About Maxim Romanov




Please, use the latest version at https://alraqmiyyat.github.io/


Cover: A picture taken by my seven-year-old daughter, Sasha Romanova

Maxim Romanov is a research fellow at Alexander von Humboldt-Lehrstul für Digital Humanities, Institut für Informatik, Universität Leipzig. His dissertation (Near Eastern Studies, U of Michigan, 2013) explored how modern computational techniques of text analysis can be applied to the study of premodern Arabic historical sources. In particular, he studied “The History of Islam” (Taʾrīḫ al-islām), the largest of surviving biographical collections with over 30,000 biographies, written by the Damascene scholar al-Ḏahabī (d. 1348 CE). He is continuing his research and develops methods of computational analysis for other genres of premodern Arabic literature, mainly large volume collections that can offer insights into long-term and large-scale developments that took place during the pre-modern period of Islamic history. He is working on two book projects: (1) “The History of Islam”: An Essay in Digital Humanities continues the study of al-Ḏahabī’s tremendous collection of biographies, while (2) The Gift to the Knowledgeable 2.0, explores cultural production in the Islamic world until the beginning of the 20th century through the study of the Hadiyyaŧ al-ʿārifīn, a bibliographical collection composed by Ismāʿīl Bāšā al-Baġdādī (d. 1920).

curriculum vitæ

  • Maxim Romanov

  • Current position: Research Fellow

  • Institutional affiliation: Leipzig University, Computer Science Institute  The Humboldt Chair for Digital Humanities  Augustusplatz 10, 04109 Leipzig

  • Ph.D.: in Near Eastern Studies (2013), University of Michigan

  • Institutional email: maxim dot romanov at uni-leipzig dot de

  • Personal email: romanov dot maxim at gmail dot com

  • Website: maximromanov.github.io / alraqmiyyat.github.io

Employment

  • 2015–current: Research Fellow  Leipzig University, Computer Science Institute  The Humboldt Chair for Digital Humanities

  • 2013–2015: Postdoctoral Associate  Tufts University, Department of Classics & Perseus Project

  • 2006–2012: Graduate Student Instructor (Teaching Assistant)  University of Michigan, Department of Near Eastern Studies

  • 2004–2006: Junior Researcher  Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences  former: St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies  St. Petersburg, Russia (SPbIOS/IOM of RAS)

Education

  • 2006–2013: Ph.D. (December 15, 2013) / M.A. (April 29, 2010)  in Near Eastern Studies (Arabic Islamic Studies),  Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of Michigan, USA.  Dissertation: Computational Reading of Arabic Biographical Collections with Special Reference to Preaching in the Sunnī World (661–1300 CE).  (available in open access through the University of Michigan Digital Library:  http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/102300).  Dissertation Committee: Alexander Knysh (Chair), Michael Bonner, Richard Bulliet,  Sherman Jackson, Andrew Shryock.

  • 2001–2004: ABD, Post-graduate program in Islamic Studies (Mentor: Stanislav M. Prozorov),  Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences  Former: St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies  St. Petersburg, Russia (SPbIOS/IOM of RAS)

  • 1999–2001: St. Petersburg State University, the School (“Fakultet”) of Oriental Studies,  partial completion of the History of the Arab Countries program,  St. Petersburg, Russia.

  • 1998–2001: B.A./M.A. in Sociology,
    St. Petersburg State University, the School (“Fakultet”) of Sociology,   M.A. Thesis: “The role of religious scholars (ʿulamāʾ) in the life of Islamic society”; St. Petersburg, Russia.

  • 1995–1998: The Baltic State Technical University, the School (“Fakultet”) of Humanities (concentration in Political Sciences), St. Petersburg, Russia.

Working papers

  • (2016): “Important New Developments in Arabographic Optical Character Recognition (OCR)” Authors: Benjamin Kiessling, Matthew Thomas Miller, Sarah Bowen Savant, Maxim Romanov. Working paper can be accessed at Academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/28923960/.

