Al-Azhar in the Bibliographic Imagination

In: Journal of Arabic Literature

Abstract

This article interrogates the discursive substance of the library in the modern production of knowledge. It proceeds in two parts: the first section explores the locations of the idea of the Library in the modern episteme, while the second analyzes its importation and application in Egypt, and its implications for reforms at al-Azhar. Beginning with an exploration of the place of books and libraries as symbols and indices of civilizational progress in the modern West, it then moves to their mobilization in national and imperial state projects. Shifting to Egypt, it shows how modern assumptions distort readings of a pre-modern text by an Azhari scholar, before analyzing the internalization of a Western bibliographic discourse in the late nineteenth-century and beyond, culminating in today’s ‘Azhar Online’ digitalization project, where technical, didactic and ideological aims are discursively positioned in a dialectic of ‘education for heritage, heritage for education.’

  • 4

    Ibid., 4: 1266.

  • 8

    Maurice Halbwachs, Les cadres sociaux de la mémoire (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1925).

  • 9

    Maurice Halbwachs, The Collective Memory (New York: Harper and Row, 1980), 51.

  • 10

    Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 19. For an erudite engagement with these themes and others pertaining to the image of the library in European literature, see Debra Castillo’s The Translated World: A Postmodern Tour of Libraries in Literature (Tallahassee: Florida State University Press, 1984).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 11

    Daniel Walsh, “ ‘On Fire or On Ice’: Prefatory Remarks on the Library,” Reference Librarian 18 (1987), 234. Unless otherwise stated, emphases in quotations are mine.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 15

    James Boyd White, The Legal Imagination (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1985), xv.

  • 16

    Edward W. Said, “Michel Foucault as an Intellectual Imagination,” Boundary 2: 1 (1972): 25.

  • 18

    Jeffrey Garrett, “Missing Eco: On Reading The Name of the Rose as Library Criticism,” The Library Quarterly, 61: 4 (1991), 382.

  • 19

    Michael H. Harris, “The Dialectic of Defeat: Antinomies in Research in Library and Information Science,” Library Trends 34 (1986), 518. While he did not explicitly acknowledge it, the writings of G.W.F. Hegel and Francis Bacon amongst others played a central role in Dewey’s bibliographic thinking. See further Wayne A. Wiegand, “The ‘Amherst Method’: The Origins of the Dewey Decimal Classification Scheme,” Libraries & Culture 33: 2 (1998): 175-94

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 20

    Michael H. Harris, “State, Class, and Cultural Reproduction: Toward a Theory of Library Service in the United States,” Advances in Librarianship 14 (1986), 216.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 22

    Richard H. Brown and Beth Davis-Brown, “The Making of Memory: the Politics of Archives, Libraries and Museums in the Construction of National Consciousness,” History of the Human Sciences 11: 4 (1998), 18. (Emphasis in the original).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 23

    Harris, “State, Class,” 228-9. (Emphasis in the original).

  • 25

    Foucault, “Fantasia,” 89, 87.

  • 28

    Radford, “Flaubert, Foucault,” 616.

  • 30

    Foucault, “Fantasia,” 94.

  • 33

    James Carey, “The Paradox of the Book,” Library Trends 33 (1984), 106.

  • 34

    Foucault, “Fantasia,” 99.

  • 39

    Foucault, “Fantasia,” 104.

  • 41

    Ibid., 177. See also, Timothy Mitchell, Colonising Egypt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 31.

  • 42

    Foucault, “Fantasia,” 105.

  • 45

    Cited in Dorothy Mackay Quynn, “The Ecole des Chartes,” The American Archivist 3 (1950), 271.

  • 46

    Dew, Orientalism, 13.

  • 48

    Ian Willison, “The National Library in Historical Perspective,” Libraries & Culture 24: 1 (1989), 76.

  • 49

    Dew, Orientalism, 20-1.

  • 51

    Willison, “National Library,” 76.

  • 52

    Jack A. Clarke, “Abbe Jean-Paul Bignon,” 234.

  • 53

    Jack A. Clarke, “French Libraries in Transition, 1789-95,” Library Quarterly 37: 4 (1967), 371.

  • 54

    Cited in Willison, “National Library,” 77. Interestingly, this compact representation of the systematization of order by means of classification would be echoed again by that archetypal contraption of the Enlightenment, the Encyclopédie, which, incidentally (or rather not), was dedicated by Diderot and D’Alembert to the Comte d’Argenson, in whom knowledge and power was most clearly manifest: secretary of state for war, he had formerly been inspecteur de la librairie.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 55

    Penelope Papailias, Genres of Recollection, 13.

