Münster report

Posted on ..

I spent most of this past week at the Deutsche Orientalistentag (DOT), a big gathering of people who work on "oriental studies." It didn't do much to convince me that the now widely abandoned concept of "oriental studies" should be revived; as you might imagine "oriental" in this context means having to do with non-European cultures of the "east", mostly Islamic, Indian, and Chinese. Of course there are plenty of links between these cultures, but I think one would be hard pressed to make a case that there is one single, well-defined field here (it could just as well be called "not-European studies"). On the other hand, it has a long history, and was in many ways a great event, featuring lots of exciting scholars with a wide range of expertise, so maybe that is reason enough to keep doing it. I spent most of my time at a multi-session panel on philosophy in the Islamic world which was very enjoyable, and featured a lot of papers from younger scholars in the field. So that was very encouraging, though my self-conception as being myself one of the younger scholars in the field is increasingly embattled as the years go by. Oh well.

In my own paper I presented a comparison between texts by Abu Bakr al-Razi and Judah Halevi, in which they criticize the use of "nature" by philosophers in explaining things like the development of human embryos. I came across the passage in Halevi while doing reading for the podcast, so this was a nice case of the podcast feeding back into my actual research. The presentation was sort of a capstone to our work on the Leverhulme Trust funded project on "Natural Philosophy in the Islamic World," which is coming to an end next month.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.