of the collections? These questions will be addressed by discussing three examples of book collections from Jerusalem and Damascus for which we have documentary evidence in the form of catalogues, endowment lists and estate inventories.
Konrad Hirschler has been Professor of Islamic Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin since 2016 and was previously Professor of Middle Eastern History at SOAS (University of London). His research focuses on Egypt and Bilad al-Sham in the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods (c. 1200-1500) with a focus on social and cultural history. Over the last years, he has primarily worked on the history of reading, of the book and of libraries in Bilad al-Sham. Konrad Hirschler is the author of A Monument to Medieval Syrian Book Culture – The Library of Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī (forthcoming 2019), Medieval Damascus: Plurality and Diversity in an Arabic Library (2016; awarded the Best Book on the Medieval Middle East Prize), The Written Word in the Medieval Arabic Lands: A Social and Cultural History of Reading Practices (2012; awarded the BRISMES Book Prize, Italian translation 2017) and Medieval Arabic Historiography: Authors as Actors (2006; awarded the Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize). Among his co-edited volumes are Alliances and Treaties between Frankish and Muslim Rulers in the Middle East (2013) and Manuscript Notes as Documentary Sources (2011).
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