The Social Construction of Moral Imagination in Late Medieval Egypt

09/10/20185:30 pm-7:00 pm
Tariq Rafi Lecture Theater, Habib University

A Talk by Dr. Christopher S. Taylor
Drew University
Madison, New Jersey

About the talk:
Much like the ‘ulamā’ of late medieval Egypt and Syria, modern scholars are textual people. But the vast majority of Muslims in the medieval world had limited access to texts, relying largely on knowledge transmitted and mediated through the spoken word. Furthermore, oral/aural cultures typically have their own rich “textual” traditions, which obviously consist of oral texts. If we could only gain access to that oral textual tradition from the medieval Islamic world, we would gain important insight into both the content of the moral imagination of the vast majority of Muslims who lived in the medieval world, as well as a sense of how that moral imagination was socially constructed and transmitted. Through my earlier work on ziyara and the veneration of Muslim saints in medieval Egypt, I discovered that parallel to the impressive textual legacy of high or elite culture in the medieval Islamic world, there exists another vast body of largely ignored written texts; texts which remarkably do preserve for us what were originally almost certainly oral texts. This lecture will provide an overview of the research I have been conducting on a collection of these texts preserved in the vast manuscript collection of the Dar al-Kutub in Cairo.

About the Speaker:
Dr. Christopher S. Taylor is Professor of Islamic History and Chair of the Department of History at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, where he has served on the faculty since 1991. A graduate of both the Johns Hopkins University and Princeton University, Professor Taylor also taught at Yale for two years prior to his appointment at Drew. The author of In the Vicinity of the Righteous: Ziyara and the Veneration of Muslim Saints in Late Medieval Egypt (Brill), and a number of articles on medieval Egypt, Dr. Taylor is currently working on a larger project about the social construction of moral imagination in the medieval Islamic world.

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