Research Lecture - Job Talk

When and Where

Thursday, March 25, 2021 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Online Lecture via Zoom


Mustafa Banister


Ibn Khallikān and his Obituaries of the Notables - A New Research Trajectory
Mustafa Banister, a candidate for the Assistant Professor Islamic History position

Few pre-modern Arabic biographical compendia are as well-known as the Wafayāt al-aʿyān wa-anbāʾ abnāʾ al-zamān ('Obituaries of Notables and News of the Prominent Men of the Time') of Aḥmad ibn Khallikān (1211-1282). The work, which he composed and finalized over a ten year period, is generally seen as prosopographical but in fact sits firmly at the intersection of historiography and adab belles-lettres sensibilities.

Ibn Khallikān recorded and structured nuanced biographical accounts of not only those he believed were the most important members of his own thirteenth-century social world, but also those he deemed the most memorable (not necessarily famous) notables of the preceding six centuries of Islamic history.

In this talk, I will demonstrate a new research agenda focused on Ibn Khallikān’s network of contemporaries within the text. To advocate a more holistic approach to medieval Arabic biographical and historiographical texts to ascertain the broader processes of meaning-making they engaged in, this talk presents a research plan aimed at moving beyond reading biographical and historical texts as mere “containers of facts” or data banks.

The main research question concerns the textual construction of social hierarchy and Ibn Khallikān’s own place within the text. I propose a three-tiered approach to the Wafayāt al-aʿyān and its author, focusing on context, text (through close and distant reading methods), and an analysis of the attempts at meaning-making. This talk provides a blueprint for obtaining new insights into the text by way of fresh theoretical approaches and the prospects provided by traditional and digital avenues working in tandem.

To attend, click the zoom link on Thursday, March 25 at 2 PM
Meeting ID: 885 9365 6332
Passcode: 925894