Arabic Pasts: Histories and Historiographies Research workshop

October 22-24, 2020

Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations

This annual exploratory and informal workshop offers the opportunity to reflect on history writing in Arabic. This year the event will be held online to allow compliance with current UK social distancing guidelines.  We encourage contributions focused on methodologies, research agendas, and case studies that investigate history writing in the Middle East and North Africa in any period from the seventh century to the present. 


Papers will elucidate the following sorts of questions:

  • Through what practices of writing or otherwise encoding the past and of remembering and forgetting, have different groups in the Middle East and North Africa viewed their pasts? At different times and places, how have the significant contours, events and actors in their histories been seen? Was the significant past the same for court historians as for literary historians; for bureaucrats as for the military; for Sufis as for Muslim lawyers and Traditionists?

  • How did non-Muslims and Muslims, men and women, adherents of different sectarian or juristic traditions, or speakers of different languages, within societies that became Islamic imagine the shape and meaning of their specific societies own pasts, and their relation to the universal history of the Islamic community?

  • How have urban and rural people, workers and peasants, the religiously educated and the technocratic elite, developed different ways of writing, remembering, or commemorating particular events in, or the broad sweep of, local, national, or Islamichistory?

  • In what ways do educational institutions, museums, media organizations and proponents of heritage use history writing in Arabic to shape loyalties and senses of belonging in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe?

Contributions are invited from scholars at all career levels, addressing any period and any part of the Middle East and North Africa, broadly defined.


Download the programme here


The following colleagues will chair panels and serve as respondents to panels:

  • Julia Bray, University of Oxford
  • Fozia Bora, University of Leeds
  • Jaakko Hameen-Anttila, University of Edinburgh
  • Konrad Hirschler, Freie Universit  Berlin
  • Marie Legendre, University of Edinburgh
  • Andrew Marsham, University of Cambridge
  • Harry Munt, University of York

Arabic Pasts is co-organised by Hugh Kennedy (SOAS), James McDougall (Oxford), and Sarah Bowen Savant (AKU-ISMC).


There is a small budget to provide some travel assistance for scholars outside of London.


Booking is essential - please reserve your space 


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