Middle East Medievalists (MEM) provides a roster of relevant events at MESA 2020!

From Stephennie Mulder (President),  Zayde Atrim (Vice President), and Alison Vacca (Secretary), on behalf of the MEM board:


Dear Middle East Medievalists MEMber,

Thank you for renewing and keeping your MEMbership current. It makes a huge difference to our ability to pay for quality copy-editing for al-ʿUsur al-Wusta; to award prizes for dissertations, books, and life-time achievement; to fund our website; and to gather together and sponsor panels at MESA.

This year we will gather for our annual Business Meeting on the final day of the unprecedented two weeks of MESA online. We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on Sunday, 18 October, from 12-2pm EDT on Zoom. We will send the logistical details for attending closer to the date. But for now we wanted to make sure you marked your calendars for this special occasion.

The Business Meeting agenda will include the following:

  • Release of al-ʿUsur al-Wusta 2020, the first online, open-access, peer-reviewed journal for the field. The journal is edited by Antoine Borrut and Matthew Gordon.
  • Biennial 2020 Dissertation Prize. This year’s prize committee was chaired by Adam Talib who will announce the winner.
  • The Life-time Achievement Award will be presented to Michael Cook.
  • Election of new Board members.

For a full listing of panels relating to the Medieval Middle East, including MEM-sponsored panels, see MEM’s annual “Medieval MESA” program (attached here). If we have missed a panel or paper, please email us so we can update the listing.

Thank you again for your MEMbership. Do not hesitate to spread the word. We welcome additional members and involvement in MEM. If you have ideas, please bring them to the Business Meeting or drop us a line.

All best wishes.


The attachment mentioned in MEM’s message includes the following events at MESA 2020:

MEM-SPONSORED PANEL: 5894 Beyond Sectarianism: Medieval Shiʿism Reconsidered (Monday, 5 October, 11:00am-1:00pm)

Organized and chaired by Sumaiya A. Hamdani, George Mason University; Discussant: Paul E. Walker, University of Chicago

  • Delia Cortese, Middlesex University – Twelver Shiʿi and Ismaili Scholarly Interactions in 11th-Century Fatimid Egypt
  • Sumaiya A. Hamdani, George Mason University – Personal Collections and Confessional Identities: The Private Libraries of Ismaili Scholars
  • Shainool Jiwa, The Institute of Ismaili Studies – Mediating Fatimid Legitimacy: Arabness and Arab Ismailis in 4th/10th-Century North Africa
  • Samer Traboulsi, UNC-Asheville – Anthologies as Educational Tools in the Tayyibi Ismaili Tradition
  • Paul E. Walker, University of Chicago – A Guide to the Ismaili Doctrine of Interpretation

MEM-SPONSORED PANEL: 5898 Empires of Hadith: Cities, Commerce, and Conquest (Monday, 5 October, 11:00am-1:00pm)

Organized by Mairaj Syed, University of California-Davis

  • Joel Blecher, George Washington University – Hadith and the “Moral Economy” of the Spice Trade
  • Syeda Beena Butool, Florida State University – What Does the Matn of Early Hadiths Tell Us about the Spoils of Conquest?
  • Helen Pfeifer, University of Cambridge – Putting the Sunna Back into Ottoman Sunnitization
  • Mairaj Syed, University of California-Davis; Danny Halawi, University of California- Berkeley; Nazmus Saquib, MIT – Cities of Hadith: A Big-Data Approach

5950 Historicizing Relic Practices in Islamic Pieties and Societies (Monday, 5 October, 11:00am-1:00pm)

Organized by Adam Bursi, Utrecht University; Discussant: Finbarr Barry Flood, New York University

  • Adam Bursi, Utrecht University – Places Where the Prophet Prayed: Spatial Relics in Early Islam
  • Abigail Balbale, New York University – Text as Relic: Arabic Inscriptions as Mediators between the Material and Divine
  • Iman Abdulfattah, University of Bonn – Relics as Symbols of Legitimacy and Sovereignty in Mamluk Egypt

