Arabic Pasts: Histories and Historiographies (Hybrid)

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Date / time: 6 October - 8 October, 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Aga Khan Centre (and online)

This annual exploratory workshop not only offers the opportunity to reflect on history writing in Arabic, but also invites contributors to explore more broadly how people relate to the past.

Papers will elucidate the following questions:

• What practices (through writing or otherwise) have different groups in the Middle East and North Africa used to encode their past, and how have they engaged in remembering and forgetting? At different times and places, how have the significant contours, events and actors in their histories been seen? Was the significant past the same for court historians as it was for literary historians; for bureaucrats as it was for the military; for Sufis as it was for Muslim lawyers and Traditionists?

• How did non-Muslims and Muslims, men and women, adherents of different sectarian or juristic traditions, or speakers of different languages imagine the shape and meaning of pasts specific to their societal, cultural, religious, linguistic or ethnic group, in negotiation with the universal history of the Islamic community to which they (may or may not) have belonged?

• How have urban and rural people, workers and peasants, the religiously educated and the technocratic elite, developed different ways of writing, remembering, or commemorating particular events in, or the broad sweep of, local, national, or Islamic history?

• In what ways do educational institutions, museums, media organisations and proponents of heritage use history writing in Arabic to shape loyalties and nurture a sense of belonging in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe?

Download Arabic Pasts Schedule:


Arabic Pasts is co-organised by Sarah Bowen Savant (AKU-ISMC), Hugh Kennedy (SOAS University of London) and James McDougall (University of Oxford).


The event is free, but booking is essential:

To attend in person, register via Eventbrite:

To attend online, register via Zoom:

Image Credit: Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī’s Taʾrīkh Baghdād, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Arabe 2129.