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Abbasid Studies: Occasional Papers of the School of 'Abbasid Studies, Cambridge, 6-10 July 2002 (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, 135) [Hardcover]

By James E. Montgomery (Editor)
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Item description for Abbasid Studies: Occasional Papers of the School of 'Abbasid Studies, Cambridge, 6-10 July 2002 (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, 135) by James E. Montgomery...

The School of 'Abbasid Studies, originally founded as a co-operative venture by scholars at the Universities of St. Andrews and Glasgow in Scotland during the 1980s, is a joint enterprise involving the Universities of St. Andrews, Cambridge and Leuven. It aims to promote, foster and cultivate the academic study of the 'Abbasid dynasty. This book is a volume of sixteen papers delivered by a distinguished array of leading scholars at a meeting of the School of 'Abbasid Studies at the University of Cambridge in July 2002. It provides a fully contemporary insight into the cutting edge of 'Abbasid Studies, and includes works ranging from Arabic philosophy and jurisprudence to religious, intellectual and institutional history, literature and grammar. The contents of the volume are divided into three principal foci of interest (Institutions and Concepts, Figures, and Archaeology of a Discipline), and the work is accompanied by a substantial introduction by the Editor.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Peeters Publishers
Pages   349
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6.25" Height: 9.5"
Weight:   1.85 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Dec 31, 2004
Publisher   David Brown
ISBN  9042914335  
ISBN13  9789042914339  

Availability  0 units.

More About James E. Montgomery

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! David R. Montgomery, Professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington, is author of "King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon."

David R. Montgomery was born in 1961 and has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Washington.

