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Was plurilingualism the exception or the norm in traditional Eurasian scholarship? This volume presents a selection of primary sources—in many cases translated into English for the first time—with introductions that provide fascinating historical materials for challenging notions of the ways in which traditional Eurasian scholars dealt with plurilingualism and monolingualism. Comparative in approach, global in scope, and historical in orientation, it engages with the growing discussion of plurilingualism and focuses on fundamental scholarly practices in various premodern and early modern societies—Chinese, Indian, Mesopotamian, Jewish, Islamic, Ancient Greek, and Roman—asking how these were conceived by the agents themselves. The volume will be an indispensable resource for courses on these subjects and on the history of scholarship and reflection on language throughout the world.
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Abstract

This article investigates European collecting of Malay manuscripts during the colonial era to address two inter-related questions: was this collecting instrumental in destroying the Malay manuscript tradition, and are colonial collections accurate representations of Malay manuscript culture? It makes the case that while European intervention was certainly destructive, in fact the majority of Malay-language literary texts survive only in colonial-era collections. It also considers whether colonial collections, precisely because they are high in Malay literary texts and low in Arabic religious texts (known as kitab), are unrepresentative of Malay manuscript culture in the nineteenth century and earlier. Taking Marsden’s seminal collection of Malay manuscripts as its case study, the article provides a fuller account of how this collection was assembled, and traces the individuals known to have acquired manuscripts for Marsden. Newly documented manuscript collections that remain in situ in Indonesia and in Malaysian institutions are discussed as a counterpoint.

Open Access
In: Philological Encounters
Free access
In: Philological Encounters
In: Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World

Abstract

This contribution studies the complex arrangement of legal, socio-economic, and technical aspects of the aflāj (s. falaj) water distribution and irrigation system, and how they have shaped communities and built environments in Oman, where the falaj has provided the virtual lifeline of oasis life since the first millennium BCE. Three case studies of falaj communities are presented, Birkat al-Mawz, al-Ḥamrāʾ, and Misfāt al-ʿAbrīyin, which developed during the prosperous early-Yaʿrubi period in the mid-eleventh/seventeenth century. It investigates the extent to which the Ibāḍī-Islamic legal framework allowed flexibility for the local governance, management, and organisation of this ancient system, and its adaptation to diverse demographic, environmental, and emergent socio-political conditions.

Open Access
In: Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World

Abstract

Tracking the circulation and exchange of ideas, models, and technology in the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages allows for easier comparison between cultural systems, and although different, were not kept in sealed boxes. This is undoubtedly the case with zoomorphic fountains in Byzantium and the Islamicate Mediterranean. Much has been written on the history of fountains from varying perspectives, resulting in literature that is comprehensive and diverse. However, this contribution uniquely employs sources never used before, including poetry, tales from The Arabian Nights, and other fantastic literature, to understand better fountains and their zoomorphic fountainheads, and present a fresh perspective on the subject.

Open Access
In: Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World
In: Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World

Abstract

This essay explores the form and function of drinking vessels and their role and meaning in relationship to Arabic and Persian inscriptions within Islamic metalwork. The focus is a thirteenth-century jug from the Aga Khan Museum Collection. While similar jugs have been variously considered as vessels for water, wine, or sherbet, the anonymous epigrapher of the bilingual inscriptions on this example refers to water as the “water of life” (Pers. āb-e ḥayāt). These inscriptions prompt an examination of the relationship between object, image, and text in connection with water, an elixir of long or eternal life, in both a secular setting and a courtly context.

Open Access
In: Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World