Nir Shafir

Wednesday, 12 December 2018, 5.00 pm - 6.30 pm |
Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

Pamphleteering Islam: New Media and New Publics in the 17th-Century Ottoman Empire

Nir Shafir
(University of California, San Diego / Irmgard Coninx Prize EUME Fellow 2018/19)

Chair: Georges Khalil
(EUME/ Forum Transregionale Studien)

Nir’s research examines the vernacular legal works that he calls “manuscript pamphlets” – cheap, hand-written, and very mobile texts that circulated widely and rapidly across the Ottoman Empire during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Like social media in our own times, these manuscript pamphlets developed new publics and connected the empire but they also created uneven and “lumpy” intellectual and political landscapes as their circulation disrupted traditional mechanisms of knowledge transmission and authorship. These effects in turn exacerbated the deep polemical debates in the seventeenth century about the proper practices and beliefs of Muslims that took place within the sphere of Islamic law. Manuscript pamphlets both turned law into the primary space for polemical political debate, as small disagreements over proper Islamic practices became major fights over political participation and were themselves the material agents of polarization. More broadly, his research asks how and why political polemicization emerges in the wake of new technologies of communication, whether manuscripts or the internet, and what are the social practices that allow for factionalism to abate.

Nir Shafir is a historian of the early modern Ottoman Empire. His research explores how shifts in material culture and religious practice shaped the intellectual and scientific life of the Middle East between 1300 and 1800. He received his doctorate in History from University of California, Los Angeles in 2016 and has an appointment as an Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego. In addition, he is currently editor-in-chief of the Ottoman History Podcast, the leading podcast on Islamic history in general, where he also curates the podcast’s history of science series. During the academic year of 2018/19, he will be the Irmgard Coninx Price EUME Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien associated with the Institute of Islamic Studies at Freie Universität Berlin.

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