2018 Symposium : “Navigating Language in the Early Islamic World”, 6-7/04/2018, Knoxville (Tennessee).

April 6-7, 2018
UT International House Great Room

In the last few years of the seventh century, the Marwānid Reforms established Arabic as the administrative language of the Umayyad Caliphate. Coins, inscriptions, and papyri subsequently attest the use of Arabic in caliphal and local administration. Despite the centrality of Arabic as a sacred language to Muslims, the language of the Qurʾān, it was appreciated across religious boundaries such that Christians and Jews quickly began composing and engaging texts in Arabic. Arabic adorns monuments, manuscripts, and clothing, attesting to its broad appeal and high aesthetic value.

Yet despite its centrality, Arabic did not spread evenly or quickly throughout the entire Islamic world. Even though Arabic became a commercial and religious language from Central Asia to the Iberian Peninsula, the populations of many provinces continued to write and converse in other languages such as Persian, Armenian, Coptic, and Syriac, to name a few. This symposium situates the history of Arabic and Arabization within a broader setting of linguistic diversity in the Islamic world in three ways. First, it seeks to understand multilingualism in an ethnically and religiously pluralist environment, including through engagement with studies of the pre-Islamic Near East. Second, it explores the way that communities produced, employed, and transformed Arabic in their own settings. Third, it contributes to the ongoing discussion of textual and oral transmission of narratives and historical accounts between the various languages of the Islamic world.

This year’s Symposium will feature the following speakers:

  • Fred Astren (Professor and Chair of Jewish Studies, San Francisco State University)
  • Antoine Borrut (Associate Professor of History, University of Maryland)
  • Aaron Butts (Assistant Professor of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures, Catholic University of America)
  • Muriel Debié (Directeur d’études in Religious Studies, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris)
  • Marie Legendre (Lecturer of History, SOAS)
  • Judith Lerner (Independent Scholar)
  • Khodadad Rezakhani (Associate Research Scholar, Princeton University)
  • Petra Sijpesteijn (Professor of Arabic, Universiteit Leiden)
  • Philip Stokes (Assistant Professor of Arabic, UTK)
  • Alison Vacca (Assistant Professor of History, UTK)

Image: C 240 (obv), The David Collection, Copenhagen. Photo: Pernille Klemp.

The 2018 Symposium is organized by UTK professors Manuela Ceballos (Religious Studies), Tina Shepardson (Religious Studies), and Alison Vacca (History), together with Antoine Borrut (History, Univ. of Maryland).

The event is free and open to the public. There is no official registration required, but if you would like us to print you a name tag, please email our Program Coordinator, Dr. Katie Hodges-Kluck, at marco@utk.edu by March 31.


Lodging for the 2018 Symposium:

  • We have set aside a small block of rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn Knoxville/University for people attending the 2018 Symposium. The hotel is located next to campus, approximately one block from the UT International House, where most Symposium events will take place. A limited number of queen rooms are available at the rate of $129/night. To book, call the Hilton Garden Inn at 865-437-5500 and ask for group code MAA, or follow this link to book online: http://hiltongardeninn.hilton.com/en/gi/groups/personalized/T/TYSKNGI-MAA-20180405/index.jhtml?WT.mc_id=POGThe special room rate will be available until March 15th or until the group block is sold out, whichever comes first.
  • The University of Tennessee has a limited number of residences available to university guests at the rate of $40/night. For information on these, visit: http://housing.utk.edu/conferences/guest/


Hassan Bouali

Doctorant en histoire médiévale à l'université Paris Nanterre ( Paris X). Travaille sur le califat d'Ibn al-Zubayr (64/683-72/692).

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