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Ali Karjoo-Ravary
Josephine H. Detmer and Zareen Taj Mirza Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies, Bucknell University; Visiting Fellow, Bard Graduate Center

“Shadow Books: The Lives of Royal Manuscripts in the Islamic East”

From relatively early in Islamic history, kings came to be described as “shadows of God” in a phrasing attributed to Muhammad himself. By tracing the many material lives of a fourteenth-century royal chronicle written in eastern Anatolia, this talk explores how the doctrine of “shadowhood” affected the material embodiments of its text. From the copy produced when its patron was still alive, where his shadowhood is woven into the very look of the book, to the recensions produced by later generations after his death, which use multiple visual cues to cancel that same performance, we will consider how the power of Islamic monarchy can be sensed through materiality. It then concludes by looking at modern editions, arguing that their material choices, often taken for granted, also partake in the same material conversation by reframing premodern Islamic monarchy for decidedly modern purposes.

Thursday, October 8, 12:15 pm

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Ali Karjoo-Ravary is the Josephine H. Detmer and Zareen Taj Mirza Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at Bucknell University. He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in Religious Studies and is currently working on his book project, Muhammad’s Song: Politics, Performance, and Cosmology in the 14th CenturyMuhammad’s Song uses close study of Arabic, Persian, and Turkic manuscripts from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries to center the performative aspects of Islamic imperial power. It uses the small yet relatively prolific court of Burhan al-Din of Sivas (d. 1398 CE), a scholar-turned-king in eastern Anatolia, and its afterlife as a point of departure into the multilingual and multifaceted material, intellectual, and creative worlds that were the bedrock of later Muslim kingship.

Karjoo-Ravary is also engaged in a collaborative multimedia project titled, “The Lighthouses of God: Mapping Sanctity Across the Indian Ocean,” which investigates the changing religious landscapes of Indian Ocean Islam through photography, film, and GIS.

His other work looks at visual representation and iconography in medieval Sufism, science fiction and religion, and the interplay between architecture, print culture, and changing notions of religion in the broader Muslim world.


A Zoom link will be circulated the morning of the talk.