Arabic Pasts: Histories and Historiographies (Research Workshop)

Date / time: 7 October - 9 October, All day

Arabic Pasts: Histories and Historiographies (Research Workshop)


This annual exploratory and informal workshop offers the opportunity to reflect on history writing in Arabic. This year, three days of the workshop will be held online and only Day 2 will be in person at the Aga Khan Centre, London.

We hope to welcome newcomers to the workshop and to encourage a lively discussion. The programme is exciting as ever, with 25 papers treating history writing from the eighth century up to the present.

Papers will elucidate the following sorts of 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?

The following colleagues will chair panels and facilitate conversation:

• James McDougall, University of Oxford.

• Leif Stenberg, Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations.

• Hugh Kennedy, SOAS, University of London.

• Sarah Bowen Savant, Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations.

• Fozia Bora, University of Leeds.

• Karen Bauer, The Institute of Ismaili Studies.

• Arezou Azad, University of Oxford.

• Letizia Osti, University of Milan.


Date: The workshop will take place on 7-9 October 2021 (London).

Download Arabic Pasts schedule:

If you would like to join us online via Zoom, register here:

If you would like to join us in person on the 2nd day, register here:

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


Image Credit:From the ‘Ājūrrūmiyya’, a work on Arabic grammar by the Moroccan scholar Ibn Ājūrrūm al-Ṣanhājī (1273-1323). British Library, OR 6953.