Orient- und Islamwissenschaft

Spatial Thought in Islamicate Societies

International Conference
Spatial Thought in Islamicate Societies, 1000–1600:
The Politics of Genre, Image, and Text

Tübingen, 30 March to 1 April 2017


Kurt Franz (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen)
Zayde Antrim (Trinity College, Hartford, Conn.)
Jean-Charles Ducène (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris)


Mail to spatial-thoughtspam prevention@aoi.uni-tuebingen.de


Opening: Alte Aula, Festsaal, Münzgasse 30
Panels: Schloss Hohentübingen, Institut für Klassische Archäologie, room 165, Burgsteige 11
Presentation of the coin collection: Forschungsstelle Islamische Numismatik, Wilhelmstraße 113

Bookmark this page under www.spatial-thought.uni-tuebingen.de

Please see download section below.


Antrim, Zayde, Jean-Charles Ducène, and Kurt Franz. “Conference Report: Spatial Thought in Islamicate Societies, 1000–1600: The Politics of Genre, Image, and Text (Tübingen, 30 March to 1 April 2017).” al-ʿUṣūr al-Wusṭā 25 (2017): 141–48. Online resource. www.islamichistorycommons.org

A proceedings volume is currently under preparation.


T h u r s d a y, 30 M a r c h 2017, 19:00


Welcome adress:
Thomas Potthast (Speaker, Platform 4, German Excellence Initiative at the University of Tübingen)

Opening lecture:
Zayde Antrim (Hartford, Conn.)
Spatial Thought and the Limitations of Genre

F r i d a y , 31 M a r c h 2017, 09:00

Panel 1: Genre

Welcome address:
Jürgen Leonhardt (Dean, Faculty of Humanities)

Zayde Antrim (Trinity College, Hartford, Conn.)

Emmanuelle Tixier Dumesnil (Paris)
Comprendre un auteur dans son contexte historique, ou pourquoi l’histoire de la géographie
n’existe pas: l’exemple de l’Andalou al-Bakrī (XIe s.)

Kurt Franz (Tübingen)
Geographical Narratives and Normalised Space in the Age of Encyclopaedism

Travis Zadeh (New Haven, Conn.)
Crossing the Sea of Darkness: Wonder, Knowledge, and the Shifting Limits of Islamic Geography

Panel 2: Image

Dana Sajdi (Chestnut Hill, Mass.)

Yossef Rapoport (London)
Maps of Urban Space in Medieval Islam

Feray Coşkun (Berlin)
Representations of Culture, Religion and History in the World Maps of the Kharīdat al-ʿAjāʾib

Nadja Danilenko (Berlin)
Getting the Picture: How al-Iṣṭakhrī’s Book of Routes and Realms Made It to the Nineteenth Century

Visit to the Research Unit for Islamic Numismatics (FINT)

Lutz Ilisch (Tübingen)
Coins as a Source of Historical Geography and the Tübingen Numismatic Collection

S a t u r d a y , 1 A p r i l 2017, 09:00

Panel 3: Text I

Jean-Charles Ducène (Paris)

Stefan Heidemann (Hamburg)
Defining the Abbasid Empire on Its Own Terms

Irina Konovalova (Moscow)
Ways of Describing Regions in the Geographical Work of al-Idrīsī

Jean-Charles Ducène (Paris)
Géographie politique, physique ou religieuse? Le monde vu depuis la chancellerie mamelouke

Young scholars poster session

Ari M. Gordon (Pennsylvania, Pa.)
Sacred Orientation: The qibla as Ritual, Metaphor and Identity Marker in Early Islam

Aglaia Iankovskaia (Budapest)
At the Edge of the World of Islam: Maritime Southeast Asia in the Eyes of Ibn Baṭṭūṭa

Dženita Karić (London)
Sacred Spaces and Secured Provinces: Bosnian Hajj Literature and the Making of Local Cosmopolitanism

Masoumeh Seydi and Maxim Romanov (Leipzig)
A Method for Comparing Geographical Descriptions

Panel 4: Text II

Stefan Heidemann (Hamburg)

Alexis Norman Wick (Beirut)
Of Other Places: Visions of the Sea and the World before European Hegemony

Robert J. Haug (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Local History and Spatial Thought in Ibn Isfandiyār’s Tārīkh-i Ṭabaristān

Panel 5: Summary discussion

General response:
Nasser Rabbat (Cambridge, Mass.)

Summary discussion

Concluding remarks:
Kurt Franz (Tübingen)

Announcement of travel grants for young scholars (closed)

Spatial Thought in Islamicate Societies, 1000–1600: The Politics of Genre, Image, and Text

As a complement to the closed call for papers to the conference on “Spatial Thought in Islamicate Societies, 1000–1600,” the convenors invite young scholars to apply for up to four travel grants.

Candidates will ideally be pursuing a research project concerning a subject of direct relevance to the conference theme. Also, work on the project, presumably on the level of a doctoral dissertation, will have advanced beyond the initial steps of planning so that the candidate already has a presentable command of sources, state of the art, methodical approach, and hypothesis. Projects may be situated in the fields of Islamic, Persian, or Ottoman Studies, the Study of the Christian Orient, the History of Geography, the History of Cartography, or any other discipline that addresses primary sources of the Islamicate world with a focus on, or close to, the period 1000–1600 CE.

