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Title: Histories of circulation : sharing Arabic manuscripts across the Western Indian Ocean, 1400-1700
Author: Bahl, Christopher D.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7656 0522
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2018
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My doctoral dissertation studies the historical phenomenon of text circulation that connected communities across the early modern Western Indian Ocean. A focus on the mobility of manuscripts and scholarship enables me to link social spaces and cultural practices from the Red Sea region to the South Asian subcontinent. Thereby, I argue for the cultural integration of this transregional space along an Arabic connection from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. The thesis interrelates three lines of argumentation: Firstly, a diachronic perspective indicates a pluralisation of Islamicate texts. Secondly, the analysis of these manuscript versions exhibits a differentiation in cultural practices of Arabicised communities who peruse these texts. Thirdly, this cultural differentiation is mirrored in a social diversification of the communities among whom these texts circulated. My source base consists of multiple manuscript versions of the same texts and their marginalia, each version transmitted, collected, physically modulated, read, inscribed and commented on in a different sociocultural context. I collected reproductions of these manuscripts across India, the Middle East and Europe. Methodologically, I start with the material traces of the texts that travelled. I analyse histories of circulation as they were inscribed on manuscripts from the period, using approaches developed recently in the literary study of paratexts and manuscript notes. This allows me to look at a transregional field of cultural exchange in a new way and from different perspectives: travails of itinerant scholars and their interactions with cosmopolitan rulers, centres of patronage and their overlap with places of scholarly transactions, frameworks of transmission and their importance for different textual genres, as well as changing cultural practices and their pursuit across various learned sociabilities. Arabic functioned in complex and often different ways in the Red Sea region and South Asia. Across the early modern Western Indian Ocean Arabic increasingly served to connect communities in cultural pursuits.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral