Fatimid Cosmopolitanism: History, Material Culture, Politics, and Religion

6th December 2021 to 9th December 2021

Convenor: Dr Gregory Bilotto.

Venue: Online via Zoom. Register to attend.

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Historical documentation and archaeological material have revealed that the Fatimidsinfo-icon once presided over a diverse, multicultural state composed of Muslims, Christians, Jews and other religious traditions, as well as from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. This diversity contributed to the formation of a vibrant environment that stimulated intercultural contact and exchange across the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and the Indian Ocean. These encounters would also profoundly influence Fatimid history, material culture, politics, and religion, among other areas.

The current trend in scholarship has been to discern interdependence among the peoples and cultures of the past in order to gain a better understanding of the context of these connections. This was reflected in scholarship at the 1998 ground-breaking conference L’Égypte fatimide: son art et son histoire held in Paris, where the focus was primarily on Fatimid artistic and historical associations in Egypt, rather than the entire span of Fatimid rule, and spheres of influence.

This international conference aims to progress the field of Fatimid studies by examining their political, cultural, artistic, social, economic and intellectual interactions. The conference encourages participation from established, as well as early career, scholars specialising in the Fatimid lands of Bilād al-Shām, Egypt, Ifrīqiya, Sicily, and other areas across the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and the Indian Ocean. The objective is to promote a broader and deeper understanding of how the cosmopolitan Fatimid milieu contributed to intercultural dialogue as well as to imperial contestations, and therefore impacted the history, material culture, politics, and religions of the region through these nine panels:


1)       Fatimid Historiography and Mediaeval Narratives

2)       Fatimid Encounters with Contemporary Cultures

3)       Fatimid Daʿwa and Dāʿī’s - Part 1

4)       Fatimid Daʿwa and Dāʿī’s - Part 2

5)       Fatimid Decorative Arts and Archaeological Material - Part 1

6)       Fatimid Decorative Arts and Archaeological Material - Part 2

7)       The Fatimid State and Statecraft

8)        Fatimid Architecture and the Ceremonial

9)        The Fatimid Legacy


The participants include: Dr Olly Akkerman, Freie Universität Berlin; Dr Miriam Alí-de-Unzaga, independent scholar; Dr Omar Alí-de-Unzaga, IIS; Dr Ali Asgar H Alibhai, University of Texas at Dallas; Dr Khalil Andani, Augustana College, Rock Island, IL; Dr Dina Ishak Bakhoum, independent scholar; Dr Mathew Barber, Aga Khaninfo-icon University; Dr Daniel Beben, Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan; Professor Doris Behrens-Abouseif, professor emerita; Dr Gregory Bilotto, Saint Mary’s University, London; Dr Fozia Bora, University of Leeds; Professor Anna Contadini, SOAS; Dr Delia Cortese, Middlesex University; Dr Farhad Daftary, IIS; Dr Maria de Cillis, IIS; Dr Steven Gertz, Georgetown University; Dr Valérie Gonzalez, SOAS; Dr Shiraz Hajiani, Emerson College, Boston, MA; Dr Sumaiya Hamdani, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA; Dr Shainool Jiwa, IIS; Dr Hasan al-Khoee, IIS; Professor Dr Verena Klemm, University of Leipzig; Dr Ayala Lester, curator emerita; Professor Yaacov Lev, professor emeritus; Dr Anna McSweeny, Trinity College, Dublin; Professor Bernard O’Kane, American University in Cairo; Dr Simon O’Meara, SOAS; Dr Marcus Pilz, Veste Coburg Art Collections; Dr Daryoush Mohammad Poor, IIS; Professor Stéphane Pradines, Aga Khan University; Dr Jennifer A Pruitt, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Dr Aslisho Qurboniev, Aga Khan University; Professor Yossef Rapoport, Queen Mary University, London; Professor Marina Rustow, Princeton University; Professor Paula Sanders, Rice University, Houston, TX; Professor Ayman Fuad Sayyidinfo-icon, professor emeritus; Professor Avinoam Shalem, Columbia University; Dr Fahmida Suleman, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; Dr Yasser Tabbaa, independent scholar; Dr Jamel Velji, Claremont McKenna College, CA; Professor Shafique N Virani, University of Toronto; Professor Paul E Walker, University of Chicago; Dr Gregory Williams, independent scholar.


Prospective publication: Fatimid Cosmopolitanism: History, Material Culture, Politics and Religion, Ed. F. Daftary, S. Jiwa & G. Bilotto. Bloomsbury Publishing, in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies. 

Cover image:  Plaque with Figural Scene, datable to the 11th-12th centuries, African elephant ivory. 

Image courtesy of the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. Accession no: 71.562, used under a CC BY 2.0 license.


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Please note the conference will take place online via Zoom and will be recorded, and may subsequently be edited and published online for use by the IIS for teaching, research and marketing purposes. By registering to attend you consent to these terms.

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