About the lecture:
This paper addresses the question of communities, and the mobility of their manuscripts between continents over the Indian Ocean. It tells the story of a manuscript repository found all over the pre-modern Muslim world: the khizanat al-kutub, or treasury of books. We focus on the survival of one such treasury of books, belonging to the Bohras, a small but vibrant South Asian Isma’ili community.
Through Bohra manuscript culture, we investigate how books that were once part of one of the biggest imperial book repositories of the medieval Muslim world, the khizanat of the Fatimids of North Africa and Egypt (909CE-1171CE), ended up having a rich social life among the Bohras across the Western Indian Ocean, starting in Yemen and ending in Gujarat. Under strict conditions of secrecy, and over several centuries, one khizana was turned into another, its manuscripts gaining new meanings in the new social realities in which they were preserved, read, transmitted, venerated and copied. What emerged was a new distinctive Bohra Ismaili manuscript culture shaped by its local contexts in Gujarat.
About the lecturer:
Olly Akkerman (Institute of Islamic Studies, Freie Universität Berlin) is a specialist on Arabic manuscripts and Shi'i Islam. Her research examines the social life of manuscript repositories, and other forms of material culture among the Bohras in South Asia and the larger Western Indian Ocean. Her publications include “The Bohra Manuscript Treasury as a Sacred Site of Philology: a Study in Social Codicology” and a monograph: A Neo-Fatimid Treasury of Books in Gujarat: Arabic Manuscripts among the Alawi Bohras of South Asia (EUP).