Khamseen Islamic Art History Online

Khamseen: Islamic Art History Online is a brand new open-access platform making available Islamic art, architecture, and visual culture resources primarily to support the interactive learning and teaching of Islamic art history, and in particular educators “who face limited access to institutional and archival resources”, but also to “educate and inspire interested audiences outside of academia”.

This very promising platform was launched in October 2020 under the supervision of Christiane Gruber, Professor of Islamic art at the University of Michigan. The project received financial support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and is sponsored by the  Digital Islamic Studies Curriculum (DISC) at the University of Michigan.

At the time of our visit, Khamseen included a series of ten to fifteen minutes-long video presentations focusing on a variety of topics: Persian miniatures, Mosques architecture, textile in traditional Tentmaking, etc. To date, no less than twenty-five international Islamic art history specialists contributed to the the platform.

Additional resources included the following:

A selection of Teaching Resources for Islamic Art

An Audio and Video Recording Tools Guide

The recording of a 90-minutes Discussion of Online Resources for Teaching Islamic Art between Khamseen founder Christiane Gruber, Ruba Kan’an (Assistant Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture, University of Toronto), Michael Toler (Archnet Content Manager, Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT), and Matt Saba (Visual Resources Librarian for Islamic Architecture at the Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT)

Further developments of Khamseen will focus on: “(…) expand[ing] the range of subjects and materials to provide a rich repository of resources in the realm of digital Islamic humanities, [and] (…) expand[ing] the project’s accessibility and foster a global audience through closed captioning and providing content in multiple languages [seeking] to take the study of Islamic art out to the world, reaching a truly international level of engagement and learning thanks to the possibilities of integrated digital technologies.”

Interested people can find more information about the platform or follow future developments on social media: @khamseenislamicart (Instagram), @TeamKhamseen (Twitter), @KhamseenIslamicArt (Facebook).

KITAB : Knowledge, Information Technology, and the Arabic Book

Based at the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations at the Agha Khan University, in London U.K., KITAB is a project including both a searching tool for the textual exploration of the medieval Arabic written heritage, and an online discussion forum on Arabic texts. Since its creation in 2017, KITAB received funding from the Aga Khan University, the British Academy and the European Research Council.

Under the guidance of the principal investigator, Sarah Bowen Savant -cultural historian of the Middle East and Iran between 600-1500 A.D. and professor at AKU-ISMC- and the Advisory Board composed of eight international leading scholars in the fields of Islamic, Persian and Arabic studies, KITAB team of twenty-one scholars and computing specialists and five partners work relentlessly to develop new capabilities (i.e visualization tools, Optical Recognition Character, etc.)

The searching tool developed by KITAB team is able to detect proper names occurrences within a large corpus uncovering the complex relationships between medieval Arab authors and how ideas and knowledge circulated throughout the Arab World across time. The most recent developments have focused on the gathering of statistics on the reuse of ideas across the tradition including “the extent and precision of reuse.”

The KITAB corpus of Arabic texts produced between the eighth century and the fifteenth century A.D. largely comes from the Open Islamicate Texts Initiative, another collaborative project of Sarah Bowen Savant, Maxim Romanov and Matthew Thomas Miller. KITAB corpus is continually growing  in order “to increase both the number and the diversity of texts.”

Anyone can use KITAB corpus and searching tool. The Our Pilot page provides a brief overview of the data and tools created by KITAB. One of the goals of the project is to “bring all of [their] data and sources into the public domain and with the field to take best advantage of what digital technology now allows […] to see and to discover.”

For regular updates on the project you can check the Blog, the What’s New page, and Professor Savant’s Twitter account.

Kashkul / كشكول

Kashkul is a collective composed of Iraqi, Kurdish and American students, artists, and researchers based at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS). The group aims at collecting, preserving, translating when necessary, and making available to the general public literary, artistic, and archival materials produced in Iraq. A partnership with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) allows Kashkul to publish their collections through the International Digital Ephemera Project (IDEP).

Directed by Dr. Elizabeth Campbell, Professor of Middle East History at Daemen College in Amherst, New York, and Dr. Marie LaBrosse, an independent writer, translator and poet, who both used to work at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), Kashkul also includes six scholars focusing on the numerous projects. In 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, the collective welcomed two artists-in-residence: Kurdish painter and sculptor Ismail Khayat and Mexican poet David Shook.


