Lekh: an online review of books on South Asia

Launched in 2017, Lekh is a blog publishing reviews of books focusing on contemporary South Asia co-edited by Karthik Nachiappan (PhD in South Asian Studies, King’s College London) and Hassan Javid (PhD in Sociology, London School of Economics & Political Science).

Editors felt the need for such a platform because of the “intellectual insularity” resulting from the dispersion of the scholarship on South Asia “across several fields and disciplines – history, law, political science, international relations, public policy, sociology, anthropology, and economics.” Lekh aimed at becoming a place where scholars and litterateurs working in the field of South Asian Studies could share  scholarship and exchange with peers.

Unfortunately, Lekh published very few book reviews in two years, never started the announced podcast, and seems to be struggling to generate interest and engagement from other scholars. That said, published book reviews are lengthy, well written and documented by recognized South Asian Studies scholars. For this reason, this blog remains an valuable initiative deserving South Asian Studies’ specialists’ attention.

If you are interested in submitting book reviews, you can refer to the guidelines, and if you would like to be advised of Lekh‘s developments, you can follow them on twitter , subscribe to their RSS feed, or register to receive email notifications.

 

Jadaliyya

Jadaliyya is an independent electronic magazine published by the Arab Studies Institute, a not-for-profit organization based in Beirut that produces knowledge on the Arab World .

English Interface

Far from the main-stream media and common perspectives, Jadaliyya offers original insight and critical analysis rooted in local knowledge, scholarship, and advocacy. Jadaliyya is supported by a dedicated team of volunteer contributors among whom a number of well-known academics, journalists, and intellectuals like Sinan Antoon and Bassam Haddad. With a bilingual interface (EnglishArabic), and articles in Arabic, French, English, and Turkish, Jadaliyya aims to reach out to a broad audience located in Europe, North America, and the Middle East.

Arabic interface

Jadaliyya contents can be browsed from the main page by country (Egypt, Palestine, Arabian Peninsula, Syria, Turkey, Maghreb) or by category (Refugees and Migrants, Cities, Culture, Law and Conflict, Political Economy, Pedagogy, Reviews, NEWTON, Reports, Media).

Articles can also be searched using the search window next to the categories (top menu), or discovered via the Jad Navigation page featuring “Recent stories”, “Jadaliyya recommends”, and “Arab Uprisings selections”.

“Pages” menu

The Pages menu at the top left corner of pages offers a wealth of information about the journal and its contributors. For questions or further information, you may visit the Contact Us page.

A quick guide to transliterating Arabic, Persian or Urdu on your computer

Scholars in the West relying on sources in languages written in Arabic script (such as Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish or Urdu) often need -if only to search the library catalogues- to be able to write the Arabic script in a transliterated or romanized form. This post offers a quick guide to transliterating or romanizing languages written in Arabic script. Transliteration and romanization are used interchangeably to designate the action of writing the Arabic characters in Latin characters.

1. Transliteration systems

Transliteration and romanization system are based on adding diacritic marks to Latin characters to render letters and sounds that don’t exist in English. Numerous transliteration standards are available (ALA-LC, ISO, IJMES for example) which might be confusing, but the most important is to be consistent once you have chosen a system. It is important to note as well that each language -even if written in Arabic script- will have a proper transliteration system. Most North American libraries use the ALA-LC (Library of Congress) romanization tables whereas a number of European libraries use the ISO 233 transliteration standard. Knowing the differences between ALA-LC and ISO 233 will help search library catalogues much more efficiently. Last, some journals or publishers have their own transliteration system which they require authors to use: knowing which standard is used in a specific publication will often make using it much easier.

2. Diacritic marks

The main challenge with romanization is the consistent encoding of letters with diacritic marks. Using a persistent encoding standard will ensure the marked letters display properly regardless of the document format, type of device, or exploitation system you are working on. Inconsistent encoding will result in alterations of the text where letters turn into different signs, often illegible.

3. Encoding standard

The computing standard for consistent encoding of non-Latin scripts is the UNICODE TRANSFORMATION FORMAT (UTF). Developed in the early 1990s by a not-for-profit consortium made of large computing companies (Adobe, Apple, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle) and governmental agencies, UNICODE is regularly amended to include more characters. At present, it allows to write 150 different scripts among which Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, Urdu and  their romanized forms. Different UTF standards are available, but the most commonly used are UTF-8 (in particular for HTML web documents) and UTF-16 (especially for text documents in both Windows and mac OS environments).

4. Typefaces (fonts)

In order to encode letters in UTF, you need to use one of the rare typefaces that support UNICODE characters such as Arial Unicode MS on PCs, and either Times New Roman, Helvetica or Lucida Grande on mac. If not among the default typefaces available on your computer, these fonts can easily be downloaded for free from the internet.

5. Transliterated letters input

Once you have a typeface compatible with UNICODE, you need a tool allowing the input of characters and diacritic marks. Because regular keyboards layout cannot accommodate key combinations for all characters with diacritics, alternative methods were developed by operating systems: the Microsoft Windows Character Map and the Extended Accent Codes for Mac will give you access to the entire repertoire of UNICODE characters.

