What Was Philology in Arabic?

Editorial Introduction to Philological Encounters, Vol. 4.1-4.

By Islam Dayeh

If philology—as a set of conceptual tools and material practices concerned with the care for texts—came into being as a discipline in the nineteenth century, then how did scholars, and readers more generally, make sense of texts before that moment? The increasing contemporary interest in studying non-European intellectual histories and philological practices on their own terms, and from an emic perspective, has not only opened up new possibilities for excavating marginalised knowledge practices, but has also reinvigorated critical research on the foundations of the European humanities. In a new special thematic issue of Philological Encounters, light is cast on the histories of Arabic philological practices on the eve of European colonialism and the legacies of this philological encounter. The contributions assembled in the issue approach this topic by examining a multitude of genres, traditions, institutions, and academic legacies from a global perspective. In particular, they explore four interrelated areas. (1) Text critical practices, including techniques of transmission and methods of verification. (2) Practices of collecting, editing, documenting and publishing. (3) The materiality, growth and evolution of texts, including commentaries, glosses, abridgments, and encyclopaedias. (4) The spread of Arabic language theory and philological practices across the historical territories of Islam and beyond, and the forging of a universal philological culture that has been called the “Arabic cosmopolis” (Ronit Ricci) or the “Islamic republic of letters” (Muhsin J. Musawi), or the philological ummah.

The majority of the articles assembled in the new special issue were originally presented at a conference entitled “What was Philology in Arabic? Arabic-Islamic Textual Practices in the Early Modern World” at Freie Universität Berlin on 13–15 July 2017. The conference was generously funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. I wish to thank the members of my research group “Arabic Philology and Textual Practices” at Freie Universität Berlin, Colinda Lindermann, Rossella De Luca and Katharina Kloss, for their valuable help in the conceptualisation and organisation of the event.

The journal Philological Encounters (PHEN) is dedicated to a historical and philosophical critique of philology. It promotes critical and comparative perspectives with the aim of integrating textual scholarship and the study of language from across the world. An overview of previous issues and a more detailed overview of the submission process can be found on the Zukunftsphilologie website.

Please find more information about the new Philological Encounters issue “What Was Philology in Arabic?” here.

This article largely corresponds to the editorial introduction available open access at Brill Online and is posted on this blog with kind permission with kind permission of the author.

 


About the Author

Islam Dayeh is Assistant Professor of Arabic studies at Freie Universität Berlin and the Executive Director of Philological Encounters (Brill). His research and teaching focus on Arabic-Islamic textual practices and intellectual history, with a particular focus on the early modern period and the encounter with the European humanities. He is founder and academic director of the research programme Zukunftsphilologie: Revisiting the Canons of Textual Scholarship at the Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin. Islam Dayeh has held visiting professorships and fellowships at Columbia University, the American University in Cairo, the University of Turin, the Library of Congress, and the Library of the University of Leiden, among other fellowships.


Forum Transregionale Studien

The Berlin-based Forum Transregionale Studien is a research organization that promotes the internationalization of research in the humanities and social sciences. The Forum provides scope for collaboration among researchers with different regional and disciplinary perspectives and appoints researchers from all over the world as Fellows. In cooperation with universities and research institutions in Berlin and the rest of Germany, it carries out research projects that examine other regions of the world and their relationship to Germany and Europe systematically and with new questions.

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