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Winter 2018 Events

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Rare Manuscripts of the Moroccan Royal Library:
An Introduction and Overview

Lecture by Dr. Khalid Zahri-Royal Library, Rabat, Morocco

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Thursday, February 8th, 6:00pm, HSSB 4080

The Royal Library in Rabat, known also as al-Khizāna al-Hassania is among the oldest libraries in the word. It houses precious documents and rare manuscript volumes acquired by ruling elite of Morocco. This lecture will describe some of the rare holdings of al-Khizāna al-Hassania, discuss issues related to Maghribi paleography, codicology, and art, imagery, and the symbolism and significance of color used in selected manuscripts. The lecture will also offer advice for potential researchers and suggest fruitful avenues for research in manuscripts at the Hassania Library.

Dr. Khalid Zahri is Assistant Director, Curator, and researcher for the manuscript collection of the Hassania Royal Library in Morocco. He travels widely to share his expertise in manuscript preservation and publication of glosses and commentaries. He has presented lectures and facilitated workshops across the Arab world, Southeast Asia, and Western Europe. He is an established expert in Muslim theology (kalām), Sufism, and the methodology of Islamic law (usūl al-fiqh). He has published close to 100 academic works in Arabic and French on a range of topics including "Kalām", "Usūl al-Fiqh", 'Tasawwuf", "Bibliography", "Cataloguing" (Fahrasah) and "Codicological and Philological studies", among them more than 20 books, including Maghribī Ashʿarī Sources (2017); From ʿIlm al-Kalām to Fiqh al-Kalām (2017), The Arabic Manuscript: New Horizons in Codicology, Philology, and Cataloging within the Islamic Manuscript Tradition (2017). He received his Diplome des Études Supérieurs (DES) (1992) and his PhD (2001) from Muhammad V University in Rabat at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. He has worked at the Hassania Royal Library from 2002-present, and at the National Library in years prior (1999-2002).

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Documenting Multiculturalism in Norman Sicily

Jeremy Johns (University of Oxford)

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Tuesday, February 6th
5:00pm, HSSB 4020

If Norman Sicily (circa 1060–1250) is famous for anything it is for the multicultural art and architecture of its rulers, from King Roger (r. 1130–1154) to his grandson Frederick II (r. 1198-1250). Monuments such as the Cappella Palatina– the chapel and audience hall in the chief royal palace in Palermo – deliberately juxtaposed elements imported from Byzantine, Islamic and Latin sources in order to create a unique multicultural art, which eloquently conveyed the political message that the Norman king, in the words of the royal minister and panegyrist Eugenius of Palermo, “harmonised the inharmonious, and mixed together the unmixable … with wise foresight blending and uniting into a single race disparate and incongruent peoples”.

Recent scholarship has largely revised the traditional assumption that royal multiculturalism grew organically out of the island’s past under Byzantine and Muslim rule, and was the spontaneous product of the proximity of Arab, Greek and Latin communities living side-by-side under the beneficent Norman kings. On the contrary, most of the elements used to manufacture royal multiculturalism – Byzantine mosaics and textiles, Arab painting and architecture, Romanesque sculpture – were imported to the island from contemporary sources, and not inherited from Sicily’s Byzantine or Islamic past.

So dazzling is the multicultural art and architecture of the Norman kings that it tends to obscure what may be called “popular multiculturalism” – the product of day-to-day interaction between the heterogeneous subject communities that lived under Norman rule. What is more, the administrative and legal documents that are virtually the only written sources for the administration of the subject communities of Sicily, and for relations between them, are still largely inaccessible and little known even to specialists in the field.

This talk describes a new project — Documenting Multiculturalism — which will publish online all of the documents from Norman Sicily – Arabic, Greek, Judaeo-Arabic and Latin – and use them to generate a series of fundamental research tools that will, for the first time, make it possible to observe the extent and the nature of interaction between the subject communities of Norman Sicily, in order to observe not just royal multiculturalism imposed from above, but also popular multiculturalism that, over two brief centuries, grew up from the soil of Sicily, flourished, and then faded. The talk will be illustrated with copious examples drawn from the documents themselves, and will present new digital images of many documents, including some that remain inedited.

Dr. Jeremy Johns worked as an archaeologist in Libya and Italy before reading History at Balliol College, Oxford. In 1985, he was appointed Lecturer in Early Islamic Archaeology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. In 1990, he returned to Oxford as University Lecturer in Islamic Archaeology. In 2004, he was appointed first director of the Khalili Research Centre for the Art and Material Culture of the Middle East, and in 2006 was made Professor of the Art and Archaeology of the Islamic Mediterranean. He is principally interested in the relationship between Islam and Christianity in the Mediterranean as manifested in material and visual culture. His research focuses upon the transition from late antiquity to early Islam in the Levant and, especially, upon Sicily under Islamic and Norman rule. He has published a monograph on the Arabic Administration in Norman Sicily (Cambridge, 2002), and more than seventy articles on the art, archaeology and history of the Islamic Mediterranean, especially Norman Sicily. Johns is currently writing up a project investigating the early Islamic rock crystal industry and working on his next project – Documenting Multiculturalism: coexistence, law and multiculturalism in the administrative and legal documents of Norman and Hohenstaufen Sicily, c.1060-c.1266.

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