ERC IMPAcT - From Late Medieval to Early Modern: 13th to 16th Century Islamic Philosophy And Theology

Dr Judith Pfeiffer has been awarded a five-year European Research Council grant to support frontier research for a project entitled 'IMPAcT - From Late Medieval to Early Modern: 13th to 16th Century Islamic Philosophy And Theology’. IMPAcT focuses on 13th to 16th century IslaMic Philosophy And Theology and adjacent sciences, hence the acronym. It will make accessible the crucially important, but much neglected 13th–16th century history of thought of the Nile-to-Oxus region through focused studies of its texts and authors and the intellectual networks of the period. IMPAcT’s ultimate aim is to bridge the gap between the much better studied classical and modern periods of Islamic intellectual history, and to enable scholars to study the intellectual and political history of the period in its own right, and in a holistic manner – all too often the two are perceived and hence studied as two separate fields. IMPAcT’s objective is to overcome the current fragmentation of the existing expertise across Europe, the Middle East, and North America by collaborating with international projects in related fields, through bringing together experts in these fields at international workshops and conferences, and by encouraging especially the younger generation to engage in research on pertinent topics through travel bursaries for graduate students and by establishing post-doctoral research positions, enabling researchers to devote themselves to the in-depth study of a specific topic for an extended period of time without the distractions of academic administration. IMPAcT’s aims will be further supported through the edition and translation of key texts, the publication of monographs, and the support of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers through research fellowships and association with the project, permitting them to carry out their research in a congenial research environment.

While standard accounts of Islamic history present the mid-13th century Mongol conquests as the final blow at the end of the languishing decline of an Islamic empire whose ‘golden age’ had long passed, recent research has shown that the Mongol moment in the Middle East did more than merely mark the end of the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad. It ushered in a protracted era of attempts by Muslim thinkers at a redefinition of the very core of Islam in the face of fundamentally changed socio-political realities. Nonetheless, the period between the dissolution of the Abbasid caliphate and the establishment of the early modern regional states of the Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals at the beginning of the 16th century – a period that Marshall G. S. Hodgson has conveniently dubbed the Later Middle Period of Islamic history (1258 – ca. 1500) – remains one of the most understudied periods in the history of the Nile-to-Oxus region. Because of the decentralization, if not diffusion, of the political power during this period and the concomitant new avenues of thought that scholars explored, and because of the rise of Persian and Turkish as literary languages in addition to Arabic and the linguistic knowledge that is needed to scrutinize the texts produced during this period, the study of the 13th-16th centuries poses special challenges. As a consequence, the great majority of its texts remain unpublished. It is also an area where frontier research in Islamic studies is currently being carried out. IMPAcT is an important part of this.

IMPAcT is supported by a five-year European Research Council Starting Grant for Frontier Research under the Seventh Framework Programme (2010-2015). The project office is hosted by the Faculty of Oriental Studies, where the Postdoctoral Research Officers and Final Year Dissertation Fellow hold Junior Research Fellowships.

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