Rethinking Arab History, Society, and Culture - A Conference in Honor of Aziz Al-Azmeh (2022)

Rethinking Arab History, Society, and Culture - A Conference in Honor of
Aziz Al-Azmeh

Vienna, September 29-30, 2022

Organizer: Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies, CEU

 The conference celebrates Professor Emeritus Aziz Al-Azmeh's immense intellectual and scholarly contribution to the international academic community and reflects on his multi-faceted oeuvre, which has been influential for generations of scholars, public intellectuals, his students, and colleagues all over the world. His works, covering themes from paleo-Islam to modern Arab history, from freethinking to secularism, his erudite writings on various historical and historiographical notions remain major points of reference across disciplines.

In the spirit of this heartful homage from his colleagues here at CEU, to a great scholar, teacher, prolific writer, and thinker, we seek to bring together scholars whose research and intellectual interests engage with the works of Professor Al-Azmeh in a variety of ways.

Conference Program


14:30-15:00 Registration and Coffee

15:00-15:30 Introduction by Sona Grigoryan (Organizer)

Welcome note by Tim Crane (CEU Pro-Rector)

Welcome note by Brett Wilson (CEMS Director) 

Panel 1. Late Antiquity and the Arabs

Chair: Volker Menze (Central European University)

Pamela Klasova (Macalester College)
Arabic Poetry in Late Antiquity: The Rāʾiyya of Imruʾ al-Qays (online talk)

Mushegh Asatryan (University of Calgary)
Muslim Prophecy after Muhammad: The View from Late Antiquity (online talk)

Reyhan Durmaz (University of Pennsylvania)
The Late Antique World of Exegetical Storytelling (online talk)

16:50-17:15—Coffee break

17:15-18:30—Keynote Lecture by Finbarr Barry Flood (New York University)

Introducer: Nadia al-Bagdadi (CEU)

Legalism, Iconoclasm, and Anti-colonialism – Other Statue Histories



Panel 2. Qur'an and Other Texts

Chair: Tijana Krstić (Central European University)

Alba Fedeli (Universität Hamburg)
Early Qur'anic Artefacts and their Social History: Manuscript A.Perg.2 and the Event that happened in its Parchment

Bilal Orfali (American University of Beirut)
The Use of Qur’an in AdabHamadhānī’s Maqāma of Mosul

Shady Nasser (Harvard University)
Reciting the Qurʾān with Melodies

Ramzi Baalbaki (American University of Beirut)
The Centrality of the Qurʾan to the Arabic Lexicographical Tradition

10:45 -11:00 Coffee break

Panel 3. Secularisms

Chair: Matthias Riedl (Central European University)

Saïd Amir Arjomand (State University of New York at Stony Brook)
Transcendence and Secularity in Persianate Islam (online talk)

Azmi Bishara (The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies)
Secularisation without Secularism (online talk)

Hammoud Hammoud (Freie Universität Berlin)
Secularism and the State: An Attempt to Understand al-Azmeh's Approach

12:20-14:00 Lunch


Panel 4. Freethinking and Politics

Chair: Nadia Al-Bagdadi (Central European University)

Gilbert Achcar (SOAS, University of London)
Orientalism in Reverse and Surreptitious Religiosity

Sona Grigoryan (Central European University)
Receptions of Abbasid Freethinking: The Case of al-Maʿarrī

Stefan Leder (Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg)
Violence, Power, and Legitimacy: How adab literature contributes to political discourse

15:20-15:35  Coffee break

15:35 – 16:55
Panel 5. State, Law, and Society

Chair: Claudia Rapp (University of Vienna)

Adam Mestyan (Duke University)
Islamic Law Under Occupation: A Week in the Damascus Shari'a Court, October 1918

Ebrahim Moosa (University of Notre Dame)
Ghazālī and the Law: Alterity, Reason, and Universality

Sami Zubaida (Birkbeck, University of London)
Mezze, Drink and the Meal (online talk)

Closing by Aziz Al-Azmeh 


Dinner for participants at the Bruno Kreisky Forum

Sponsors: Central European University (Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies, Striking from the Margins ProjectCenter for Religious Studies).