Past and current Kashkul projects include:

  • Crux “aims to understand how devotion becomes violent and how violent devotion can become peaceful.” Crux relies on case studies of specific areas and creates “in-depth profiles of Islamic thought leaders who are influential within these communities.”
  • Talabani Tekiye studies the theology and religious practice of the Talabani Tekiye and Mosque of Kirkuk, a bastion of liberal Islam, “and how, over generations, people have maintained their openness.”
  • Mosul Lives is meant to provide “a picture of daily life in Mosul, before the Islamic State, and the American presence of 2003.” This projects is based on extensive interviews.
  • Handmade “documents traditional crafts and practices in Iraq and its Kurdish regions and the stories of those who continue them, preserving the cultural heritage of daily life.”
  • Film, Music and Art Archives aims at collecting and preserving “contemporary culture in Iraq and its Kurdish regions.” The database features a personal library for each artist including scans of their works, translation, subtitles, etc.
  • Arrival‘s goal is the publication of an anthology of Kurdish poetry in translation. Currently, the project focuses on selecting, translating, analyzing and comparing “critical literary contributions from every century of Kurdish poetry.”
  • The Abu Ghraib Collection includes “letters, objects, and books made by a political prisoner in Abu Ghraib under Saddam Hussein” showing “how prisoners maintained hope, connection and the ability to express their ideas.”
  • The Referendum collection focuses on “how people and their political parties campaigned, expressed opinions, and voted.”
  • The Stone Man was a collaboration between artist-in-residence Ismail Khayat and student artists  that resulted in a retrospective of Khayat’s work as well as a sculpture garden (The Stone Garden) located on the AUIS campus.
  • Kashkulistan is a manuscripts, and artifacts collecting, cataloguing and digitization project lead in collaboration with regional archives, collectors and scholars.


If you want to learn more about Kashkul and be informed of their activities, you may follow them on Instagram: @kash_kul

Amaliah

Launched in 2016 by Nafisa Bakkar, a 27th years-old entrepreneur based in London, U.K., Amaliah is an online media-platform aiming to serve as an amplifier for Muslim women’s voices. Rich of contributions from over 300 women living all around the World, Amaliah allows for different feminine experiences within Muslim communities to be made pubic and widely accessible. Amaliah is committed to inclusion trying to take a broad-range of perspectives into consideration when addressing issues.

Over the years, Amaliah and its founder received a lot of attention from main-stream media: they were featured in Forbes, The Telegraph, CNN, and The Guardian -to name only a few- increasing the platform’s visibility and leading to a digital footprint of over 3.2 million every month.

The platform categorizes its multimedia content (text, video & audio) in seven main categories:

  • Identity relays stories of personal journeys to becoming a woman
  • Relationships is interested in romantic relationships, family relationships, and the relationship individuals have with themselves
  • Soul focuses on the spiritual side of things (tips, advice, and experiences helping to nourish and boost one’s faith or comfort one’s heart
  • Fashion shares fashion and inspiration from bloggers
  • Beauty & Makeup brings beauty and make-up advice
  • Lifestyle aims at inspiring, guiding and motivating with content inspired by one’s personal interests and daily activities
  • World focuses on current affairs, news stories across the globe and trending topics.

The Amaliah Podcast won the 2019 ‘Grassroots Production of the Year Award’ from the Audio Production Award, and was nominated for the 2020 British Podcast Awards in the ‘Best Sex & Relationships Podcast’ category. The Podcast discusses Muslim life, culture and politics in the U.K.

If some of you have ideas that they would like to share, Amaliah welcomes new contributions and contributors. So don’t hesitate to contact them at contribute@amaliah.com!

Last, in March 2020, Amaliah introduced a membership option giving access to a variety of exclusive events and content. You can check out the Support page to learn more!

ArabLit: Arabic Literature and Translation

ArabLit: Arabic Literature in Translation is a blog launched in 2009 by Marcia Lynx Qualey, a freelance journalist living in Cairo who holds a Master Degree in creative writing from the University of Minnesota. In addition to maintaining ArabLit M. Lynx Qualey writes about Arabic literature for a number of newspapers and journals:  The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Your Middle East, and AGNI  Online, a literary journal published by Boston University.

Over time, ArabLit became a good source of daily news and views on Arab and Arabic literature and translation. As described in an interview by Claire Jacobson (for Asymptot): “her [Qualey’s] coverage leaves no stone unturned, spanning a wide range of genres (from poetry to nonfiction, magical realism to science fiction) and countries (from Morocco to Iraq, Sudan to Syria).”