Usman Hamid, Hamilton College – Relics Debated: The Footprint of the Prophet at the Court of the Great Mughal

5993 Discussions on the Interrelation between Philosophy and Revelation in Islamic Scholarship (Monday, 5 October, 11:00am-1:00pm)

Organized by SeyedAmir Asghari, Indiana University-Bloomington

  • SeyedAmir Asghari, Indiana University-Bloomington – Ontology and Cosmology of the Aql (Intellect) in Sadra’s Commentary on Usul al-Kafi
  • Ahmed Hassan, Indiana University – Al-Ghazali and Averroes’s Dialogue: The Arab Reception
  • Alexander Shepard, Indiana University – Theological Postulations of Usul al-Kafi
  • Amin Sophiamehr, Indian University – Al-Farabi: Religion as Imitation of Philosophy

6016 The Future of the Field: “Premodern Islam” at the Crossroads (roundtable) (Monday, 5 October, 1:30pm-3:30pm)

Organized and chaired by Antoine Borrut, University of Maryland

  • Matthew S. Gordon, Miami University
  • Michael Cook, Princeton University
  • A. Holly Shissler, University of Chicago
  • Adam A. Sabra, University of California-Santa Barbara
  • Stephennie Mulder, University of Texas-Austin

6046 Vistas of the 15th-Century: Meaning-Making and World-Making in Late Medieval Arabic Historiographical Texts (Monday, 5 October, 1:30pm-3:30pm)

Organized by Mustafa Banister, Ghent University; Chaired by Carl F. Petry, Northwestern University

  • Mustafa Banister, Ghent University – Unravelling Ibn ʿArabshah’s Sketch of the Eastern Anatolian “Frontier Zone” (1385-1439)
  • Rihab Ben Othmen, Ghent University – The Display of Power and Majesty in Northern Lands: Narratives of Sultanic Sovereignty in Ibn Taghribirdi’s Account of the Amid Campaign
  • Kenneth Goudie, Ghent University – The Limits of Royal Authority: The Anatolian Frontier in the Reign of Sultan Inal of Cairo
  • Zacharie Mochtari De Pierrepont, Ghent University – Yemen through the Eyes of a Cairene Scholar: Historiographical Perspectives from Ibn Hajar al-ʿAsqalani

6171 Conquest, Conversion, and Mongol Rule (Monday, 5 October, 1:30pm-3:30pm)

  • Armen Abkarian, University of Michigan – Frik in the Sheets: Armenian Poetry as an Alternative Source for Studying the Mongol Empire
  • Edith Chen, Princeton University – Land, Wealth, and Patronage in Mongol Iran under the Local Dynasties (1258-1295)
  • Matthew Kuiper, Missouri State University – Agents and Patterns of Islamization in the Middle East and Beyond, c. 1100-1700 CE
  • Khodadad Rezakhani, Princeton University – Sasanian Mercenaries and the Islamic Conquests of Iraq and Syria

5983 Metapoesis in Pre-Modern Arabic Poetry (Tuesday, 6 October, 11:00am-1:00pm)

Organized by David Larsen, New York University; Chaired by Rachel Schine, Colorado University-Boulder; Discussant: Huda J. Fakhreddine, University of Pennsylvania

  • Kevin Blankinship, Brigham Young University – A Little World Made Cunningly: Al- Maʿarri and the Verse of Cosmic Principle
  • David Larsen, New York University – Banausic Professions in Early Arabic Poetry
  • Suzanne Stetkevych, Georgetown University – Metaphor and Mythopoesis as Metapoetry in al-Maʿarri’s Saqt al-Zand
  • Jaroslav Stetkevych, University of Chicago – Ayniyyah of Abu Dhuʿayb al-Hudhali and the Metapoetics of Structure

