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36ème Congrès du CIHA - Lyon 2024

Parrainé par le Ministère de la Culture,
le Ministère de l'Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche,
le Ministère de l'Europe et des Affaires étrangères

The Materiality of Pious Texts: The Qur’an and Devotional Manuscripts

Alya Karame 1 , Umberto Bongianino 2

College De France - Paris (France), 2University of Oxford (UK)

Sujet en anglais / Topic in english

Both the Qur’an and Islamic devotional manuscripts have traditionally been studied as texts and artistic achievements, but rarely as material objects. Concerns about how to handle and dispose of Qur’anic matter – how to use the manuscript, where to place it, when to touch it – or whether it is permissible to perfume it, ingest it or sell it, were among the anxieties of the first centuries of Islam. Formative to the Qur’an’s physical manifestation as codices, scrolls or inscribed artefacts, these debates shaped its sacrality in the material realm and affected the use of Islamic devotional manuscripts in which passages of the Qur’an appear next to other pious texts, prayers or illustrations of holy places. Art history has been rarely concerned with such phenomena, or with the corporeality of sacred and pious texts in general.

This session aims to interrogate the materiality of pious texts and the roles they played in shaping artistic forms embedded in a diverse range of practices, at the time of their production or in their afterlives: Qur’anic calligraphy, calligrams, and emblematic inscriptions in books and scrolls, but also on tablets and panels of various materials, interspersed or combined with devotional texts and images presented in diagrammatic or iconified forms. By moving away from archaeological taxonomies and the study of styles and repertoires, we hope to create space for approaching pious texts through their materiality, their use, and the range of physical reactions they elicited. Meanings – whether religious, political, or aesthetic – can be found not just in how texts looked, but also in how they functioned, and it is through the lens of materiality that previously neglected ideas and behaviors can be examined.