In 2017, ArabLit won the prestigious Literary Translation Initiative Award at the London Book Fair, and M. Lynx Qualey launched the BULAQ Podcast in collaboration with Ursula Lindsey, from The Arabist. BULAQ focuses on contemporary writing from and about the Middle East and North Africa, and on literature (what does it do? Why does it matter? How does it relates to society, history and politics?). BULAQ is co-produced by Sowt, a podcasting platform producing and distributing high-quality audio programs in Arabic based in Amman (Jordan) and launched in 2016.

In 2018, with support from fans and readers (53,208 followers in July 2020), Qualey was able to develop ArabLit by launching new initiatives:

  • the ArabLit Story Prize is awarded every year to the best short stories recently translated from Arabic to English by non-previously published translators
  • ArabKidLitNow! provides a “fresh view on contemporary Arabic children’s literature, in Arabic and in translation” is addressed to  publishers, translators, readers of Arabic, Arabic language learners, readers of English, teachers, librarians, booksellers, etc.
  • ArabLit Quarterly is a theme-based “magazine that brings together Arabic literature, essays, wordplay, art, music, and food in translation”
  • ArabLit Store offers items and publications for purchase.

In 2020, despite de COVID-19 crisis, M. Lynx Qualey was able to:

  • Launch the 5th and 6th issues of ArabLit Quarterly covering “The road” and “The crime” themes, and start working on the 7th and 8th issues that will focus on “Cats” and “Dreams”
  • Start a “lock-in literature” series for readers with limited access to books during the COVID-19 shutdowns
  • Run the #ArabicTranslationChallenge with Kevin Blankinship, assistant Professor of Asian and Near Eastern Languages at Brigham Young University.

Interested people can follow Marcia Lynx Qualey on Facebook, Instragam, Twitter, Youtube, SoundCloud, or by subscribing to the Tiny Newsletter. Last, in order to support further development, ArabLit is welcoming donations.

The Arabist

Launched in Cairo (Egypt) in 2003 by Issandr El Amrani, a Moroccan-American writer and analyst, The Arabist is an independent blog covering “the domestic politics of Arab countries”. If the primary focus lies on Egypt, the blog also aims at exploring “broader issues in the Arab world, US policy in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and cultural developments throughout the region”. The blog is maintained in collaboration with Ursula Lindsey, a journalist interested in “culture, education and politics in the Arab world”, and welcomes contributions from multiple contributors, journalists and/or academics specializing in the region. After a very prolific decade, The Arabist is now less frequently updated, but remains nevertheless a valuable and reliable source of information for scholars interested in contemporary Arab politics.

Screenshot of ‘The Arabist’ main page, June 30, 2020.

The main page is used for posting links relevant to the themes of the blog, and is updated every couple of months. The Podcast & Projects tab in the top-left menu leads to additional resources: podcasts, press articles in translation, a guide to Egyptian political, economic and social issues, and an Egyptian magazine’s archive.

Bulaq: The Arab World in Books is a podcast started in November 2017. Co-hosted by Ursula Lindsey and Marcia Lynx Qualey, book critic, editor, ghostwriter, and literary consultant and editor-in-chief of ArabLit, Bulaq looks at the Middle East and North Africa “through the lens of literature and at literature through the lens of current events”.

From 2009 to 2014, The Arabist Podcast focusing on Egyptian politics during the revolution and its aftermath was co-hosted by Issandr El Amrani and Ursula Lindsey.

The 80+ episodes of both podcasts can be listened to and/or downloaded from their respective pages.

The Sabry Guide was developed in 2012 by Bassem Sabry, an Egyptian political analyst who passed away prematurely in 2014, to provide an overview of the political, economic and social challenges facing post-Mubarak Egypt, with a a focus on the everyday problems encountered by the Egyptian population. Re-arranged for clarity, this guide will be of interest to scholars working on contemporary Egypt.

From 2011 to 2018, in partnership with the firm Industry Arabic, ‘The Arabist’ regularly published materials selected from the Arabic press In (English) Translation.

Last but not least, The Cairo magazine archive makes available the 30 issues of this “magazine for News, Business and Culture” published between March and November 2005.

Palestinian Journeys

Palestinian Journeys is a collaborative project of the Palestinian Museum and the Institute for Palestine Studies. The Palestinian Museum is an independent institution founded in 1997 by the Taawon Welfare Association with the goal of promoting a dynamic vision of Palestinian culture engaged with new perspectives on history, society and culture. The Institute for Palestine Studies is an independent not-for-profit research institution founded in 1963 to document Palestine and and publish ground-breaking scholarship on historical and contemporary Palestine.

Powered by by Visualizing Palestine, whose productions we already highlighted on this blog (here), the Palestinian Journeys platform is continuously populated with valuable content.

