The Digital Humanities + Islamic & Middle East Studies

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Apologies for the long hiatus in posting. If you’d like to know what I’ve been up to, check out Brown University’s Conference on the Digital Humanities + Islamic & Middle East Studies, which is being held on October 24-25. There is a live webcast, which can be accessed via the conference website. I’ve posted the program below.

Next week, I’ll return to regular programming.

Conference Program

Thursday, October 24, 2013

8:30 – 9:00 am: Coffee and pastries

9:00 – 9:30 am: Welcome and opening remarks by Kevin McLaughlin (Dean of the Faculty) and Beshara Doumani (Director of Middle East Studies, Prof. of History)

9:30 – 10:45 am: Digital Ethnography | chair: Beshara Doumani (Brown)

  • Peter McMurray (Harvard), “Berlin Islam as Acoustic Ecology: An Ethnography in Sound”
  • Nadia Yaqub (UNC), “Working with Indigenous Digital Humanities Projects: The Case of the Mukhayyam al-Sumud al-Usturi Tal al-Za‘tar Facebook Group”

10:45 – 12:00 pm: Manuscript Visualization and Digitization | chair: Sue Alcock (Brown)

  • Alex Brey (Bryn Mawr), “Quantifying the Qur’an”
  • David Hollenberg (Univ. of Oregon), “Preserving Islamic Manuscripts Under Erasure: The Yemeni Manuscript Digitization Initiative”

12:00 – 1:00 pm: Lunch (registered participants)

1:00 – 2:45 pm: Text Mining | chair: Beatrice Gruendler (Yale)

  • Maxim Romanov (Tufts), “Abstract Models for Islamic History”
  • Guy Burak (NYU library), “Comparing Canons: Examining Two 17th-century FatawaCollections from the Ottoman Lands”
  • Kirill Dmitriev (St. Andrews), “Arab Cultural Semantics in Transition”

2:45 – 4:00 pm: Databases | chair: Elli Mylonas (Brown)

  • Sebastian Günther (Göttingen), “A Database & Handbook of Classical Islamic Pedagogy”
  • Will Hanley (FSU), “Prosop: A Social Networking Tool for the Past”

4:00 – 4:15 pm: Coffee break

4:15 – 5:30 pm: Mapping | chair: Sheila Bonde (Brown)

  • Till Grallert (Freie Univ. Berlin), “Mapping the Urban Landscape through News Reports: Damascus and its Hinterlands in Late Ottoman Times”
  • Meredith Quinn (Harvard), “Putting Middle East and Islamic Studies On the Map”

5:30 – 6:45 pm: Reception, Watson Institute lobby

7:00 pm: Dinner for speakers, chairs, and invited guests at Faculty Club (1 Magee St.)

Friday, October 25, 2013

8:30 – 9:00 am: Coffee and pastries

9:00 – 10:15 am: Digitization and E-Publication | chair: Ian Straughn (Brown)

  • Dagmar Riedel (Columbia Univ.), “Manuscripts and Printed Books in Arabic Script in the Age of the E-Book: The Challenges of Digitization”
  • Chip Rossetti (Managing Editor, LAL), “Al-Kindi on the Kindle: The Library of Arabic Literature and the Challenges of Publishing Bilingual Arabic-English Books”

10:15 – 11:30 am: Disciplinary and Theoretical Considerations | chair: Elias Muhanna (Brown)

  • Afsaneh Najmabadi (Harvard), “Making (Up) an Archive: What Could Writing History Look Like in a Digital Age?”
  • Travis Zadeh (Haverford), “Uncertainty and the Archive: Reflections on Medieval Arabic and Persian Book Culture in the Digital Age”

11:30 am – 12:30: Keynote address by Dr. Dwight Reynolds (UCSB): “From Basmati Rice to the Bani Hilal: Digital Archives and Public Humanities”

12:30 – 2:00 pm: Roundtable discussion over lunch (registered participants)


Conference Description

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.


25 thoughts on “The Digital Humanities + Islamic & Middle East Studies

  1. A Little Levity from a Quiet Website

    Very impressed with Brown University’s ME Dept.

    BTW, who teaches JUDS0050L “The Jew in the Modern World”?

    I think there should be a pre-requisite for this course: “Jewish Control of the Modern World”. There are a LOT of well-educated people out there that could teach this class.


