The Michael E. Marmura Lecture Series in Arabic Studies is an interdisciplinary and multi-perspectival endeavor by faculty members of the Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto. The series is devoted to explorations of culture, history and politics in the Arab world, its diasporas, and their transnational itineraries. We use “Arabic” studies rather than “Arab” studies to gesture towards a field based on a common language context rather than on an ethnicity.
It is dedicated to the memory of our late colleague, Michael E. Marmura, F.R.S.C. Professor of Medieval Islamic Philosophy, who was born 1929 in Jerusalem, Palestine, and died 2009 in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The lecture series seeks to promote public education, scholarly collaboration, and intellectual engagement among students and scholars in the Greater Toronto Area.
A Laudatio of Professor Michael E. Marmura, F.R.S.C
By Jens Hanssen
On the occasion of the Launching of the Michael E. Marmura Lecture Series in Arabic Studies
at the Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations
University of Toronto, January 14th, 2021
Visual Artist and Cultural Historian, Cairo, Egypt
Inside the Black Enclosure: A Masterclass for Graduate Students
In this graduate masterclass, contemporary Egyptian artist Huda Lutfi will share her experiences of creating her recent installation Inside the Black Enclosure for the inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale which was held from January 23–May 23, 2023 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Lutfi will speak about the history of pilgrimage at Mecca, the importance of the kiswa covering of the ka’ba, the craftspeople involved in its making over history, and how it all connects to her recent installation. She will also discuss her artistic practice and career and problematize the notion of an Islamic Arts Biennale as part of her talk, which will also include videos of her work.
Bachtyar Ali, Kareem Abdulrahman, Firat Bozçalı & Jeannie Miller
The Politics of Fiction and Transation: A Conversation with Bachtyar Ali, Kareem Abdulrahman, Firat Bozçalı, and Jeannie Miller
Politics has at least two faces in Ali’s works. While his characters are in a constant search to prove their humanity, politics often appears as a barrier in that search. Why does their salvation seem to fall beyond politics? Yet another face is the politics of literature: Kurdish language has lived on the margins of the more dominant languages in the Middle East for centuries. In this context, lliterary translation could be seen as an effort to put the Kurds, the largest minority group without their own nation state, on the cultural map of the world.
In this conversation, we will probe questions such as: Where do the politics of publishing and those of the Middle East collide? Is literary translation a means to put the Kurds, the largest minority group without their own nation state, on the world’s cultural map? What unique challenges do translators of Kurdish texts face?
Bachtyar Ali is one of the most prominent contemporary intellectuals from Iraqi Kurdistan. The Last Pomegranate Tree (Archipelago Books, 2023), one of his most famous novels, was just translated into English by translator and Kurdish affairs analyst Kareem Abdulrahman. It tells the story of Muzafar-i-Subhdan, a Kurdish Peshmerga fighter in Iraq desperately searching for his son after being held in a desert prison for 21 years.
Fırat Bozçalı is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. His research concentrates on political and legal anthropology with a special focus on smuggling economies, human rights advocacy, and Kurdish politics in Turkey.
Jeannie Miller is an Associate Professor of medieval Arabic literature in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations.
Associate Professor, Georgetown University, Qatar
Debating Legal Sovereignty in Colonial India
Sohaira Siddiqui is an Associate Professor of Theology at Georgetown University in Qatar. Her work focuses on the relationship between law, theology and political thought in classical Islam; Islamic law during British colonization; Islamic law in contemporary Muslim societies; and secularism and modernity in relation to Muslims in the West.
She is the author of Law and Politics Under the 'Abbasids: An Intellectual Portrait of al-Juwayni (Cambridge University Press, 2019) and Locating the Shari'a: Legal Fluidity in Theory, History and Practice (Brill, 2019). Her next book, Contesting Islamic Law in Colonial India, will be published in Fall 2024, followed by her second edited volume, The Cambridge Companion to Islamic Law, in Spring 2025.
