Theses Doctoral

Al-Azhar and the Orders of Knowledge

Gubara, Dahlia El-Tayeb M.

Founded by the Fatimids in 970 A.D., al-Azhar has been described variously as "the great mosque of Islam," "the brilliant one," "a great seat of learning...whose light was dimmed." Yet despite its assumed centrality, the illustrious mosque-seminary has elicited little critical study. The existing historiography largely relies on colonial-nationalist teleologies that are grounded in a strong centrifugal essentialism: positioning Cairo (and al-Azhar) at a center, around which faithfully revolve concentric peripheries.
Setting its focus on the eighteenth century and beyond, this dissertation investigates the discursive postulates that organize the writing of the history of al-Azhar. Through textual explorations that pivot in space and time, it elucidates shifts in the entanglement of disciplines of knowledge with those of the self at a particular historical juncture and location. It thus locates al-Azhar in the modern order of knowledge, even as it imagines another intellectual universe bound by ideas, texts and authors who lived before and outside Europe: one which articulated itself in conceptual, epistemic, moral, social, cultural and institutional ways, modernity as such cannot not capture.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Bulliet, Richard W.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 15, 2014