6051 Persian Poetry as Performative Space (Tuesday, 6 October, 11:00am-1:00pm)

  • Marie Huber, Stanford University – Sketches on Foggy Glass: Mehdi Akhavan Sales and the Floating Time of Poetic Speech
  • Jane Mikkelson, University of Virginia – Lyric Performances of Thought: Early Modern Persian Definition Poems
  • Matthew Thomas Miller, University of Maryland – Imagery as Imaginal Embodiments and Performances of Meaning: A Case Study of a Poem of ʿIraqi
  • Austin O’Malley, University of Arizona – Erotic Narratives and the Development of the Didactic Masnavi

6037 Promoting Public Scholarship in Middle East History (roundtable) (Tuesday, 6 October, 1:30pm-3:30pm)

Organized by Stephennie Mulder, University of Texas-Austin; Chaired by Christopher S. Rose, St. Edward’s University

  • Stephennie Mulder, University of Texas-Austin
  • Christiane J. Gruber, University of Michigan
  • Najam Haider, Barnard College/Columbia University
  • Khodadad Rezakhani, Princeton University
5873 Centering Archives in Islamic Intellectual History (Wednesday, 7 October, 11:00am-1:00pm)
Organized by Elias Saba, Grinnell College
  • Sumayya Ahmed, Simmons University – Post-custodial and Post-colonial: Salvaging Archival Documents in Morocco via the Hassan II Prize (est. 1969)
  • Seema Golestaneh, Cornell University – Unremarkable Evidence: Private Archives in Iranian Sufism
  • Elias Saba, Grinnell College – Using Archives for Uncovering the Islamic Legal Genres
  • Neguin Yavari, University of Leipzig – The Language of Politics in Kashifi’s Futuwwatnama-i Sultani

6039 Occult Landscapes and Mindscapes (Wednesday, 7 October, 11:00am-1:00pm)

Organized by Matthew Melvin-Koushki, University of South Carolina; Chaired by Kathryn Babayan, University of Michigan; Discussant: Matthew Melvin-Koushki, University of South Carolina

  • Vincent Cornell, Emory University – Grazing in the Garden of God’s Existence: Spiritual Landscapes in Ibn Sabʿin’s (d. 1270 CE) Risalat al-Nuriyya
  • Golriz Farshi, University of Michigan – Opening the Gates of Paradise: Abwab al-Birr of Muzaffariyya and the Sacred Geography of Tabriz
  • Sajjad Rizvi, University of Exeter – Between the Gryphon and the Peacock: The Quest for the Self in Bedil Dihlavi (d. 1720) and the Practice of the Occult
  • Ahmed AlMaazmi, Princeton University – The Environmental Meaning of the Occult in the Western Indian Ocean

6099 Race Across Genres: Approaching Difference in Pre-Modern Arabic Writings (Wednesday, 7 October, 1:30pm-3:30pm)

Organized by Rachel Schine, University of Colorado-Boulder; Discussant: Craig Perry, Emory University

  • Michael Payne, Brown University – Poets and Other Animals in the Race-Making of al- Jahiz
  • Arafat Razzaque, University of Cambridge – “That Black Man”: Abusive Speech and Anxieties of Difference in the Zuhd Tradition
  • Rachel Schine, University of Colorado-Boulder – Dark Materials: Ibn al-Jawzi’s Black Pharmacopeia and Racial Naturalism in Tanwir al-Ghabash fi Fadl al-Sudan wa-l-Habash

6199 Classical and Medieval Arabic Literary Traditions (Wednesday, 7 October, 1:30pm-3:30pm)

  • Samer M. Ali, University of Michigan – Who Sits at the Banquet of Adab?: Cultural Battles in Early Arabo-Islamic Culture and Questions of Ontology
  • Rosalind Buckton-Tucker, American University of Kuwait – The Rogue, the Ruse and the Mark: A Content Analysis of the Episodes in the Maqamat of Badiʿ al-Zaman al- Hamadhani
  • Mayssa Hashaad, University of Arkansas – The Master-Slave Dialectic in Nazhun al- Gharnatiya’s Hijaʾ: A New Reading
  • Estrella Samba Campos, St. Andrews University – Silence and Listening: Methods for the Attainment of Knowledge in the Formative Period of Islam (2nd/8th-3rd/9th Centuries)