    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 24, 2013, 2:14 pm
  2. Obama sells out Israel and the Gulf States


    Posted by Akbar Palace | November 8, 2013, 8:30 am
  3. AP,


    Posted by danny | November 11, 2013, 7:45 pm
  4. Danny,

    What do you want to talk about? Do you follow the NFL?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | November 12, 2013, 8:47 am
  5. Go Jets 😀

    Posted by danny | November 12, 2013, 11:38 am
  6. Jets are a real surprise. But I’m betting the Jets mess up and miss the playoffs. I think the 6th seed will be the Chargers, Browns or Ravens. Geno Smith is too young.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | November 13, 2013, 12:21 am
  7. Karim Emile Bitar
    Senior French Diplomat tells me that in case there’s a Western-Iranian nuclear deal, Lebanon will be Saudi Arabia’s “Consolation Gift”
    Reply Retweet Favorite More
    10:21 AM – 9 Nov 13
    Rami Kiwan ‏@rami_kiwan 9 Nov
    .@karimbitar This is big.

    adnan hobalah ‏@adnanhobalah 9 Nov
    @karimbitar A poisoned gift !

    Andrew Hammond ‏@Hammonda1 9 Nov
    @karimbitar hate to think how thats gonna work out

    diana@Kawainassif ‏@kawainassif 9 Nov
    @karimbitar scary

    Corto de Breg ‏@cortodebreg 9 Nov
    @karimbitar as usual…

    Lebanon as a consolation prize?
    Will France formally hand it over to the new masters ?

    This is madness.

    Posted by lally | November 13, 2013, 12:41 am
  8. lally/diana,

    A “gift”? that’s a cyanide pill lol…Unless they move HA/Shiites out of Lebanon before “gift wrapping” it.

    Posted by danny | November 13, 2013, 8:30 am
  9. Sec of State “Lurch” vs. the Volcano

    The Western/Iranian nuclear deal: “We promise not to look too hard, and Iran promises not to weaponize
    their enriched nuclear fuel” please sign on the dotted line…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | November 13, 2013, 9:45 am
  10. Check out this little news story about “Yitzchak Rabin”. I thought Steve Plaut was kidding, but he wasn’t…



    Posted by Akbar Palace | November 13, 2013, 5:41 pm
  11. DANNY…? I’m not “diana”…not even a member of the twitterati. Just your average lurker.

    I can’t believe the Saudis would be so dumb as to want Lebanon; even for free! Have they learned nothing? One would think their buddies the Israelis would have clued them in…

    BTW, one would think that more than just the Shiites would have to be dispersed by the Saudi overlords. Druze, Christians, Palestinians and even some Sunnis might have some serious objections to becoming their subjects.

    Posted by lally | November 13, 2013, 7:06 pm
  12. Lally,

    There must be some “fumes” around this matter…As the king disciple himself; Nassrallah went to great lengths to dismiss this scenario…From Naharnet(translation)

    “Nasrallah: Do you expect that Iran will ask Hizbullah to abandon its rights, resistance and hand over the country to the other faction? Those who know Iran’s history know that this will not happen.”

    Posted by danny | November 13, 2013, 7:20 pm
  13. Lally,

    We can all thank the Iranian mukawamistas and the pro- Assad worshipers for warming the relationship between the KSA and GOI. They said it couldn’t be done, and we were all proven wrong. I guess survival makes strange bed-fellows…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | November 13, 2013, 10:57 pm
  14. Danny. Could be that his royalness is referring to demands being made of Iran; Assad was instructed to abandon HA in order to stay in place. Just because a policy proves to be insane doesn’t mean we will abandon it!

    “Unless they move HA/Shiites out of Lebanon before “gift wrapping” it.”

    A little strategic application of genocide could smooth the way.

    A Palace. The formerly clandestine affaire between the lil’ plucky and Saudi nobles is now making manifest. HSN has outright identified bibi as the spokesman for the Arabs.

    Who knows how deep is their love.

    Posted by lally | November 14, 2013, 1:08 am
  15. The King and Jew


    If you really want to see the regime supporters getting fried, just tune in Syria Comment here on the World Wide Web. I never saw so many arabs spouting hate directed at Bashar Assad. You’d think you were watching a Meir Kahane speech.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | November 14, 2013, 7:59 am
  16. Well lally…

    When the Sunnis and Druze in Syria are forcefully displaced only to “populate” those areas with Shias; you dare not call it a genocide. Try to stay objective and consistent.

    Either way the supreme servant of the faqih himself has already declared victory and is making preparations for a divine takeover of Lebanon. Listen carefully to the thuggish proclamations of Raad the past while.