  • 57

    Quynn, “The Ecole des Chartes,” 276.

  • 59

    See further Jack A. Crabbs Jr., The Writing of History in Nineteeth-Century Egypt: A Study in National Transformation (Cairo: American University Press, 1984); and Helen Rivlin, The Dār al-Wathāʾiq in ʿAbdīn Palace at Cairo as a Source for the Study of the Modernization of Egypt in the Nineteenth Century (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1970). For an early discussion of Dār al-Kutub, see William M. Randall, “Some Libraries of Cairo,” The Muslim World 28:3 (1938): 223-30.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 60

    Yoav Di-Capua, Gatekeepers of the Arab Past: Historians and History Writing in Twentieth-Century Egypt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 136.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 67

    Cited in John Cole, “Storehouses and Workshops: American Libraries and the Uses of Knowledge,” in The Organization of Knowledge in Modern America, 1860-1920, eds. Alexandra Oleson and John Voss, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), 374; See also Willison, “National Library.”

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 69

    Ian McNeely and Lisa Wolverton, Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria to the Internet (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2008), 32-3. For Bāyt al-Ḥikmah and other historic Muslim libraries see Fred Lerner, “Libraries of the Islamic World” in his The Story of Libraries: From the Invention of Writing to the Computer (New York: Continuum, 2001): 68-80; and Ahmad Shalaby’s discussion of libraries in History of Muslim Education (Beirut: Dār al-Kashshāf, 1954). Noteworthy too is the large body of recent scholarship seeking to dispel colonial tropes of African orality and isolation, which infrequently meets its objective of integrating ‘Africa’ into the la civilisation écrite, but paradoxically reinforces the continent’s position as one squarely outside of it. See for example, Brent D. Singleton, “African Bibliophiles: Books and Libraries in Medieval Timbuktu,” Libraries & Culture 39:1 (2004): 1-12.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 71

    Shalaby, History of Muslim Education, 73.

  • 72

    Muhammad Shafi, “Libraries and Learning in the Muslim World,” Pakistan Library Review 3:1 (1961), 28.

  • 74

    Mohamed Taher, “Mosque Libraries: A Bibliographical Essay,” Libraries & Culture 27: 1 (1992): 43-8.

  • 75

    Arnold H. Green, “The History of Libraries in the Arab World: A Diffusionist Model,” Libraries & Culture, 23: 4 (1988), 454-5.

  • 77

    John Livingston, “Shaykhs Jabarti and ʿAṭṭār: Islamic Reaction and Response to Western Science in Egypt,” Der Islam 74: 1(1997): 94.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 80

    Livingston, “Shaykhs Jabarti and ʿAṭṭār,” 94.

  • 85

    Livingston, “Shaykhs Jabarti and ʿAṭṭār,” 96.

  • 88

    Geoffrey Roper, “Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq and the Libraries of Europe and the Ottoman Empire,” Libraries & Culture 33: 3 (1998), 234.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 89

    Cited in Roper, “Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq,” 241.

  • 90

    In Roper, “Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq,” 235.

  • 91

    In Roper, “Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq,” 243.

  • 92

    Roper, “Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq,” 244.

  • 94

    See further in Massad, Desiring Arabs, 4.

  • 95

    Abdul R. JanMohamed in Massad, Desiring Arabs, 15-6.

  • 102

    Dodge, Al-Azhar, 131.

  • 104

    Donald Malcolm Reid, Cairo University and the Making of Modern Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 14.

  • 105

    Dodge, Al-Azhar, 131.

  • 107

    Mitchell, Colonising Egypt, 78.

  • 109

    Mitchell, Colonising Egypt, 82.

  • 110

    Crabbs, The Writing of History, 101.

  • 111

    Reid, Cairo University, 34.

  • 127

    Mitchell, Colonising Egypt, xv.

  • 128

    Sanaa Maadad, “Site to Preserve Rare Islamic manuscripts,” Khaleej Times Online, March 8, 2003, accessed November, 20, 2010, http://www.khaleejtimes.com.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 129

    Staff reporter, “Tantawi hails Al Azhar Online,” Khaleej Times Online, May 8, 2003, accessed November, 20, 2010, http://www.khaleejtimes.com.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 132

    Al-Howairib cited in Rasha Owais, “First Phase of Al Azhar Online Nears Completion,” Gulf News Online, October 16, 2002, accessed November 20, 2010, http://gulfnews.com.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 135

    Massad, Desiring Arabs, 17.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 79 72 4
Full Text Views 13 11 0
PDF Downloads 6 4 0