6106 Mobility of Scholars and Knowledge in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire: New Sources and Revisionist Approaches (Thursday, 8 October, 1:30pm-3:30pm)

Organized by Hasan Umut, Istanbul Foundation for Research and Education

  • Mehmet Emin Gulecyuz, University of Chicago – Sovereignty of Knowledge in Theory and Practice: Molla Fenari’s Karaman Sojourn and the Early Modern Ottoman Historiography
  • Hasan Umut, Istanbul Foundation for Research and Education – Linguistic and Geographic Plurality in Early Modern Ottoman Science: The Case of Ali al-Qushji’s Astronomy
  • Fikri Cicek, University of Minnesota – From Diyar-i Kurd to Diyar-i Rum: Rise of Provincial Ulama in the Seventeenth-Century Ottoman Crisis
  • Didar Ayşe Akbulut, Harvard University – Between Istanbul and Hejaz: Müneccimbashi Ahmed Dede and Scholarly Connections and Mobility in the Seventeenth-Century Ottoman Empire

6222 Sufism: Classical and Contemporary (Wednesday, 14 October, 11:00am-1:00pm)

  • Jeremy Farrell, Emory University – Sufis and the Early-Sunni Hadith Community: A Non- Hanbali Thesis
  • Wael Hegazy, University of California-Santa Barbara – Ashira Muhammadiyah as an Early Revolutionary, Reformist Sufi Model
  • Elvira Kulieva, Hamad Bin Khalifa University – Wayfaring in Modernity: Sufi Path of Nuh Ha Mim Keller in his Sea Without Shore
  • Jawid Mojaddedi, Rutgers University – The Prose Introduction of Book Five of Rumi’s Masnavi: The Exception that Proves the Rule?
  • Ida Nitter, University of Pennsylvania – Parades, Festivals, Songs, Litanies, and Graves: The Impact of Tasawwuf (Sufism) on Cairo’s Cityscape in the Nineteenth Century

5889 Continuity & Change: Early Islam in Late Antiquity (Thursday, 15 October, 11:00am-1:00pm)

Organized by Kyle Longworth, University of Chicago; Chaired by Fred Donner, University of Chicago; Discussant: Antoine Borrut, University of Maryland

  • Veronica Morriss, University of Chicago – Persistent Pathways: The Rise of Maritime Connectivity in the Early Islamic Red Sea
  • Yaara Perlman, Princeton University – Why Did Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf Appoint Abu Hadir al- Usayyidi over Istakhr?
  • Kyle Longworth, University of Chicago – What’s Religious about Bureaucracy? Religious Identity and Social Reproduction in the Umayyad Bureaucracy
  • Ameena Yovan, University of Chicago – Mahr in Early Islam: Trends in Personal and Economic Exchange

6006 New Approaches to the Sciences of the Stars in Islamic Societies (Thursday, 15 October, 11:00am-1:00pm)

Organized by Scott Trigg, University of Hong Kong

  • Margaret Gaida, California Institute of Technology – Situating Arabic Astrology: Historiographic Tensions between Europe and the Islamic World
  • Pouyan Shahidi Marnani, Indiana University-Bloomington – Moonlight, Quintessence, and Gabriel: The Explanation and Use of the Lunar Spots across Fields of Intellectual Inquiry in Islam
  • Scott Trigg, University of Hong Kong – Visualizing the Configuration (hayʾa): On the Role of Manuscript Images in Two 15th-Century Astrological Commentaries
  • A. Tunç Sen, Columbia University – The World-Fair Model of Global History of Science and Writing the Local History of Ottoman Astral Sciences

6163 Abbasid: Life and Law (Thursday, 15 October, 1:30pm-3:30pm)

Chaired by Andrea Castonguay, University of Notre Dame

  • Reem Alrudainy, Kuwait University – Reframing the Concept of Elite in Abbasid Women’s Historiography
  • Philip Grant, Independent Scholar – The Hydro- and Natropolitics of the Zanj Rebellion (255-269/869-883)
  • Hassaan Shahawy, Harvard Law School – Istihsan, Whim or Wisdom? The Theory and Practice of Subjectivity in Early Iraqi Law, 750-900 CE