    As for a swap or a deal to abandon HA; that will not happen for a variety of reasons. The most crucial being the safety of Israel. Bibi; or you so fondly quoted nassrallah (He should know. Bibi and him have that love hate abusive relationship that they won’t abandon) declaring him “the spokesman for Arabs”; has a special affinity for HA/Nassrallah. He’d rather have HA in Lebanon then some rag tag bunch of Jihadists who are still looking for virgins.

    Posted by danny | November 14, 2013, 10:47 am
  17. A palace:

    “just tune in Syria Comment here on the World Wide Web. I never saw so many arabs spouting hate directed at Bashar Assad. You’d think you were watching a Meir Kahane speech.”

    These dudes are supposed to be our proxies/allies. No thanks.

    The old SC was a revelation. The current version is redundant.


    HSN would regard the beebster with contempt; just as many of his Israeli subjects do. He’s regarded as a coward and is widely rumored to be afraid of his wife. That former Israeli generals express alarm @ his “messianic” nature should be taken into consideration by those professing deep caring about Israel’s security. Not Nassie’s kind of guy.

    Now Arik Sharon is/was different; there was an understanding of sorts between those two; his Lordship recently said of Sharon that he was Israel’s last king. The Russian pragmatist Avigdor Lieberman may well be a man with whom to do security business. His hatred of “Arabs” notwithstanding.

    What has Raad said of late that would trump the messages of Nasrallah?

    Were the Druze and Sunnis massacred en masse and if so, when? No local actors have the means to remove the Shiites from Lebanon and even the Free Saudi Air Force couldn’t effect that outcome if they tried.

    Some Israelis really really really do want to give it a go. Others do see the utility of HA up against the jihadis in Levant. They also concede that the party of G is vastly expanding capabilities and experience gained at the level of a fielding a national army; far beyond their expertise as a militia. Even a campaign of carpet bombing with Uncle Sammy’s best stuff might not prevent extensive damage to Israel and her peoples.

    Too many moving parts.

    Posted by lally | November 15, 2013, 1:41 am
  18. These dudes are supposed to be our proxies/allies. No thanks.


    Unfortuantely, we have no allies in the ME except for Israel. I think what we’re seeing is that there is no credible democracy movement in the Middle East. The only powers in the Middle East are violent autocrats and the moderates/liberals/democracy and freedom backers in the Middles East are simply powerless.

    It is difficult to see the pro-democracy crowd on SC going no-where. The only hope is that Assad goes and then the daunting task of repelling Sunni and Shia extremists. A near impossibility.

    Your backing of HSN is no different than al-Queda/Iran or Saudi Arabia. No power center is the Middle East wants freedom except for Israel.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | November 15, 2013, 9:49 am
  19. lally,

    Nassrallah trumps Nassrallah…


    I did not say Raad is trumping anyone; just threatening to cut off limbs again.

    As for forced displacement of Sunnis and Druze to create the Alawite corridor…it has been documented before and Mr. bobblehead himself, WJ, detailed it a few months ago. You do not need to massacre them to displace….See the refugees in Lebanon. As for HA; its fate/transformation is tied to Iran’s whim.

    Do you understand Arabic? If yes; take a listen. 😀

    Posted by danny | November 15, 2013, 11:46 am
  20. Danny. I don’t speak Arabic and even if I did, I wouldn’t be watching some M14 comic’s take on anything having to do with his easy target. Yuk yuk yawn.

    Forced displacement? Some might suggest that enhanced gentrification is a more accurate term…..;D

    The French apparently believe that Lebanon’s fate should rest in the hands of the Sauds.

    So where did Raad threaten to cut off someone’s (whose) limbs? He must be watching too many vids of the noble rebel forces beheading a suspected Shiite in his hospital bed. Oops. wrong sect as it turns out.

    Posted by lally | November 15, 2013, 7:33 pm
  21. Lally,

    As you do not speak Arabic and think all reporting of the great Nassrallah/Raad is fake unless it fits your visualization of their saintly behaviour…I obviously can not help you. 😀

    Posted by danny | November 16, 2013, 9:23 am
  22. I always thought Hassan’s job was freeing the Palestinians and the Lebanese by destroying the Zionist Entity.

    I guess the big surprise is his recent change in “job description”.

    Bashar Assad has exposed the muqawamistas real enemy: freedom.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | November 16, 2013, 12:42 pm
  23. Everyone is giving up on Obama. The Saudis, the Egyptians, and now the Israelis…


    Posted by Akbar Palace | November 16, 2013, 8:20 pm
  24. Jets looked bad today, but they’re still the no. 6 seed.

    This will change next week.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | November 17, 2013, 8:57 pm

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