Dynamics of Transmission : Families, Authority and Knowledge in the Early Modern Middle East (15th-17th centuries)

French-German Project in Human and Social Sciences
Founded by :
Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) & Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Scientific Direction

  • Maria Szuppe (CNRS, UMR7528 Mondes iranien et indien)
  • Christoph Werner (Philipps-Universität Marburg, Centrum für Nah- und Mittelost-Studien)

in partnership with : Institut Français d’Archéologie orientale du Caire (dir. Nicolas Michel).

Duration : 36 months (2015-2018)

- Research Blog of the Project

Version française

Project Participants

French team

Maria Szuppe (directrice de recherche CNRS, UMR7528 Mondes iranien et indien)
Nicolas Michel (directeur, Institut Français d’Archéologie orientale du Caire / professeur, Université Aix-Marseille)
Sacha Alsancakli (doctorant, Université de la Sorbonne nouvelle - Paris 3 / UMR7528 Mondes iranien et indien)
Sandra Aube (post-doctorante contractuelle, CNRS UMR7528 Mondes iranien et indien)
Michele Bernardini (professeur, Università di Napoli “L’Orientale”)
Juliette Dumas (maître de conférences, Université Aix-Marseille)
Emmanuel Giraudet (ingénieur d’études CNRS, UMR7528 Mondes iranien et indien)
Denis Hermann (chargé de recherche CNRS, UMR7528 Mondes iranien et indien)
Francis Richard (conservateur des bibliothèques / UMR7528 Mondes iranien et indien)

With collaboration of : Adam Sabra (Professor and King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud Chair in Islamic Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara)

German team

Christoph Werner (Professor, Philipps-Universität Marburg)
Albrecht Fuess (Professor, Philipps-Universität Marburg)
Syrinx von Hees (Junior Professor, Universität Münster)
Konrad Hirschler (Reader, University of London, SOAS)
Georg Leube (Assistant Researcher, Universität Bayreuth)
Astrid Meier (Deputy Director & Senior Researcher, Orient Institut Beirut)
Torsten Wollina (Researcher, Orient Institut Beirut)
Daniel Zakrzewski (Doctorand, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle Wittenberg)

With collaboration of : Colin P. Mitchell (Associate Professor, Dalhousie University, Halifax)

Summary of the Project

Family history has become one of the most stimulating fields in Middle Eastern studies in the last two decades. The present project inscribes itself into this recent tradition and proposes to advance its agenda in several directions. First, it moves into the early modern period, covering a time frame from the 15th to the 17th century where the historical role of families remains understudied and continues to be very regionally or socially focused. Secondly, it sets out to bridge the increasing gap that exists in scholarship on the Middle East between the Persianate world and the Arab lands under Mamluk and early Ottoman rule. Geographical mobility and contact areas thus deserve our special attention. Finally, it applies the overarching concept of transmission to family history and sets out to locate dynamics of transmitting authority and knowledge inside family structures, both synchronic and diachronic.
What is actually passed on can be of a very different nature : it might be mystical knowledge and spiritual authority, it might be military know-how and prowess inside amir families, or it might take the shape of political or administrative power inside constructed families or kin groups. Equally, we have to think of scribal, literary and artistic traditions which are transmitted within families of scholars and savants. They can be traced along real objects and be considered as symbolic and real manifestations of legitimacy, status, and power.
Processes of transmission, thus our hypothesis, are shaped by dynamics internal and external to them. Internal with regard to the actual composition of families, external with regard to geographical, temporal and cultural factors such as tribal formations, territorial alignments, economical resources, as well as religious or ideological change. A wide range of sources is at our disposal, including archival material as well as biographical dictionaries, historical narratives and material artifacts. As we try to define the idea of “family” and the protagonists behind it, we aim to provide a better understanding of the role of families and kinship groups in Islamicate cultures before the advent of modernity.

Research Activities

  • 26-29 novembre 2015
    Workshop "Families in Transmission" (DYNTRAN Project).
    Co-organisation : Maria Szuppe (UMR7528 Mondes iranien et indien) & Christoph Werner (Marbourg Universität)
    Venue : Philipps Universität Marburg, Germany.

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