Successful candidates will be invited to attend the conference, actively participate in panel discussions, and present a poster on their research project including a five-minute introduction during a poster session. We expect to be able to cover expenses for international or domestic travel to Tübingen and accommodation on 30 March through 1 April 2017.

Eligible candidates are requested to submit a statement of intent along with a project description of at most 1000 words, a CV, and a letter of recommendation to spatial-thoughtspam prevention@aoi.uni-tuebingen.de.

Please submit these no later than 15 December 2016. We also ask that all recipients of this call look out for eligible candidates.

Call for papers (closed)

Spatial Thought in Islamicate Societies, 1000–1600: The Politics of Genre, Image, and Text

Recent years have seen new approaches to the history of geography and cartography, as well as spatial thought more broadly, in the Islamicate world. Place and space are now increasingly understood as invented reference systems that are entangled with political, religious, cultural, and intellectual history. Thus contextualized, geographic knowledge proves to be more dynamic and varied than previously thought, and many more genres of literature can be seen as relevant to its study. These include world and regional geographies, urban topographies, pilgrimage guides, administrative manuals, travelogues, religious or astronomical treatises, encyclopedias, legal documents, and belletristic compendia, many of which are accompanied by images or maps. At the same time, questions arise about the importance of geographical knowledge to historical actors and the ways in which spatial considerations affected state policies, as well as quotidian religious or economic activities undertaken by, for instance, political and military leaders, merchants and travellers, or itinerant Sufis and pilgrims. Moreover, opportunities to analyze centuries-old geographic and cartographic texts have been enhanced by new technologies such as electronic data processing, the unprecedented availability of geodata, and the tools of digital cartography. Taken together, it seems that what was previously understood narrowly as the history of geography or cartography is shifting to a more diversely linked spatial history, with new relevance for the study of Islamicate societies.

The aim of this conference is to explore these developments further, with special emphasis on the following four interrelated categories:

  1. GENRE: Is genre a useful concept for understanding spatial thought in this period? For instance, do works of geography have anything in common with urban topographies or religious treatises? Can we meaningfully speak of the development of an intellectual field with specific methods or standards for criticism? How do images and maps relate to questions of genre? How did literary traditions combine with formal and thematic innovation? What role did geography play in encyclopedic literature?
  2. AUTHORSHIP: Who composed spatially-oriented texts and from which intellectual or professional backgrounds? What motivated them to do so? How can we discern and describe boundaries or transitions between collectively transmitted knowledge and individual contributions? Was there a direct relationship between the “state” and the composition of such texts? In what times and places did they proliferate? Who designed or drew maps? Is there any indication that authors thought of themselves as a group?
  3. THEME: How do we understand space and place through texts? Can we detect thematic patterns across genres? How do conceptions and descriptions in the texts respond to each other? What is the relationship between a written text and its accompanying images or maps? What is the relationship between the materiality of a place and its representation in a text? What is the relationship between travel and text? To what degree do thematic patterns correspond with social and political change?
  4. RECEPTION: Who was the audience for spatially-oriented texts and images? Where, by whom, and for whom were they copied over the centuries? How were they transformed in their copying? Can we reconstruct reception histories for these texts or detect the uses to which they were put? Did spatially-oriented texts and images matter?

In addition to exchange on historical issues, we hope the conference will be an opportunity to discuss directions for future research. What is the state of our knowledge about the manuscript heritage? Are cataloguing, digitising, (re-)editing, and translating pressing tasks? Which tools do we lack that are available in neighbouring fields of study? How can the advance of digital humanities be made fruitful? How can we develop the “spatial turn” in medieval Islamicate history?

Since so far the vast majority of research on these topics has stopped with al-Muqaddasi at around the year 1000, we encourage presentations that approach spatial thought from any part of the Islamicate world within the loose parameters of 1000–1600 CE. Each paper will receive 60 minutes for presentation and discussion. The official languages of the conference are English and French. To be considered for participation, please send a 300-word paper abstract to spatial-thoughtspam prevention@aoi.uni-tuebingen.de by 30 June 2016.

Since we intend to publish selected papers from the conference as an edited volume or special issue of a journal, we request that participants prepare to submit draft papers to the organizing committee for planning purposes no later than 15 March 2017. We expect to be able to cover travel and accommodation costs for all participants.

With an eye to the next generation, we shall also invite graduate students to attend the conference and apply for a travel allowance. Up to four grants will be awarded to young researchers planning or pursuing a relevant project. We ask all recipients of this call to look out for eligible students. A separate call for applications for these grants will be made in September 2016.


Spatial Thought conference report
Spatial Thought booklet
Spatial Thought poster
Spatial Thought location map
University location map
Airport bus 828 Stuttgart map and timetable
Airport bus 828 Tübingen map
Bus lines Tübingen day
Bus lines Tübingen night


The convenors gratefully acknowledge the collaboration and sponsorship of the University of Tübingen, École Pratique des Hautes Études – Research University of Paris, Centre national de la recherche scientifique, and Trinity College.