The 2006-2007 fellowship year drew scholars who specialized in Jewish life under Islamic rule, and set them in conversation with scholars in Arabic, Syriac, Persian and Ottoman studies. By bringing together experts from these disparate disciplines, the seminar encouraged a broad view of Islamic societies and fostered new approaches to their religious, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. The rich documentary evidence from the Cairo Genizah and new access to significant manuscript collections in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere sparked this call to reevaluate how the fields of Islamic and Jewish studies intersect and to map out new directions for scholarship. The work of the year approached the material from many angles and raised and addressed questions, such as:

  • Under Islamic rule, which factors unified and distinguished political majorities and minorities (e.g., language, residential and occupational patterns, economic life, social and religious customs)?
  • How did religious minorities under Islamic rule—including Muslims in the first few centuries of Islam—define themselves and interact, compete and conflict with each other?
  • How did modes of cultural and intellectual exchange—in the fields of philosophy, esotericism, science, scriptural exegesis, grammar, liturgy, poetry and law—shape and influence the intellectual production of each of the cultures?
  • What models best represent the ways different groups functioned in society: borders and boundaries, hierarchies, centers and peripheries, patrons and clients, cultural hegemony?

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