From the Invisible East Director and Her Team: Nowruz Greetings 2022

Nowruz Greeting 2022

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Another Spring is upon us, and we extend our best wishes to you on this Nowruz/Nawruz. The past year has been trying on many levels around the world, but we also take this opportunity to share with you some of the positive developments as well as some things to look forward to in the new year:

Preparing for public access and searchability of our corpus

Our new AHRC researcher Arash Zeini joined us in January this year from the Freie Universität Berlin, and has taken on the important task of developing the Invisible East Digital Corpus. He comes with experience in this area, and we are lucky to have him!  The corpus will make available in digital format the fruits of our offline labour, as IE researchers (Arezou, Tommy, Zhan Zhang, Majid, Arash and Pejman) have been beavering away at transcribing, translating, digitally coding, and/or analysing hundreds of 8thand 11th-13th century documents from Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and western China. These were written in Middle and New Persian, Arabic, Bactrian, Sogdian, and Khotanese. Our offline inventory now includes standardized files of texts and high-resolution images of these documents, with the rights to publish. Summaries of the various sets of documents can be read on our Story Map and in the Inventories we posted a few months ago.

Our advisory board has been enriched by the addition of Maria Macuch, who held the chair in Iranian Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin prior to her retirement. She is editor of the series Iranica since 1993 (together with Alberto Cantera since 2015) and has written on Sasanian and early Islamic Iranian law based on the Middle Persian documents. She replaces our late Advisory Board member Shaul Shaked.

Research seminars and publications

We have also been benefiting from the kind generosity of our colleagues who delivered research seminars to the IE team, including in person, by Reza Huseini at Cambridge and Yossi Rapoport at Queen Mary University. Their inputs have greatly enriched and broadened our understanding of the research spectrum and will benefit our publications which are now underway. For details, see here.

Upcoming conferences and workshops

  1. We are putting the finishing touches on our second IE international conference which will focus on Land Management, and aims to draw heavily on the IE corpus, as well as expertise amongst historian working on land management in the medieval western Islamic lands.
  2. We are also planning to hold an international workshop on the vernacularisation of medieval Islamic law in Persian, seen in a comparative perspective.

Watch the space on both these events to be held later in 2022.

Social media and public outreach

We continue to post social media blogs and tweet about them. Our last two blogs were fantastic guest writer contributions by Berkeley’s Adam Benkato and Hebrew University’s Ofir Haim.

We are contacting schools in the Oxford area at KS3 level (higher secondary school) to conduct “taster sessions” with pupils on IE-related subjects. The aim is to generate interest amongst this age group on the topic, and for pupils to learn about this important history that, alas, falls outside the UK core curriculum. We are also developing an online Webinar to be run later this year with a similar aim and scope, and for a wider public audience. Webinars will be recorded and made available on the IE YouTube page. This page and our website already host videos of other research sessions and papers delivered at our first international conference on Digital Humanities. Take a look!

That’s it for now. We hope you can enjoy some of our online content.

Happy nowruz again.

Yours sincerely,

Arezou Azad and the entire Invisible East Team

Servane Wentzel

Hugh Kennedy

Arash Zeini

Majid Montazer-Mahdi

Pejman Firoozbakhsh

Tommy Benfey

Zhan Zhang