Palestinian Journeys main page

The platform is discoverable via two main entries accessible from the left-hand side of the screen: the “Timeline,” and the “Stories.

The Timeline, “an ever-growing encyclopedic collection of historical events, biographies, themed chronologies”. Originally  created by he Institute for Palestine Studies, it aims at highlighting historical, socioeconomic and cultural themes, relying on historical documents, and multimedia content. From within the timeline, various categories are available:

  1. Ottoman Rule
  2. Early Mandate Period
  3. Second Mandate Period
  4. The Palestine War and the Nakba
  5. Reverberation of 1948 Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict
  6. The Rise of the Palestinian Movement in the Wake of the 1967 Arab Defeat
  7. From a Sense of Victory to separate Peace and civil War
  8. Palestinian Defeat, Division and Survival
  9. The first Intifada and the beginning of Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations
  10. The Oslo process and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority
  11. The Aqsa Intifada and the end of an Era in Palestinian Politics
  12. A Palestinian Authority divided, Israeli Assaults on Gaza and Peace process Setbacks.

Stories

In addition, an “Inspire me” category allows visitors to discover the Palestinian Journeys through a selection of marking moments, events, and characters, and a search feature allows visitors to focus on a specific event or theme they are interested in.

Inspire me

A short description including source is available for each document, and sometimes related content is suggested:

The interface is bilingual English-Arabic.

La fabrique du Caire moderne

La fabrique du Caire moderne is a “pilot project about urban development, architecture, Euro-Mediterranean entanglements and global investment in Cairo in the 19th and 20th centuries.”

The project is is co-directed by Professors Mercedes Volait (CNRS) and Adam Mestyan (Duke) and conducted in collaboration with researchers from:

Hosted by Duke University, the blog includes news items and announcements relating to the project as well as lengthy thematic articles and descriptions of relevant archival documents (photographs, plans, maps, etc.).

The Sources page references the main photo albums used to conduct the research.

Last, the website is trilingual: Arabic, French and English.

Qur’an Manuscript Studies Blog = المخطوطات القرآنية معنية بدراسات وترجمات المخطوطات القرآنية المبكرة

The Qur’an Manuscript Studies Blog is maintained by Ahmed Wissam Shaker, an independent researcher, translator, and editor (Journal of Religious Studies), whose scholarship focuses primarily on the study of early Qur’anic fragments written in Kufic script (first two centuries of Islam). Launched around 2015, the blog is regularly updated, highlighting not only Shaker’s works but also significant developments in the field of Qur’anic Studies.

If Ahmed Shaker is a professional translator (English to Arabic), most of the content on the Qur’an Manuscript Studies Blog is posted in Arabic. In addition to having studied fragments from all over the Arab World (Yemen, Kuwait, Turkey, Abu Dhabi, Egypt, etc.), Shaker also developed numerous catalogues, bibliographies, surveys and guides to help other researchers in the field.

The downside of the Qur’an Manuscript Studies Blog is that content is not categorized nor tagged making it difficult to navigate. The search bar helps to find articles relevant to one’s research, but it would be nice to be able to browse by topic. Apart from this, the Qur’an Manuscript Studies Blog is undoubtedly a very valuable resource for any scholar interested in early Qur’anic manuscripts.

All the content from the blog can be used for non-commercial purposes and as long as it is appropriately credited.

A selection of electronic resources for Islamic, Middle East and South Asia studies

AMIR (Access to Mideast and Islamic Resources) “began as a consequence of a series of conversations in 2010 between Charles Jones and Peter Magierski at New York University about the need for a tool to assemble and distribute information on open access material relating to the Middle East.” As of March 2020, it includes over 1,300 posts describing Open Access resources relevant for Islamic and Middle East studies.

Arabic Collections Online (ACO) “is a publicly available digital library of public domain Arabic language content. ACO currently provides digital access to 12,810 volumes across 7,469 subjects drawn from rich Arabic collections of distinguished research libraries.”

Bibliothèques d’Orient is a collaborative digital library (15 partners) making accessible more than 10,000 historical and scholarly documents.

Hathi Trust “is a not-for-profit collaborative of academic and research libraries preserving 17+ million digitized items. HathiTrust offers reading access to the fullest extent allowable by U.S. copyright law, computational access to the entire corpus for scholarly research, and other emerging services based on the combined collection.”

Internet Archives is a not-for-profit digital library of Internet sites, books and texts, audio recordings, videos and images, and software programs. It provide free access to billions of resources.

The Library of Congress digitized a large part of their collections making them available for free on their website that includes archival and historical materials, manuscripts and rare books, music, videos and much more.