6. Additional information

The Arabic Macintosh website is a very valuable resource for mac users interested in transliterating the Arabic script. The Digital Orientalist dedicated a lengthy post to keyboard layouts in both mac OS and Windows environments.

Pierre de Gigord collection of photographs of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey, 1853-1930

French businessman Pierre de Gigord compiled an important collection of Ottoman-Era photographs in the eighties while traveling in Turkey. This collection of more than 6,000 photographs taken by over 165 photographers documents the late years of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. The bulk of the collection is urban sites in Constantinople (Istanbul), the Balkans, Bursa and Smyrna (Izmir) as well as sites in Greece, Egypt, Palestine, India and China. In addition to photographs, the collection includes a few pamphlets and offprints about photography in the Ottoman Empire and a small collection of photographic ephemera. Pierre de Gigord collection of photographs now housed in the Getty Research Institute was recently digitized and made openly available to the public. The digitization project prioritized images from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (up to World War I).
A detailed finding aid available on the Getty Library website gives access to a descriptive summary, biographical and historical notes, a lengthy description of the scope and content of the collection as well as to a container list.

Individual descriptive records (see below) are very detailed showing at first sight if the material is accessible online and allowing to link directly to the digital images. They can be printed, saved, shared and cited directly from the database (export to RIS format, Bibtex, Endnote, Easybib, and Refworks).

Albums can be browsed and images viewed in a custom-made reader displaying one page/one image in the middle column, a clickable list of pages/images on the left-hand side, and a summary of the descriptive record on the right-hand side. Images can be downloaded, printed, enlarged up to actual size and turned left or right.

As in any digital collection use restrictions apply. If the website states that “digital images and files saved from this website should be suitable for most purposes”, more information is available on the Library Reproductions & Permissions page.

Historical Maps of the Middle East in Open Access

Today we are highliting three online resources making freely accessible historical maps of the Middle East: Palestine Open Maps, the Perry-Castañeda Library Map collection, and The Afternoon Map.

Palestine Open Maps is a platform making available and searchable historical maps from the British Mandate of Palestine period (1920-1948). Materials come from a number of institutions like the National Library of Israel, the National Library of Australia, the David Rumsey Map Collection. The platform includes a large collection of 1940s survey maps in the public domain “covering the territory at scales of up to 1:20,000. It also offers great search and overlay capabilities highlighting the human, natural, and urban geography transformations over the past century. Initiated in March 2018 by Vizualing Palestine and Columbia University Studio-X Amman, Palestine Open Maps is now maintained and developed by Vizualizing Palestine in collaboration with individuals. More information about the platform, the map collection or terms of use can be obtained here.

Screenshot of the Palestine Open Maps platform, July 24, 2019.

The Perry-Castañeda Library Map collection at the University of Texas at Austin includes  over 250,000 maps among which a number of historical maps of the Middle East. If only 20% of the overall maps collection has been digitized so far, the effort to make more content available online is continued. Published between 1849 and 1973, The Middle East maps collection cover the Arab World, Turkey and Iran from 500 B.C. to the 1970s. Materials are listed alphabetically by name of locality, and accompanied by a brief description. They can be opened, downloaded or saved in PDF format. More information about the collection or terms of use can be obtained here.

Aleppo [Alep] 1912. From Palestine and Syria… Handbook for Travellers by Karl Baedeker, 5th Edition, 1912.

The Afternoon Map is an Ottoman-Turkish-Middle Eastern-Balkans cartography blog launched and maintained by Dr. Nicholas Danforth, Senior Policy Analyst at Bipartisan Policy Center. The purpose of this academic blog is to publish “original, visually appealing and intellectually engaging maps harvested from archives and libraries around the world.” Maps are systematically introduced and put in historical context, and can easily be downloaded and saved. In addition to historical maps, the blog includes “Home Made Maps” covering a broad range of topics like earthquakes death, folk song, food, borders or trains. Last, The Afternoon Map also posts “Non Maps” (pictural materials like posters or caricatures), and “Articles” on a variety of topics authored by the blog’s owner. For more information about the maps or terms of use, or to contribute to the blog, contact the author.

Screenshot of The Afternoon Map blog, July 25, 2019.

Islamic Manuscripts Scientific Initiative

The  Islamic Scientific Manuscripts Initiative (ISMI) is a collaborative project between researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (Germany) and McGill Institute of Islamic Studies in Montreal (Quebec, Canada) aiming at making available information on Islamic manuscripts in the exact sciences. As such it includes manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and other languages covering a broad range of topics like astronomy, mathematics, optics, mathematical geography, music, mechanics, etc.

Initiated in 1996, the project was over the years funded by numerous government agencies and private institutions. It is currently supported by the Canada Research Chair in the History of Science in Islamic Societies and Compute Canada.

The ISMI database gives access to authors, their works, and extant manuscript witnesses in the various fields of the sciences. links metadata with manuscripts images  When possible, digital images are made public. Designed to facilitate research on these materials, the database allows for great flexibility in cross-searching descriptive fields (author, title, place of production, dates, etc.). Alternatively, the database can be browsed by name, title, place of production but also repository, etc. Results always display as a list where items are clickable.

