Governance for the Public Good in Muslim Contexts
: This programme aims to critically assess current thinking on governance
in relation to Muslim contexts. It seeks to explore the deeply rooted
religious and cultural sensitivities prevalent in matters of governance.
By generating outputs accessible to wider audiences, the project is
committed to encouraging healthy and informed debate among scholars and
the public alike.
KITAB: The KITAB project is a pioneering digital initiative that is providing new cultural insights from over 6,000 Arabic texts from the pre-modern Islamic world, from 750AD to 1500AD). Led by AKU-ISMC’s Dr Sarah Bowen Savant, the project recently received substantial funding from the European Research Council.
The grant will support the hiring of a technical lead, who will develop data visualisations and analytics spanning the entire corpus of work under the project, as well as seven research staff who will expand on the existing team’s work to explore how Islamic heritage was shaped and filtered during the period.
KITAB is an online toolbox created by an international team of experts in information technology, Arabic history and philology (the study of the development of languages). Its central innovation has been the use of algorithms to identify common and repeated passages in separate texts thereby shedding light on how ideas and memory were recorded and shared during this rich and influential period of Islamic history.
Analysing the algorithms helps the team detect how authors copied from previous works. Arabic authors frequently made use of past works, cutting them into pieces and reconstituting them to address their own outlooks and concerns. It means that we can discover relationships between these texts and also the profoundly intertextual circulatory systems in which they sit.
Dr Savant describes how the medieval Arabic textual tradition is one of the most prolific in human history. “Works were produced across a territory stretching from modern Spain to Central Asia, and their subject matter covered Islam but also much more, from rulers, their courts, and administration to literature, biographies, philosophy, medicine, mathematics, geography, travel, and many other topics,” she adds.
“KITAB is a group endeavour that depends entirely on teamwork,” Dr Savant said. “A group of incredibly dedicated volunteers have contributed vast amounts of skills and time to get us to this point and this grant allows us to hire people who will enable us to build a completely new picture of how memory functioned and ideas travelled across time and the regions of the Middle East,” Dr Savant said.