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Farid El-Ghawaby

Farid El-Ghawaby
Image Credit: Farid El-Ghawaby

(Gerda Henkel Doctoral Fellow)

Tracing the Paths of Islamic Manuscripts – Towards a Reconstruction of Translocated Material of the Qubbat al-Ḫazna

Tracing the Paths of Islamic Manuscripts – Towards a Reconstruction of Translocated Material of the Qubbat al-Ḫazna

This dissertation project aims to identify, analyze, and classify materials of potential corpus parts of the Qubbat al-ḫazna, a former multilingual manuscript depository located at the inner courtyard of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.

The Qubba provides an astonishing potential source of knowledge not only about Islamic book culture, social life, and archival practices but also about the treatment and interaction with non-Islamic texts and actors within and outside the Damascene society under Ottoman rule. As no catalog from the depot has been found to date, there is no reference to the complete composition of the inventory of the Qubba. Its former corpus is now scattered throughout Europe and the Middle East as a result of undocumented access by various actors of the 19th century. Partially untraceable, the material once stored in this intriguing octagonal construction remains for the most part unknown, as does its social meaning for locals and non-locals.

Therefore, the idea of this dissertation project is to search for and examine further material potentially originated from the Qubbat al-ḫazna. By deciphering and tracing back provenance data of manuscript repositories such as libraries, museums, and their respective archives, the central research part of this thesis will focus mainly on two processes.

Firstly, reconstructing moments and processes of manuscript transfers and acquisitions made by travelers, consuls, and adventurers will be a focal point of research.

The second core element of this thesis consists of identifying and analyzing Islamic manuscripts and re-localizing them within the multifaceted and multilingual context of the Qubba.

As a result, the “stories of objects” made visible will be situated within the theoretical framework of translocality, entangled history, and “anthropology of things”, referring here to transfer processes and interactions of actors and material as well as demarcation processes initiated in the 19th and 20th century. By reassembling the historical circumstances under which material was acquired, undiscovered locations and provenances of Qubba material can be brought to light and examined in subsequent research.

First Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Konrad Hirschler