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1Books > Subjects > History > World > General
2Books > Subjects > History > World > Medieval
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Basic research on 'Abbasid History  Sep 9, 2004
Abbasid Studies: Occasional Papers of the School of Abbasid Studies, Cambridge, 6-10 July 2002 edited by James E. Montgomery, School of Abbasid Studies (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, 135: Peeters) The `Abbasids fascinate. Their fascination stems, in part, from their elusiveness, their chameleon-like ability to adapt and change, whether it be to suit the tempo of the times (and thereby prolong dynastic survival) or to steer the Islamic community in previously unwonted or uncustomary directions (and thereby to consolidate their hegemony). The `Abbasids represent an ever-shifting pattern of regnai identities, identities articulated through a complex matrix of negotiations and delegations of authority, of syncretistic and idiosyncratic ideologies, of malleable institutions, often very loosely constructed, and of a dazzling array of material and cultural splendours but rarely manifested in the civilized world.
How do we begin to approach the study of a tradition which is liter-ate, and scriptorial (in addition to being scriptural too) as well as oral, and in which all three can be present at any one time, to varying degrees and in various combinations? Christopher Melchert and Joseph Lowry's articles bring out well the permutations to which so innocuous a phrase as qala 'l-Shäfi i (al-Sháfi i said) can be liable, while Shawkat Toorawa highlights the major change in writerly practices which the Tenth Century heralded. The paradox here, of course, is that our only access to these fluid traditions is through the written word, i.e. through manuscripts. Nowadays, books are stable entities, finished products placed in the public domain with harsh penalties awaiting those who infringe upon the rights of the author conceived as intellectual owner of the book. It is almost a Pavlovian reflex to think of `Abbasid `books' as modern books, especially when printed editions exist, for they are books, are they not? Yet, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that authors revisited the same work on many occasions, that they allowed multiple and varying versions of a work to circulate, that they allowed students to record their words in a multiplicity of sessions, each of which was authoritative, in the sense that it stemmed from the author. In other words, and with the major exception of the Qur'an (quarrels over the text of which are so significant for the cultural notions they reveal in this regard), there is no notion of an `Ur-text' as it was conceived in mainstream philological scholarship of the Nineteenth Century and as it has persisted to our day. Even the Qur'an, the most stable text within Islam, is but a partial copy of the Preserved Tablet (al-lawh al-mahfüz), the divine prototype of an `Ur-text'. Not only do dangers of anticipation lie in treating these works as books, there are perils a-plenty in relying on the standard editions produced by our illustrious predecessors. De Goeje's edition of Ibn Khurradádhbih's Kitáb al-Masäzlik wa-l-Mamálik (Leiden, 1889), for example, is a homogenized composite incorporating elements of the two versions which de Goeje himself identified as having been produced by the author. Elton Daniel's exposition of Houtsma's text of the history of al-Ya'qúbi and of the prejudices which an editor can bring to the mate-rial, and which any reader brings to a text, is of paramount importance.
Our notion of the `book' is a cultural construct, one particular to our civilization. We should handle it with extreme caution, for it is, in the words of Michel Foucault, one of those phenomena `that encourage the consoling play of recognitions'.
In several senses, this consideration arises out of the previous. Both terms derive from debates during the late 1960s surrounding the nature and potential of cognitive anthropology. Etic designates an approach to observable phenomena which is predicated upon the presumption, fundamental to logical empiricism, of the objectivity of the observer and which is achieved through the recovery of particular instances of universal notions - in short (and to oversimplify), that what I understand by `virtue' will in a major or significant sense be tantamount to what an Athenian living in Plato's Athens would have understood by the term arete' or a Ninth Century intellectual living in Baghdad might mean when he uses the term muruwwa. The implications of this approach is very clearly, I think, exemplified by what I consider to be the problem of the political and the religious in `Abbasid society: when can a decision be described as political and when can it be deemed religious, if temporal (and by implication, political) power is localized in a religious institution like the Caliphate? What interests me most is not the partisan championing of a relativist over an objectivist hermeneutic, but rather what we stand to lose in the habituated application of a cultural commonplace from modem society to a society which could scarcely have entertained any such a notion.
Standard political histories of whatever stamp will tend, for example, to interpret an action of a notable figure from the past as the consequence of a choice or a decision undertaken by that figure. Indeed, one could characterize this approach to history as the valorization of the concepts of choice and the autonomy of the individual. Modem Western societies tend to entertain what may be termed a `libertarian' notion of choice (i.e. the affirmation of freedom and the denial of determinism). For example, al-Ma'mün could have chosen to stay in Mery to rule the Empire as Caliph or to return to Baghdad, a choice which he made in Jumada II, 202 (December, 817). But we should at least pause to consider whether, in a heavily determinist society in which action was taken in consultation with astrological predictions and in which the issue of divine Providence was never questioned or abandoned, al-Ma'mün was free to choose otherwise than to return to Baghdad in Safar, 204 (August, 819), almost six years after the death of his brother al-Amin? Furthermore, did he have freedom in choice or freedom in action (which latter he exercised for six years by not returning)?' After all, the point at issue in the theological controversies concerning al-qadar wa-'l-qadá' is not the issue of free will as opposed to predetermination but rather the location of human responsibility within a providential universe governed by Allah's omniscient foreknowledge of events. The complexities of choice, for example, as a notion which we think we recognize but the nuances of which we eliminate through anticipation and recognition are nicely brought out in Peter Adamson's article on al-Kindi. Surely choice in a providential religion and astrological culture is an issue of burning importance for `Abbasid historiography? Indeed, are we to think that `choice' for a Hanafi or a Mu'tazili was the same process as that for a Hanbali, or an Ash`ari?
I am repeatedly struck by how traditional, in terms of our methods, our disciplines are. The history versus historiography debate, for example, has alerted us to the presence of topoi, to the use of rhetorical devices in the creation of narrative and to the relevance of the forms in which content is expressed, but we persist in our belief that through careful and informed sifting of the evidence, like detectives in a murder case with only circumstantial evidence to rely on, we can still work out and decide what `really' happened. Again, I do not mean to fly in the face of standard practice, but we ought to cultivate the realization that the texts with which we struggle are anything but translucent or unsullied. Indeed, I find them to be recalcitrant, evasive, and often consciously impenetrable. In this respect, our disciplines lag far behind say recent developments in the Classics or Medieval English. In our fields, when a theory or an approach is chosen, it often acts as an ideological mincer through which everything is forced.
In my capacity as editor of this volume, I have imposed the following divisions on the contributions, grouping them under the rubrics of Institutions and Concepts, Figures, and Archaeology of a Discipline. These divisions are, of course, entirely artificial, and do not correspond with the programme which we devised for the Conference. To be sure, my inclusion of some of the papers under a given category may at times seem quixotic. The considerable overflow between and interdependence of these categories reflect, in a manner which I find to be representative, the character of `Abbasid society which was, in keeping with many other pre-modem societies, at best but semi-institutionalised. Such institutions as existed were constantly changing, adapting and evolving. Many enjoyed an astonishing longevity. It may thus surprise some readers that I have included Julia Bray's paper on al-Tanikhi and Mu'tazilism under the rubric of Institutions and Concepts, though, as she brings out very well, Mu'tazilism could not only take the form of an inflection in a thinker's view of the world, it could also be a family tradition encapsulating long-cherished beliefs and as such attain to the status of an unofficial rather than a formal institution. Paul Heck's analysis of Ibn al-Muqaffa', al-Mawardi and Qudama b. Ja`far would fit easily in the context of the chronologically arranged section on Figures, were it not for his concentration on their presentation of the role of the ruler as the representative of the law. Equally, I was tempted to make a case for the inclusion of Herbert Berg's study of Ibn `Abbas under Institutions, for he understands the figure of Ibn `Abbas to be tantamount to an institution of `Abbasid polemical self-justification, evoked to legitimize their right to rule, and as such more than a figure-head and perhaps rather what one literary critic (it may have been T.S. Eliot) described as a zone of consciousness.
Figures and institutions exist in a symbiotic relationship, for it is individuals who articulate, actualize and amend the institutions, while the institutions are designed in the first place to determine how individuals participate in society. One of the ways in which individuals interact with institutions is through the construction and maintenance of disciplines - without lawyers, for example, there would be no law. Disciplines would not exist were it not for figures to realize them, and so the figure of al-Shafi i looms large in the contributions by Christopher Melchert and Joseph Lowry, while Devin Stewart's bold excavations of the formal beginnings of Islamic jurisprudence provide a veritable portrait-gallery of early jurisprudents.

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