6173 Kingship and Property (Thursday, 15 October, 1:30pm-3:30pm)

  • Zeynep Elbasan, Indiana University – The Discursive Transformation of a Soul in Exile: The Unconventional Nature of Cem Sultan’s Poetry
  • Mustafa Kaya, University of Chicago – Sacral Kingship and Muhammadan Shaykhhood in the Post-Abbasid Era: The Case of the Sufis of Herat
  • Mohamed Maslouh, Ghent University – The Functions of Pseudographic Literature in the Cairo Sultanate (1258-1336 CE): Malahim as a Field for Performing Group Identities and Influencing the Political Arena
  • Arlen Wiesenthal, University of Chicago – The Refuge of the World and His Animal Kingdom: Justice, Animal Stewardship, and Sultanic Prowess in Ottoman Accounts of Sultan Mehmed IV’s (r. 1648-87) Hunting Expeditions, c. 1670-1715

5979 Archival Itineraries and Political Projects: New Geographies of Ottoman Imperial Sovereignty (Friday, 16 October, 11:00am-1:00pm)

Sponsored by Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association (OTSA); Organized by Heather Ferguson, Claremont McKenna College; Discussant: Marina Rustow, Princeton University

  • Baki Tezcan, University of California-Davis – Ottoman Libraries as Archives: Building the Hegemony of Sunni Islam One Library at a Time
  • Heather Ferguson, Claremont McKenna College – Masquerades and Forgeries: Misinformation and Imperial Fragility as an “Archival” Crisis
  • Guy Burak, New York University – Eighteenth-Century Provincial Fatawa Collections and the Ottoman Archival Consciousness
  • Dzovinar Derderian, American University of Armenia – Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Visions and Practices of Governance in the Constantinople Armenian Patriarchate Archive

6200 Medieval Persianate Literacy Traditions (Friday, 16 October, 11:00am-1:00pm)

  • Catherine Ambler, Columbia University – Without Bindings, Bound: The Ambiguity of Poets in Maliha Samarqandi’s Muzakkir al-Ashab
  • Ferenc P. Csirkes, Sabanci University – The Politics of Turkic Literature at the Court of Shah Ismail I
  • Amanda Leong, University of California-Merced – The Princess Remembers: The Humayunnama as a Mirror for Princesses
  • Pranav Prakash, University of Iowa – Interweaving Indian Tales and Persian Genres: Akhsitan Dihlavi’s Basatin al-Uns (c. 1325-26)

5928 Towards a History and Interpretations of the “Circle” in the Scientific and Visual Cultures of the Middle East (Friday, 16 October, 1:30pm-3:30pm)

Organized by Adrien Zakar, Stanford University; Chaired by Aamer Ibraheem, Columbia University; Discussant: Heather Ferguson, Claremont McKenna College

  • Side Emre, Texas A&M University – A Perfect Vessel to Ignite the Imagination: The Use, Function, and Metaphors of Circular Diagrams in 16th-Century Ottoman Mystical Cosmologies
  • Maryam Patton, Harvard University – Mirror of the Celestial Spheres: Towards Understanding Circles in Islamic Astronomy
  • Nur Sobers-Khan, British Library – The Mass Production of the Cosmos: Concentric Diagrammes from Manuscript to Lithograph
  • Isin Taylan, Yale University – The Circles of Lands, Atlas, and Ottoman Geographical Knowledge
  • Adrien Zarkar, Stanford University – Geographical Knowledge, Cosmography and Reform in the Late Ottoman Empire

5901 Early Islamic Taxation in Theory and Practice: Abbasid and Fatimid Case Studies (Saturday, 17 October, 11:00am-1:00pm)

Organized by Aseel Najib, Columbia University; Chaired by Marina Rustow, Princeton University