Articles in peer-reviewed editions

  • most publications can be downloaded from uni-leipzig.academia.edu/MaximRomanov

  • (2016, accepted for publication): “Observations of a Medieval Quantitative Historian?” accepted for publication in Der Islam (ISSN-Online: 1613-0928, ISSN-Print: 0021-1818). (Download Submitted Version in PDF)

  • 2016: (Authors, alphabetically: Yonatan Belinkov, Alexander Magidow, Maxim Romanov, Avi Shmidman and Moshe Koppel ) “Shamela: A Large-Scale Historical Arabic Corpus”, in Proceedings of the Workshop on Language Technology Resources and Tools for Digital Humanities (LT4DH), pp. 45–53, Osaka, Japan, December 11-17 2016. Available at: https://www.clarin-d.net/images/lt4dh/pdf/LT4DH07.pdf

  • 2016: “After the Classical World: the Social Geography of Islam (c. 600—1300 CE)”, in ARS ISLAMICA: Festschrift in Honor of Stanislav Mikhailovich Prozorov. Edited by Mikhail Piotrovsky and Alikber Alikberov, Russian Academy of Sciences (Institute of Oriental Studies), Moscow: “Vostochnaya Literatura”, 2016, pp. 247–277 (Download Pre-print Version in PDF)

  • 2016: “Digital Age, Digital Methods”, in ARS ISLAMICA: Festschrift in Honor of Stanislav Mikhailovich Prozorov. Edited by Mikhail Piotrovsky and Alikber Alikberov, Russian Academy of Sciences (Institute of Oriental Studies), Moscow: “Vostochnaya Literatura”, 2016, pp. 129–277 (Download Pre-print Version in PDF)

  • 2016: “Toward Abstract Models for Islamic History,” in The Digital Humanities + Islamic Middle Eastern Studies, ed. Elias Muhanna (Berlin, De Gruyter, 2016), pp. 117–149. (Download Submitted Version in PDF)

  • 2013: “Toward the Digital History of the pre-Modern Muslim World: developing text-mining techniques for the study of Arabic biographical collections,” in Methods and means for digital analysis of ancient and medieval texts and manuscripts, Proceedings of the Conference, Leuven, 2012 (Download PDF) DOI: 10.1484/M.LECTIO-EB.5.102573 Newsletter Version: “Digital Analysis of Arabic Biographic Collections,” in Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies Newsletter, No. 4. (July 2012), 9–11 (Download PDF)

  • 2012: “Dreaming Ḥanbalites: Dream-Tales in Prosopographical Dictionaries,” in Dreams and Visions in Islamic Societies, edited by Alexander Knysh & Özgen Felek, SUNY Press, 2012, 31–50 (Download PDF)

  • 2007: “The Term Ṣūfī: Spiritualizing Simple Words,” in Pismennyie Pamyatniki Vostoka/Written Monuments of the Orient, issue 5 (2007), 149–159 (Download PDF)

  • 2005, in Russian: “Electronic Databases on Islam in Arabic, Persian and English: a Review,” in Pismennyie Pamyatniki Vostoka/Written Monuments of the Orient, issue 2(3), 2005, 240–257; in cooperation with Dr. Stanislav M. Prozorov; summary in English (Download PDF)

  • 2004, in Russian: “The Paradigm of the Science of Ḥadīṯ (ʿilm/ʿulūm al-ḥadīṯ)”, in Oriens/Vostok, issue 5, 2004, 5–11; summary in English (Download PDF)

  • 2003 (2009), in Russian:Ḥadīṯ Reports in Ibn al-Ǧawzī’s (d. 597/1201) System of Argumentation (Based on His Talbīs Iblīs [“Devil’s Delusions”]),” in Khristianskii Vostok/Christian Orient, Volume 5 (XI), New Series, Moscow: “Indrik” Press (Published by the Russian Academy of Sciences and the State Hermitage), 2009, 310–316 (Download PDFNB: Submitted for publication in 2003

  • 2003, in Russian: “Principles and Procedures of Extracting and Processing Data from Arabic Sources: Historic-and-Biographical Sources,” in Oriens/Vostok, issue 4, 2003, 117–127; in cooperation with Dr. Stanislav M. Prozorov; summary in English (Download PDF

Conference & workshop papers, presentations, posters

  • November, 2016: “Of A Network and A Node: ‘The History of Islam’ of al-Ḏahabī (d. 1348) and its place in the Premodern Arabic Textual Tradition” @ Networked Texts: New Ways of Seeing the Arabic Textual Tradition (750-1500), a Panel co-organized by Sarah Savant and Maxim Romanov @ Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Annual Meeting, Boston, MA

