Middle East related research projects sponsored by the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society
A Worldwide Literature: Jāmī (1414-1492) in the Dar al-Islam and Beyond (2013-14)
This one-year project aimed to develop a long-term research agenda capable of approaching transformative intellectual trends in the postclassical Muslim tradition by studying the reception of the works of polymath ‘Abd al-Rahmān Jāmī (1414-1492), one of the most widely read authors in the Eurasian continent between his lifetime and the early modern period. Ambitious in its theoretical aims and grounded in creative philological approaches, this project endeavored to provide answers to crucial questions largely neglected by Islamic historiography. UChicago faculty and visiting scholars refined a long-term agenda and prepared a digital collection and searchable corpus of Unicode texts comprising Jāmī’s works along with the Indian commentaries published by Naval Kishore in the 19th century.
What are Arab Jewish Texts? Texts and Questions of Context (2013-14)
This project, organized by UChicago Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Orit Bashkin in partnership with Walid Saleh from the University of Toronto, explored the ways in which Jewish political thought and literature were transformed in the medieval and modern periods as a result of their interactions with Muslim and Arab cultures. Organized around themes of the Arab Jewish imaginary, printed Arab Jewish cultures, and construction of the Arab Jewish self, the collaboration will engage historians and literary scholars, novelists, and poets from the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East for an intensive three-day conference in spring 2014 with the goal of publishing an anthology of translated and original works of literature by, and about, Jews who lived in Muslim societies, and to examine whether such a collection, and the categories the conveners propose, make sense in the state of the field of Middle Eastern studies today.
Iraq's Intelligentsia Under Siege: 1980-2012 (2013-14)
Three decades of war and external pressure in Iraq have led to the decimation of its university system and its intellectuals. What does it mean to be a scholar at war? Is humanistic inquiry during wartime possible? How has this downfall of Iraq’s domestic university-level intellectual class – professors and university researchers – affected the country’s social, military, and political spheres? These questions form the core of a yearlong analysis of Iraq’s intellectual landscape since the start of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980, carrying the narrative through the sanctions period and 2003 invasion to the present day. The destruction of Iraq’s academic class has been an underreported yet grave phenomenon that holds serious implications for the country’s – and the region’s – future. This project represents an effort to capture this history through first-hand accounts, by interviewing Iraqi university professors and researchers in Iraq and in diaspora, to establish an audio archive of these stories at the University of Chicago Special Collections Research Center, and to publish an analysis on the demise of Iraq’s intellectual class.