Digital Humanities and Islamic & Middle East Studies

I try not to mix business and pleasure too often, but this conference that I’m organizing next semester at Brown University may be of interest to some folks. See below for our call to papers, and please feel free to publicize it widely. The website for the conference (still in development) is islamichumanities.org.


The Digital Humanities and Islamic & Middle East Studies: A Symposium

Brown University | October 24-25, 2013

Call For Papers

Over the past few decades, humanistic inquiry has been problematized and invigorated by technological advances and the concomitant emergence of what is referred to as the digital humanities. Across multiple disciplines, from history to literature, religious studies to philosophy, archaeology to music, scholars are tapping the extraordinary power of digital technologies to preserve, curate, analyze, visualize, and reconstruct their research objects.

The humanistic study of the Middle East and the broader Islamic world has been no less impacted by this new paradigm. Scholars are making daily use of digital tools and repositories including private and state-sponsored archives of textual sources, digitized manuscript collections, densitometrical imaging, visualization and modeling software, and various forms of data mining and analysis. However, there have been few calls to bring researchers together to showcase their experiments in digital humanistic scholarship within their respective fields, or to discuss the opportunities and challenges engendered by this changing scholarly ecosystem.

With this in mind, Middle East Studies at Brown University – with the support of the Brown Humanities Initiative – is pleased to announce a pioneering conference on October 24-25 2013 that will explore the state of the art in digital scholarship pertaining to Islamic & Middle East Studies. Some of the guiding questions we are interested in include:

(1) Where are the most important digitization projects of historical sources in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and other languages taking place around the world?

(2) What kinds of digital technologies and methodologies have proven most fruitful for scholars in different disciplines (e.g. data mining, pattern recognition, social network analysis, etc.)?

(3) How are existing technologies challenged by the manipulation of data in non-Western languages, and what are the most significant technological desiderata for researchers?

(4) As digital tools and media become more widespread, what ethical issues relating to privacy and human consent must be carefully considered, particularly in projects involving contemporary political and social issues?

We are happy to welcome as our keynote speaker Dr. Dwight Reynolds (Professor of Religious Studies, UCSB), who is among many other things the architect of the Sirat Bani Hilal Digital Archive, “an open access resource for the preservation and dissemination of audio recordings, written texts, photographic images and other materials related to the Epic of the Bani Hilal Tribe,” a thousand-year-old epic poem. The conference will be webcast and several papers may be selected for publication in an edited volume.

Submissions: We welcome submissions from scholars and graduate students in diverse disciplines. Interested candidates are kindly requested to submit a title and abstract of 300 words to the conference organizers at digitalhumanitiesconference {at} gmail {dot} com. The deadline for submissions is April 1st, 2013, and successful applicants will be notified by mid-April. Papers should be no longer than 20 minutes and should be read in English.

Depending on the number of participants, there will be limited funds available for travel and accommodation. Brown University is located in Providence, Rhode Island, about one hour south of Boston. For any questions, please contact Dr. Elias Muhanna at the email address above. Additional information will soon be available on the conference website.


5 thoughts on “Digital Humanities and Islamic & Middle East Studies

  1. Dear Elias,
    I have been away from your blog for toooo long. Thanks for all the postings. Suggestion regarding your upcoming conference is to somehow reach out to the social media people at the International Information Programs at the State Department. They will be interested in attending, if they get travel funding reinstated, with the budget sequester and all. If you have already done this, great. If not and you want to, let me know and I could help connect you.

    Posted by Debbie Trent | March 14, 2013, 10:20 am
  2. Hi Debbie

    Thanks for the suggestion. The target audience for the conference is really academics, not policy folks. I’m not aware of the International Information Programs. Are you talking about FLAS, etc?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 14, 2013, 11:02 am
  3. Hi, Elias.
    IIP is at State, Department of Education houses FLAS (if you mean the Foreign Language and Area Studies Program). IIP has a large and digital outreach staff, who might be interested in attending or at least “covering” the conference, unless you don’t want government folks there (which I can understand, given space/money constraints). Their public diplomacy/domestic public affairs function could benefit from what you all are exploring. See http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/#axzz2NWnVcmO1 as an example.
    All best.

    Posted by Debbie Trent | March 14, 2013, 11:28 am
  4. Oh I see. Yeah, not the right crowd. 🙂

    Thanks, though.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 14, 2013, 12:02 pm
  5. AOK. I still really appreciate the subject of the conference and I suspect that others who are public and cultural diplomacy analysts (among whom I count myself) will be interested in your paper and at least some of the others! Have a great conference!

    Posted by Debbie Trent | March 14, 2013, 1:18 pm

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