Medieval Muslim Imaginings of Place

AHA Session 11
Thursday, January 3, 2013: 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Cornet Room (Sheraton New Orleans)
Christiane Gruber, University of Michigan
Nancy A. Khalek, Brown University

Session Abstract

This panel presents new directions in studying the medieval Islamic world through the lens of space and place. Writers of the medieval Islamic world created a large corpus of materials which we may call geographic. While these texts have most often been employed by modern historians as guides to the topography of the medieval Islamic world, a growing number of historians have looked towards these texts in the hope of deciphering notions of place, space, and the means by which these writers and their contemporaries understood the world around them and their place in it. Reading these texts alongside contemporary histories, religious works, and literature as products of the same literary communities, we may take a deeper meaning from our geographic sources.

The papers in this panel will approach the medieval Islamic geographic imagination from a number of different approaches. Scholars on the panel bring diverse perspectives from their research on different regions and periods in the Islamicate world and share an interest in exploring how Muslim geographers, historians, and religious scholars imagined, constructed, and interacted with the world around them. Through the various case studies, the papers will examine the manner in which political, cultural, religious, and ethnic geographies were imposed upon regions and places. Competing geographies of sacred space, both between Muslims and non-Muslims and between different Muslim sects, alongside the associated political ramifications of such geographies will also be explored. In order to illuminate the constructive aspects of the geographic imagination, emphasis will be placed on both the creation of geographic sources, including maps, but also the challenges faced by the authors of our sources in imagining contested places including frontiers and religiously charged spaces.

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