Title of Session: Re-interpreting the Islamic medina, New perspectives on linking and distancing of spaces
Protection of domestic space and existence of extreme distinctions between private and public spheres in the city have been assumed to be among key spatial characters of premodern ‘Islamic cities’ in scientific discourses. It has been widely argued that preserving the private space, by sealing if off from a perceived external threat, was one of the integral elements of giving the cities their forms embodied in the courtyard pattern, tortuous lanes, and an overall tendency towards inwardness. Going beyond these dominant suppositions based on functional characteristics, the session seeks to rethink the idea of spatial division in premodern Islamic medina in order to provide more complex understanding of space in this cultural-geographical context. The session will elaborate on the very notions of linking and distancing and their diverse implications in a variety of sources and dimensions of urban life including the city’s: visualitiy, spirituality (virtuality), rituality, legality, verbality, sociality and spatiality. To that end, we invite scholars from different disciplines to submit proposals that seek new perspectives in exploring instruments, manifestations, meanings, patterns, and metaphors of linking and distancing of space in the premodern Islamic medina. Papers that include case-studies, contain comparative inter-disciplinary analysis, or focus on everyday life are particularly encouraged.
Examples of questions that could be addressed include, but are not restricted to, the following: What are the effects, purposes, instruments and characteristics of spatial linking and distancing in the medina in the abovementioned, diverse dimensions? How are the space and its elements linked or distanced in different layers of spatialisation? What are the spaces of distancing or linking (spatial divisions) and how have these spaces been incorporated and manifested in the city? What are the meanings associated with each end-side of the separation or linking (e.g. interior-exterior, public-private)? What are the material and physical, social and practical, and metaphoric and conceptual settings of spatial connections and disconnections in the ‘Islamic city’?
Somaiyeh Falahat (Berlin University of Technology); Simon O'Meara (SOAS, University of London)