Ties of Kinship and the Early Islamic Empire

Event Description

Leiden, 6-8 December 2021

(NB This conference was moved online due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic)

Birth of Zal

Shahanama, “the birth of Zal,” Met MS 34.72 (open access)

In December we will host an international online conference on the language of kinship in Islamic(ate) societies before the modern period (622–1500 CE). The Embedding Conquest (EmCo) team has been investigating the social, political, administrative, religious, and economic ties that sustained strategies and mechanics of protection and dependency in the early Islamic empire, contributing to shaping imperial rule under the Umayyads and the Abbasids. As part of our project, we study how writers and document producers expressed vertical and horizontal relationships, including the use of family terms. We now invite other researchers to join in our conversation focusing on relational ties that were expressed primarily through or as kinship. This international meeting will offer an opportunity to present new studies about practices, categories, and discourses through which kinship might

(i) connect individuals and groups to one another

(ii) contribute to binding an empire (or other large political entity) together.

We are interested in exploring how and when the language of kinship was implemented as a persuasive device, an operative category, and a problem-solving mechanism in premodern Islamic(ate) societies. When did the writers of our sources deploy kinship to describe or create group solidarity? What alternatives to kinship were used, instead, as a basis for expressing social cohesion? When was kinship construed for making claims? When was kinship invoked, and when was it deliberately omitted?

The conference will revolve around three major themes:
  • dynastic rule: presentations centered on caliphal and other ruling dynasties, sultanates, imamates, royal households, dynastic claims, and marriage politics;
  • family ties: presentations centered on kinship as part of family relations, households, consanguinity, adoption, property rights, and family law;
  • kinship outside the family: presentations centered on kinship as part of non-familial relations, tribal affiliation, spiritual kinship, slavery, clientship, and patronage.

We aim at a collaborative discussion about expressions of kinship and social or political relationships, including relationships giving cohesion to state institutions, empires, or dynasties, while also allowing for alternative definitions of kinship and contested visions of empire. Presenters may either focus on particular contexts or take on the approach of comparative, interconnected, or global histories.

We welcome a serious engagement with questions of method and/or theory, and we encourage the participants to be aware of recent anthropological perspectives on kinship. Important work on kinship, gender and reproduction in the modern Middle East has been conducted by Soraya Altorki, Soraya Tremayne, Soheila Shahshahani, and others. Authors who have recently engaged with kinship in historical studies of premodern societies include Jessica CoopeEve Krakowski, and Martina Deuchler. Among ongoing research projects centered on kinship, we would like to signal one based at the University of Bristol and one based at the University of Haifa.

Speakers: Ana Echevarría Arsuaga, Sobhi Bouderbala, Matthew Gordon, Shounak Ghosh, Ahmad Khan, Hugh Kennedy, Marie Legendre, Pia Maria Malik, Karen Moukheiber, Shirin Naef, Leone Pecorini-Goodall, Ekaterina Pukhovaia, Janina Safran, Josef Ženka, and EmCo team members Cecilia Palombo, Eline Scheerlinck, and Petra Sijpesteijn.

To receive the ZOOM-link for this meeting, please write to emco@hum.leidenuniv.nl




Monday, 6 December:

2:00—3:00 PM: Introduction and Keynote

Hugh Kennedy (SOAS University of London): Keynote address *[see below for bibliography]

3:00—4:00 PM

Janina Safran (Penn State University) –The Community of the Biographical Dictionary: Qadi Iyad’s Ghunya”

Karen Moukheiber (University of Balamand) – “Non-kin Relations, Gender and Music: The Narratives of Jamila, Sallama al-Zarqa, and Shariya in Kitab al-Aghani”

4:00—4:30 PM: Break

4:30—6:00 PM

Ahmad Khan (American University in Cairo) – “Seeing Relationships in the Archives: Khurasan and Egypt, Eighth-Tenth Centuries”

Marie Legendre (Edinburgh University) – “Brother, father, son, nephew: ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Marwān and al-Aṣbagh between regional leadership and claim to the caliphate”

Sobhi Bouderbala (University of Tunis) – “The Umayyad Family in Fusṭāṭ”


Tuesday, 7 December:

2:00—3:00 PM

Pia Maria Malik (University of Delhi) – “The Sufi who was a Sayyid: Muhammad Husaini Gisudaraz and the Chishtiyya fraternity”

Josef Ženka (Charles University of Prague) – “One  house  and  a  big,  “happy”  family:  Kinship  and  property  rights  in  the  15th  century  Granadan  legal documents”

3:00—4:00 PM (UPDATED)

Shounak Ghosh (Vanderbilt University) – “Ḵẖān-i Aʻz̤am’s Pilgrimage in Protest: A Case Study in Mughal Kinship and Imperial Politics, 1593–4″

Leone Pecorini Goodall (University of Edinburgh) – “Ibn ʿĀʾisha: Matrilineal kinship in the accession and reign of Hishām b. ʿAbd al-Malik”

4:00—4:30 PM: Break

4:30—5:30 PM

Ana Echevarría Arsuaga (UNED Madrid) – “Redefining Kinship Bonds among Christian Communities in al-Andalus”

Ekaterina Pukhovaia (Polonsky Academy in Jerusalem) – “Sayyids, tribal kinship, and the imamate in Zaydi Yemen”


Wednesday, 8 December:

2:00—3:00 PM (UPDATED)

Matthew Gordon (Miami University) –The Pearl’s Lament: The Trials of the Tulunid Household”

Shirin Naef (University of Zurich) – “Charity, property and kinship in the premodern Islamic Iran”

3:00—3:30 PM: Break

3:30—5.30 PM

Embedding Kinship: presentations and conclusions by the Embedding Conquest Team (Leiden University)

Cecilia Palombo, Eline Scheerlinck, Petra Sijpesteijn


*Bibliography for Hugh Kennedy’s Keynote Lecture:

Revisiting the Role of Tribes in Early Islamic History: Kinship or Construct

Ibn al-Kalbī’s Jamharat al-nasab. Ed. as Gamharat an-Nasab : das genealogische Werk des Hisam ibn Muhammand al-Kalbi by Werner Caskell (1966).

Al-Khatīb al-Baghdādī.  Ta’rīkh Baghdād.

Judy Ahola, The Community of Scholars: An Analysis of the  Biographical data from the Ta’rīkh Baghdād (unpublished) St Andrews PhD thesis (2005).

Al-Nabulusī, The Villages of the Fayyum: A Thirteenth-Century Register of Rural Islamic Egypt. Editors: Rapoport, Y., and Shahar, I., (Brepols, 2018).

Yossi Rapaport Rural Economy and Tribal Society in Islamic Egypt A Study of al-Nābulusī’s ‘Villages of the Fayyum’ (Brepols, 2018).

William Lancaster’s The Rwala Bedouin Today (Cambridge UP, 1981).

Hugh Kennedy, “Arab genealogical literature from oral memory to written record,” Arabica xliv, pp. 531–44.

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