Reciting in the Early Islamic Empire
Texts, Modalities, Issues
A Conference Organised by the IDEO
Cairo, June 29ᵗʰ‒July 2ⁿᵈ, 2020
Keynote Speaker: Prof. Devin J. Stewart, Emory University (Atlanta)
Call for Papers
- January 31ˢᵗ, 2020 (half a page proposal, sent to ).
- May 15ᵗʰ, 2020 (three-page summary, sent to the same address, if your proposal is accepted).
- Qurʾānic Recitation ‒ Psalmody ‒ Orality ‒ Transmission.
- Islam ‒ Judaism ‒ Christianity ‒ Zoroastrianism ‒ Late Antiquity and Early Islam.
- Torah ‒ Bible ‒ Psalms ‒ Qurʾān ‒ Qaṣaṣ ‒ Poetry ‒ Prayer ‒ Rites ‒ Saǧʿ ‒ reading ‒ memorisation.
This conference offers a space for reflection on the various types of recitation that took place in the central regions of the Arab-Islamic empire (from Egypt to Persia, including the Arabian Peninsula) during its first three centuries, including different contexts:
- in “Islamic religious context”: the Qurʾān, Ḥadīṯ, stories (qaṣaṣ), mystical poetry, etc.
- in a “non-Islamic religious context”: Jewish and Christian psalms and prayers (in Greek, Syriac, Coptic, Arabic); Zoroastrian and Manichean ceremonies; magical rites, etc.
- or in a “secular context”: poetry and rhyming prose (saǧʿ) in Arabic, Hebrew, Syriac, Coptic or other languages; political speeches and propaganda; memorizing techniques for learning medical, scientific, philosophical, legal, grammatical knowledge, etc.
NB: the religious vs. secular distinction will be questioned.
These types of recitations will be discussed as a starting point for a reflection on the literary genres of the texts recited, on the recitation techniques, as well as on the actors of recitation, and the socio-political contexts and issues linked to the act of reciting. This conference welcomes papers on one (or more) of the following themes:
1) The modalities of the recitation
The details of the practices that precede and constitute the act of recitation (both religious and secular): such as listening, learning by heart, reading, reciting or declaiming in front of an audience, chanting, performing, etc. will be considered, as well as the rules and modalities of pronunciation, the vocal interpretation of the text, the artistic and emotional aspects, and finally, the precise contexts in which one recites such or such a text (rites, celebrations, feasts, calendars, circumstances, material conditions, clothes, etc.).
2) Recitation and transmission of knowledge
Reciting is a form of knowledge transmission. In return, some “recitation professionals” transmit the specific knowledge (and know-how) of recitation. This session will address the articulation between recitation and teaching/learning, addressing the materiality of recitation —either linked to manuscripts or epigraphy—, learning practices such as “recitation before the scholar” and validation by the scholar (iǧāza, etc.), as well as the actors of recitation (often professionals, religious, or artists, etc.) and how they transmit their vocal art and ethics (e.g. adab al-qurrāʾ).
3) The stakes of recitation
The religious/spiritual horizons of recitation practices will be explored (edification, justification, prayer for healing, mysticism, etc.), as well as secular aims (political, social, academic, artistic, etc.): mastery of the content, timing or form of recitation can be linked to power, community identity or creation.
Although being open to the public, this conference mainly intends to be a place for work and scientific debate. Consequently, we will ask the speakers who have been selected to send a 3 to 4-page summary of their paper by May 15, 2020. These summaries will be distributed to the other participants. Each speaker will then enrol as a discussant for at least one paper presented by a peer. It is expected that all the speakers attend all the panels.
Languages of the conference: English and French.
- Anne-Sylvie Boisliveau, Maître de conférence at the University of Strasbourg, France.
- Asma Hilali, Maître de conférence at the University of Lille, France.
Logistics and financial organization
International transportation, airport transfer, and half-board accommodation will be covered by the IDEO, thanks to a grant of the European Union through the project “Adawāt” (2018‒2022).