Silsila was founded to foster interdisciplinary conversations related to the historical value of material culture in general, and its value as a source for histories of transcultural and transregional contacts in particular. Both aspects foreground the entangled relations between artifacts, images, and materials, and the migrations and movements of human consumers and producers. They also highlight the often complex interrelationships between the circulation and mobility of certain cultural forms, practices and techniques and those that are more local, regional, or rooted in character.
The centrality of these phenomena to the Center's mission is implied in its name, Silsila, an Arabic word that denotes connection, chain or link. Silsila connotes the Center's concern with the intersection between micro- and macro-histories: the individual links and the connected whole to which they contribute. As a term with cognates in many Islamicate languages, Silsila reflects the Center's focus on Islamicate cultural geographies in regions including Africa, Arabia, the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Middle East, Red Sea, South and South-east Asia. This also includes the material culture of minority communities within the Islamic world and material connections that extended beyond its political boundaries.
Silsila presents research on transcultural, transtemporal and transregional phenomena that contributes to a reimagining of current disciplinary boundaries, chronologies, and epistemic paradigms. While there is a particular emphasis on the pre- and early modern periods, a related aim is to bring the study of past precedents into dialogue with the uncertainties and instabilities of our own rapidly globalizing world.
The Center offers a postdoctoral fellowship, a thematic lecture series each semester, occasional lectures, and several workshops annually.