  • Ali Asgar Alibhai, University of Texas-Dallas – God’s Water: Analyzing Land and Irrigation Taxation Systems Under the Early Fatimids
  • Khalil Andani, Augustana College – A Fatimid Ismaili Exegesis of Zakat According to Nasir-i Khusrow
  • Lorenzo Bondioli, University of Cambridge – The Fiscal-Commercial Complex: Taxation and Capital in Fatimid Egypt
  • Aseel Najib, Columbia University – The Kharaj in the Early Abbasid Period: A Conceptual History

5954 Political and Social Change in the Pre-Modern Islamic Maghrib Sponsored by American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS) (Saturday, 17 October, 11:00am-1:00pm)

Organized by Stephen C. Cory, Cleveland State University; Discussant: Jocelyn Hendrickson, University of Alberta

  • Mahmood Ibrahim, California State Polytechnic University-Pomona – Abu Bakr ibn al- Arabi, Chief Judge of Seville
  • Peter Kitlas, Princeton University – What Is Moroccan about Diplomacy in the 18th- Century Mediterranean?
  • Stephen C. Cory, Cleveland State University – Managing the Unmanageable: Muhammad III’s Solution to Fitna in Eighteenth-Century Morocco
  • Paul Love, Al Akhawayn University – Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes: Ibadis between the Maghrib and Ottoman Cairo
  • Allen Fromherz, Georgia State University-Atlanta – The Caliph and the Son of Seventy: Al- Mustansir, Ibn Sabʿin and the Hafsid Authority

6165 Political Thought and Practice in 16th-Century Ottoman History (Saturday, 17 October, 11:00am-1:00pm)

  • John Burden, University of Chicago – De-mystifying the Law: Ibn Hajar al-Haytami’s (d. 974/1566) Reconciliation of Sufism and the Shariʿa
  • Arif Erbil, Bogazici University – Changing Contexts, Shifting Discourses: The Rise of Juristic Language in Sixteenth-Century Ottoman Political Thought
  • Kamal Gasimov, University of Michigan – Sufism and Islamic Law: ʿAbd al-Wahhab al- Shaʿrani’s Interdisciplinary Approach
  • Rıza Yıldırım, Emory University – Ayin-i Qizilbash: Notes on Religious Organization of the Safavid Military Elites

6229 Slavery, Islam, and Empire Across Time and Space (Saturday, 17 October, 11:00am-1:00pm)

  • Bilal Kotil, Marmara University – “Imaginary Grievances and Gratuitous Accusations”: Debating Slavery and Narrating Facts in the Ottoman Archives
  • Denise Spellberg, University of Texas-Austin – Finding “Fatima” Among Enslaved Women in the Antebellum United States: Toward a Digital Methodology for Confronting Their Erasure from the Islamic Diaspora
  • Koby Yosef, Bar Ilan University – The Role of Cypriot and European/Anatolian Mamluks in Interactions between the Mamluk Sultanate and Cyprus

6028 A Carceral Society: Penal Justice in Premodern Islam, c. 661-1500 CE (Saturday, 17 October, 1:30pm-3:30pm)

Organized by Mohammed Allehbi, Vanderbilt University, and Taryn Marashi, Vanderbilt University

  • Mohammed Allehbi, Vanderbilt University – Put Them in Narrow Cells: The Birth of Criminal Prisons in the First Century of Islam
  • Brendan Goldman, Princeton University – Travel Lodge or Torture Chamber? The Spatialization of State Violence in Medieval Egypt and Syria (1000-1250 CE)
  • Taryn Marashi, Vanderbilt University – Theaters of Punishment and Protest: Prisons in Ninth-Century Islamic Society
  • Holly Robins, University of California-Los Angeles – Debating the Legality of Imprisonment in Late Mamluk Egypt

6063 Constructing Race in Islamicate Societies (roundtable) (Saturday, 17 October, 1:30pm-3:30pm)

Organized by Lisa Nielson, Case Western Reserve University; Discussant: Lisa Nielson, Case Western Reserve University

  • Veruschka Wagner, University of Bonn
  • Lamia Balafrej, University of California-Los Angeles
  • Jessie Stoolman, University of California-Los Angeles


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