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[IHTLS] A Neo-Fatimid Treasury of Books. Arabic manuscripts among the Alawi Bohras of Baroda
A Neo-Fatimid Treasury of Books. Arabic manuscripts among the Alawi Bohras of Baroda

This paper focuses on the Alawi Bohra community in Vadodara, Gujarat, and their khizānat al-kutub, or treasury of books. As Shi’i Isma’ilis, the Alawi Bohras consider themselves heirs of the Fāṭimid Imamate (909–1171) and legitimize their “Neo-Fāṭimid” identity through a living Arabic manuscript culture and documentary practices enshrined in khizānat in Gujarat. These treasuries, which are governed by the sacerdotal families of the Bohra communities, contain vast collections of rare Isma’ili Arabic manuscript titles, ranging from legal works, to philosophical treatises, to esoteric texts.
Yet these khizānat are more than repositories of books from the past: they are living manuscript scriptoria at work. While a philological link between the Bohras and the Fāṭimids has hitherto been acknowledged through the study of individual manuscript copies held in academic institutions, the social and historic importance of Bohra khizānāt in this chain of transmission remains uncharted territory.
Based on ethnographic observations and archival research among the Alawi Bohras, I argue that these manuscripts, and their presence in Gujarat, are foundational for Bohra Isma’ilism as it is practiced today in South Asia and for the transmission of its knowledge system.

Speaker: Dr Olly Akkerman (Freie Universität Berlin)
Discussants: Dr Samira Sheikh (Vanderbilt University), Dr Fârès Gillon (IIS).

Hosted by the Institute of Ismaili Studies (London) and convened by Dr Fârès Gillon, the Islamic History and Thought Lecture Series is designed to invite scholars of various international academic institutions, specialising in intellectual, social and political aspects of medieval and early modern Islamic societies, to present and discuss their research.

Please note that the lecture will be recorded and uploaded on the IIS website.

Sep 30, 2021 02:00 PM in London

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