HomeArabic Chancellery Documents through the Prism of Historicity

Arabic Chancellery Documents through the Prism of Historicity

Les documents de chancellerie en langue arabe au prisme de l’historicité

Los documentos de cancillería en lengua árabe bajo el prisma de la historicidad

Writing, Vocabulary, Syntax, and Intertextuality from ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd al-Kātib (d. 750) to al-Qalqashandī (d. 1418)

Écritures, lexique, syntaxe et intertextualité de ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd al-Kātib (m. 750) à al-Qalqašandī (m. 1418)

Escrituras, léxico, sintaxis e intertextualidad, desde ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd al-Kātib (m. 750) hasta al-Qalqašandī (m. 1418)

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Published on Tuesday, February 05, 2013 by Loïc Le Pape

Summary

This conference will address the evolution of chancellery styles, their regional diversity, and the history of the rhymed prose (sajʿ), this language of authority that was supposed to obey rules definitively fixed by the Prophet or the first secretaries of the Islamic Empire. What were the technical modalities for innovation? On what semantic, lexical, syntactical, and/or graphic levels did it manifest? Rather than on norms, codes, and rules, studies will focus on writing styles, orthographic variants, atypical handwriting, deletion, the transgression of norms, semantic revitalization, neologisms, and the variety of styles for citing the Quran or referencing ḥadīth. We are seeking to renew study of a corpus considered not as a fixed and ossified text, technical and off-putting, but as a living, evolving, and diverse ensemble.

Announcement

Presentation

Chancellery language was the language of power and kuttāb (secretaries-literary scribes). It changed with them and adapted to regional political contexts. Writers who mastered referential texts – Quran, ḥadīth, poetry, grammatical and previous pragmatic texts – developed and elaborated this language according to ideological premises that legitimized a specific political direction. Chancellery sajʿ reemployed and reused as proof of political and religious orthodoxy, and once the foundational texts had been established and accepted, prohibited any originality or innovation while also promoting them. Indeed, despite its outward conservatism, this form of language constantly evolved and innovated, therefore driving famous kuttāb to be cited as examples and to become models for their successors. This process thus allowed the textual corpus to grow with time and to integrate later texts with tradition and the oldest auctoritates. Heretofore, sajʿ has rarely been studied as a specific form of writing with its own codes. Because of disciplinary divisions, its “official” uses (sulṭāniyya) were mostly ignored by literary specialists, while historians neglected them as difficult and hermetic because of their copious use of rhetorical elements. They were less directly applicable than chronicles and geographical works for the political and administrative history favored in the twentieth century, and so have only been superficially used. Yet, these documents provide direct insight onto the workings of political thought in the Islamic World, from the Middle Ages to the period of colonization.

This conference will address the evolution of chancellery styles, their regional diversity, and the history of this language of authority that was supposed to obey rules definitively fixed by the Prophet or the first secretaries of the Islamic Empire. What were the technical modalities for innovation? On what semantic, lexical, syntactical, and/or graphic levels did it manifest? Rather than on norms, codes, and rules, studies will focus on writing styles, orthographic variants, atypical handwriting, deletion, the transgression of norms, semantic revitalization, neologisms, and the variety of styles for citing the Quran or referencing ḥadīth. We are seeking to renew study of a corpus considered not as a fixed and ossified text, technical and off-putting, but as a living, evolving, and diverse ensemble. For this, a transdisciplinary approach is necessary, and grammarians, linguists, historians, and literary specialists are invited to reflect together on these chancellery texts.

The chronological limits determined are the first texts attached specifically to inshā’, the creation of the chancellery, or the middle of the second/eighth century, and al-Qalqashandī’s essential compilation, Ṣubḥ al-aʿshā’, at the end of the eighth/fourteenth century.

Contributions may diachronically address the evolution of chancellery language in a single region, synchronically examine the differences between contemporary polities, present in detail the manuscript of a chancellery text –manual or formulary, preferably an original document, but possibly also one already published– or describe the type of modifications brought to a chancellery text when, considered as a model or masterpiece, it is cited by many successive authors in their own respective works.

Submission guidelines

Proposals (title, summary of approximately 2 500 characters) should be sent to Pascal Buresi (pburesi@ehess.fr)

before June 1st, 2013.

  • The ERC StG 263361 will cover travel and lodging costs for presenters not funded by their home institutions.
  • Presentations will be in French, English, and Spanish.
  • The selection of papers will be made by the scientific direction of the colloquium

Date(s)

  • Saturday, June 01, 2013

Keywords

  • chancellerie, langue arabe, littérature, corpus, diplomatique, édition

Contact(s)

  • Pascal Buresi
    courriel : pburesi [at] ehess [dot] fr

Information source

  • Pascal Buresi
    courriel : pburesi [at] ehess [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Arabic Chancellery Documents through the Prism of Historicity », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, February 05, 2013, https://calenda.org/237829

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