"PAPER, MATERIALITY AND SCRIPTURAL TRADITIONS OF NORTHWEST AFRICA"
Ghislaine Lydon, UCLA
Part of the Silsila spring 2020 Lecture Series, Maghrib: Arts of the Islamic West
In recent years, the history of Africa’s manuscript cultures has attracted the attention of scholars versed in Arabic and the decipherment of African texts written in the Arabic script. The wealth of materials preserved in private and public libraries has generated new knowledge about the Sufi, legal and intellectual traditions of Muslim societies of the Saharan and Sahelian regions of the continent. In this lecture, I reflect on the historical uses, production and trades in writing paper in the larger region of Northwest Africa, from ancient to more recent times. I examine the function of writing in the longue durée, paying particular attention to the earliest evidence of paper instruments that facilitated trans-Saharan and trans-regional commerce.
Ghislaine Lydon specializes in the economic and cultural history of Northwest Africa, with a focus on Muslim societies. She is the author of the prize-winning book On Trans-Saharan Trails: Islamic Law, Trade Networks and Cross-Cultural Exchange in Nineteenth-Century Western Africa (Cambridge University Press), and the co-edited volume (with Graziano Krätli) The Trans-Saharan Book Trade: Manuscript Culture, Arabic Literacy and Intellectual History of Muslim Africa (Brill), and various articles and chapters on Islamic legal traditions, African Muslim women and the economic history of northwest Africa.
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