SCOTT S. REESE (University of Hamburg)
Evolving Traditions: Networks of Empire and the Changing Economies of Islamic Intellectual Production in East Africa
06 June 2023 | 3pm BST
Taking British and Omani realms in the western Indian Ocean as case studies, this talk traces emerging changes in Arabic composition stemming from technological change, imperial expansion and shifting networks of exchange. By the turn of the 20th century, mechanical print had revolutionized the Islamic written tradition. Moveable type and lithography made the classics of Islamic learning available to an ever-growing audience, while inexpensive chap books, newspapers and journals encouraged the emergence of new voices across the umma. Rather than distinct technologies emerging in a progressive series (one naturally following the other), manuscript and print are deeply intertwined forms, co-existing in complex, complementary and often non-linear relationships down to the present. While the manuscript tradition effected the shape of the Arabic printed book, manuscripts were in their turn impacted by the conventions of print. Driven largely by shifting imperial networks of transportation and exchange, this presentation considers how influences from the print world of the Arab Mediterranean (particularly Egypt) impacted local manuscript production on the East African island of Zanzibar between during the first half of the 20th century.
Scott R. Reese is a historian of East Africa and the Islamic world. He is currently the Principal Investigator of a group project titled The Complicated Relationship Between Manuscripts and Print Within the Islamic Written Tradition of East Africa. He is the author of Imperial Muslims: Islam, Community and Authority in the Indian Ocean, 1839-1937 (Edinburgh University Press, 2017)