Book tip!

A new interpretation of Arab origins and the historical roots of Arab identity

Who are the Arabs? When did people begin calling themselves Arabs? And what was the Arabs’ role in the rise of Islam? Investigating these core questions about Arab identity and history through close interpretation of pre-Islamic evidence and the extensive Arabic literary corpus in tandem with theories of identity and ethnicity prompts new answers to the riddle of Arab origins and fundamental reinterpretations of early Islamic history.

It is revealed that the time-honoured stereotypes depicting Arabs as ancient Arabian Bedouin are entirely misleading: the essence of Arab identity was in fact devised by Muslims during the first centuries of Islam. Arab identity emerged and evolved as groups imagined new notions of community to suit the radically changing circumstances of life in the early Caliphate. The idea of ‘the Arab’ was a device used by Muslims to articulate their communal identity, to negotiate post-Conquest power relations, and to explain the rise of Islam. Over Islam’s first four centuries, political elites, genealogists, poetry collectors, historians and grammarians all participated in a vibrant process of imagining and re-imagining Arab identity and history, and the sum of their works established a powerful tradition that influences Middle Eastern communities to the present day.

International Conference!

Institute for Medieval Research
Austrian Academy of Sciences
Seminar rooms 49 & 50
Hollandstraße 11-13, 1st floor

Der Zusammenhang zwischen religiösen und ethnischen Identitäten steht im Mittelpunkt einer internationalen und interdisziplinären Konferenz des SFB Visions of Community in Wien.
Die Konferenz Ethnicity and Religion bietet eine Plattform für interdisziplinären Austausch. Internationale Wissenschafter/innen aus den Bereichen der Geschichtswissenschaft, Sozialanthropologie, Asien- und Islamwissenschaft diskutieren die Wechselwirkung zwischen religiöser und ethnischer Identität in unterschiedlichen Gemeinschaften des Frühmittelalters. Es werden Vergleiche und Schnittstellen zwischen Arabien, China und Europa erarbeitet, wobei auch der aktuelle sozialanthropologische Zugang zu den Begriffskonzepten Ethnizität und Religion berücksichtigt wird.
Ziel der Tagung ist es, die Verbindung zwischen Religionen und politischen Gemeinschaftskonzepten in christlichen, islamischen und buddhistischen Kulturen zu untersuchen. Es geht darum, wie religiöse Denkkonzepte und weltliche Gemeinschaften sich gegenseitig prägten. Herrschaft und Gemeinschaft waren immer auch religiös legitimiert, aber standen zugleich in einem Spannungsverhältnis zueinander. Wie unterschiedlich hat sich diese Dynamik in verschiedenen politischen Landschaften Eurasiens ausgewirkt? Das wiederum kann helfen, unterschiedliche Entwicklungen bis heute zu verstehen.

New issue of JEEH!

John Haldon, who teaches history at Princeton University, has produced an accomplished and admirable book. Not only has The Empire That Would Not Die: The Paradox of Eastern Roman Survival, 640-740 (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. - London, 2016) attracted the attention of the community of specialists in the field of Late Antiquity, but it has also gained a wider audience among historians and social scientists with their own distinct ‘take’ on key issues that have engaged scholars for decades. Haldon’s analysis proves particularly engaging as it employs concepts of resiliency, survival, and reproduction that challenge the current approach to such questions as imperial collapse, systems collapse, and failure. The editors have accordingly invited four eminent scholars – Yannis Stouraitis (University of Vienna), Michele Campopiano (University of York), Salvatore Cosentino (University of Bologna) and Federico Montinaro (University of Tübingen) – to offer their reflections on the book. Their assessments are preceded by a cogent introductory note by Paolo Tedesco, editor of the Symposium and tireless collaborator of the JEEH.

One preliminary remark: This Symposium should not be read as a review of Haldon’s book, but, rather, as a series of connected studies that use Haldon’s historical analysis as a jumping-off point for further consideration of key issues at the heart of the current historiographical debate. It is the fruit of cooperation between the editors of The Journal of European Economic History and the Centre for Advanced Studies “Migration and Mobility in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages” based at the University of Tübingen. Under the aegis of Mischa Meier, Stefan Patzold and Sebastian Schmidt-Hofner, the Centre explores new approaches to migration and mobility in the period in question, with a view to setting scholarly debate on a new footing. The contributors and editors hope to advance our understanding of social and economic relations in an important and fascinating period of history, and also to set out theoretical and methodological issues for the study of the contemporary world.