Associate Professor, Princeton University
Austerity, Coloniality, and the Semi-Civilized
Julia Elyachar is Associate Professor at Princeton University in the Department of Anthropology and the Institute for International and Regional Studies. Co-editor of Cultural Anthropology and member of the editorial collective of Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa, and Middle Eastern Studies, Elyachar was previously Associate Professor of Anthropology and Economics at UC Irvine, and director of the Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies. Among her books are On the Semi-Civilized: Channels of Mobility and Finance in Cairo and Beyond (forthcoming); the co-edited Thinking Infrastructures (2019); and forthcoming Turkish and Arabic translations of her award-winning book, Markets of Dispossession: NGOs, Economic Development, and the State in Cairo (2005). She is the author of numerous articles published in, among others, Cultural Anthropology, American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, and Comparative Studies in Society and History.
Fridays 3 - 5 PM
Assistant Professor of Late Antiquity and Early Islam, University of Toronto
Flesh-Eating and Backbiting: Adventures of an Idiom from Akkadian to the Qur’an
Associate Professor of History at Boston College
Curating Palestinian Heritage: Preliminary Thoughts on an 18th-century Library in Acre (al-Jazzar’s al-Nur Ahmadiyya Library)
Janine Clark & Maya El Helou
Bumps in the Map: The Infrastructure of LGBT and Queer Activist Subjectivities in the Middle East and North Africa
Janine Clark is a Professor in the Department of Political Science. Her work focuses on decentralization and local politics, Islamist movements, civil society activism and women and politics in the Middle East and North Africa. Currently, she is working on a project examining trans-regional LGBT and queer activism in the MENA.
Maya El Helou is a PhD candidate at the Department of Anthropology in a collaborative program with Women and Gender Studies at the University of Toronto. Her theoretical interest revolve around necropolitics, queer theory, embodiment, temporality, and spatiality along with urban infrastructure.
Professor, York University
Occult Tools for Health and Protection in Ottoman Bosnia: Talismanic Charts at the National Museum in Sarajevo
Associate Professor, Cornell University
A Book Talk
An Intimate History of Global Events: The Case of Arab-Ottoman Imperialists of Istanbul
This event is from 2 PM to 4 PM.
Mostafa Minawi is Associate Professor of History at Cornell University. He is the author of The Ottoman Scramble for Africa: Empire and Diplomacy in the Sahara and the Hijaz (Stanford, 2016).
librarian and curator of Islamic manuscripts, University of Michigan Library
Recovering Collective Memory: Tracing the Arabic, Persian, and Turkish manuscripts of Gümüşhanevî foundation libraries across dispersal and collection
James McGill Professor of Islamic Philosophy at the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University
Muḥammad ʿAbduh as Avicennian philosopher and logician
Fridays 3 - 5 PM
(For now, we are planning on holding the series on zoom and will re-assess in early October.
In order to respect the CAUT censure, the lecture series will only feature faculty from the University of Toronto.
And given the Palestine speech exception in the Azarova affair, this year’s series will have a strong focus on Palestine.)
Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IHPST)
“Genetic Research and Territorial Occupation: Palestine, Sinai, and the Aden Emergency”
AMTD Global Talent Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Architecture, University of Waterloo
Architectural of Statehood: Investigating Palestinian State Structures
Visual Studies, UTM; Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, UTSG
Reading the Friday Mosque: Architecture and Nostalgia in Medieval Damascus and Cairo
Oscar Lӧsgren and Renata Traini. Arabic Manuscripts in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana. Italy: Neri Pozza, 1975. Vol. 1, Plate XIV
The Nature of a Gentleman’s Dominion:
al-Jāḥiẓ on Slavery and Human Difference
Image @Ismail Shammout
University of Toronto
Against Acts of Elimination:
Making Palestinian Resistance Culture from the Frontiers
University of Cambridge
Conceptions of the Good in Islamic Theology and Philosophy: The Relation Between Metaphysics and Ethics
University of Toronto
Race, Caste, Sect, and the Limits of Pan-Islam
Fridays 3 - 5 PM
(Videos only available to the University of Toronto community)
Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Toronto Scarborough
“Judicial Crisis in Damascus on the Eve of Baybars’ Reform: The Case of the Orphan Girl and Her Cunning Guardian (654–55/1256–57)”