 When made public, scanned images display in a reader offering single page, double page or thumbnails view. Digital copies include photographs of the binding, flap, spine and page edges allowing for a better codicological understanding of the codex. “Unless otherwise noted all ISMI content can be used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license: CC-BY-SA.”

Any questions and/or feedback can be sent to ismi-feedback@mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de.

Online exhibition: “If Walls Could Speak: The History of Morrice Hall”

After displaying a physical and touch table exhibitions in the Winter of 2018, the Islamic Studies Library is pleased to launch the online version of If Walls Could Speak: The History of Morrice Hall. Accessible from the main page of our blog (see capture below), this online exhibition retraces the history of  Morrice Hall currently home to McGill’s Institute of Islamic Studies (IIS), Islamic Studies Library (ISL), and Tuesday Night Café Theatre (TNC).

Using a mix of drawings, photographs, plans and maps, publications, and video, this online exhibition takes you through the history of the building since its construction in 1882: from Presbyterian College, to war hospital, to offices for the International Labour Organization during WWII, to a house for McGill University departments.

The original display was curated by y Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian (Senior Library Clerk, ISL), Jillian Mills (Senior Library Clerk, ISL) and Anaïs Salamon (Head Librarian, ISL) with the help of Gregory Houston (New Media & Digitization Administrator, Digital Initiatives) for the creation of the Touch Table exhibit.

This online version is the result of a School of Information Studies practicum student -Gabriela Cestero-‘s work in the Winter 2019, with the support of Ekaterina Grguric (User Experience and Digital Technologies Librarian, Digital Initiatives) and Gregory Houston (New Media & Digitization Administrator, Digital Initiatives).

Full page screenshot of the “Foundation” page, 2019.

Special thanks go to the McCord Museum, the Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives, and Library and Archives Canada for allowing us to publish photographs from their collections. Please note that copyright rests with them, and that any download or reproduction remains subject to their approval.

Persian Culture Workshops at the Redpath Museum in May & June 2019

Located on the McGill campus, the Redpath Museum is an academic unit of the University. “Its mandate is to foster understanding and appreciation of the diversity of our biological, geological, and cultural heritage through scientific research, collections-based study, and education.”

As part of its Spring programming, the Redpath Museum will be hosting two series of  Persian Culture Workshops in English designed respectively for children ages 7-9 and ages 10-12. The workshops, offered by Dr. Farshid Sadatsharifi, visiting scholar at the McGill Institute of Islamic Studies, and Mrs. Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian, Senior Library Clerk at the Islamic Studies Library of McGill University will explore “the historical events, the colorful medieval paintings and the beautiful collection of poems kept within the pages of the Persian Epic of Kings.”

The full programming is as follow:

  • May 5th: The Persian Epic of Kings – Part 1 (ages 7-9)
  • May 12th: The Persian Epic of Kings – Part 2 (ages 7-9)
  • June 1st: The Persian Epic of Kings – Part 1 (ages 10-12)
  • June 15th: The Persian Epic of Kings – Part 2 (ages 10-12)

Please note that as space is limited, registration is required and will close a few days before the workshops.

Facebook users may follow the series there: The Persian Epic of Kings for Children ages 7 to 9 and The Persian Epic of Kings for Children ages 10 to 12.

To go further, the Islamic Studies Library collection includes a significants number of miniatures and manuscripts copies of the book Shahnameh – Epic of Kings. Some of them are accessible online in the Shahnameh by Ferdowsi digital exhibition:

For more information about Persian culture, you may visit the Islamic Studies Library of McGill University.

A new acquisition!! Eastlaws, an Arabic legal database

Founded in 1995 in Alexandria, Egypt, Eastlaws network specializes in the production of Arab legal programs as well as on the automation of prosecutions, courts, law firms, and legal departments. As such, the network collects, indexes, and makes available legal documents originating from professional associations, administrative units at all levels of Arab judiciary Institutions, Faculties of Law and legal Research Institutes, legal Departments of private Companies, and international Organizations. Eastlaws database includes a wide variety of legal sources such as court rulings, legislations, fatwas, Islamic judicature, etc.

The Islamic Studies Library and the Nahum Gelber Law Library recently subscribed to a number of modules from Eastlaws providing the McGill community with access to original legal sources from the Arab World. The list of modules available to us is as follow:

  • Legislative Database for 18 countries (Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, KSA, Oman, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Algeria and Lebanon)
  • Rulings Database  for 18 countries (Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, KSA, Oman, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Algeria and Lebanon)
  • International Commercial Arbitration
  • International and Arab Treaties and Conventions
  • Administration fo Fatwa
  • Islamic Judicature
  • Legal Terminology
  • Legal Dictionary.

It is important to note that all documents in Eastlaws are in Arabic. A very basic translation into English and French can be generated by Google Translate, embedded within the database. The interface of the database itself is also in Arabic, and partially available in English (some menus and options are not translated).

To access Eastlaws database, there are a number of options:

  • The McGill library catalogue

  • The Database A-Z list from the Library main page

  • The Islamic sources subject guide