  • September, 2016: Presentation on Islamic[ate] DH Projects at Leipzig University @ Activism, Advocacy, and Scholarship on Islam in the Digital Realm: Prospects, Progress, and Challenges, a workshop organized by the Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies & Civilizations, Boston University (September 16 & 17, 2016)

  • October, 2015: “al-Ḏahabī’s Monster”: Dissecting a 50-Volume Arabic Chronicle-cum-Biographical Collection From the 14th Century CE @ Distant Reading the Islamic Archive, Conference at Brown University (October 16, 2015)

    Video recording of this presentation is available @ Brown University’s website:  tinyurl.com/IslamicDHatBrown2015 Scene 106 (or timestamp 3:22:00; the Q&A starts right after the presentation).

  • September, 2015: The Taʾrīḫ al-islām of al-Ḏahabī (d. 748/1347 CE): Computational Exploration of the Life-Cycle of a 50-Volume Arabic Chronicle-cum-Biographical Collection @ Arabic Pasts: Histories and Historiographies: Research Workshop, co-hosted by the Aga Khan University, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations and SOAS, University of London (September 25–26, 2015)

  • July, 2015: Cultural Production in the Islamic World (600–1900 CE): mining an Ottoman bibliographical collection from the early 20th century @ The Keystone Digital Humanities Conference, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA (July 22–24, 2015)

  • May, 2015: Analyzing Arabic Biographical Collections at Scale @ Digital Ottoman Platform Workshop, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ (June 8–12, 2015)

  • May, 2015: The Writing Culture of Nīshāpūr in the 11th Century [In collaboration with Sarah Savant, Aga Khan University, London; paper delivered by Sarah Savant] @ Iranian Cities from the Arab Conquest to the Early Modern Period, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (May 1-2).

  • November, 2014: Exploring Islamic Written Legacy: Computational Reading of Hadiyyaŧ al-ʿārifīn @ Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C.

  • March, 2014: Computational Processing of Toponymic Data from classical Arabic Sources @ Working with Text in a Digital Age, A Workshop @ Tufts University (the Perseus Project) (March 29, 2014).

  • February, 2014: Visualizing Islamic Geography at Scale @ Data Big and Small: Computer Science, the Humanities and Social Science: Conversations between representatives from Leipzig, Northeastern, Princeton Tufts, A Workshop @ Tufts University (the Perseus Project) (February 3-4, 2014).

  • October, 2013: Abstract Models for Islamic History @ Digital Humanities and Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies, Brown University, Providence, RI (October 24-25, 2013).  Video recording of this presentation is available @ Brown University’s website:  tinyurl.com/IslamicDHatBrown2013 Day One, Scene 166 (or timestamp 2:47:50; the Q&A at 3:51:30).

  • October, 2013: Islamic World Connected (661–1300 CE) @ Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA.

  • April, 2013: Poster (not on program): Toward Abstract Models for Islamic History @ Word, Space, Time: Digital Perspectives on the Classical World, an interdisciplinary conference organized by the Digital Classics Association, University of Buffalo, SUNY, Buffalo, NY (April 5–6, 2013).

  • March, 2013: Exploratory Analysis of Arabic Biographical Collections: the Case of al-Ḏahabī’s (d. 1347 CE) Taʾrīkh al-islām @ 223rd Meeting of the American Oriental Society (AOS), Portland, OR; also @ the 8th Annual Pearl Kibre Medieval Study Conference: “New Media and the Middle Ages”, The Graduate Center, CUNY, New York, NY.

  • February, 2013: ‘Connectedness’ of the Islamic World (600–1300 CE) @ 7th Annual Near Eastern Studies Graduate Student Colloquium, U of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

  • November, 2012: Social History of the Muslim World in the Digital Age: Making Sense of 29,000 Biographies from al-Ḏahabī’s “History of Islam” @ Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Annual Meeting, Denver, CO.

  • November, 2012: Poster: Social History of the Muslim World in the Digital Age: Making Sense of 29,000 Biographies from al-Ḏahabī’s “History of Islam” @ Cyberinfrastructure Days, U of Michigan, November 7-8, 2012. “People’s Choice Award Winner”.

  • October, 2012: Writing the Digital History of the Premodern Muslim World, 670-1300 CE: Exploratory Analysis of Primary Sources @ Interdisciplinary Workshop under the rubric “Forum on Research in Medieval Studies” (FoRMS), the Medieval Lunch Series, U of Michigan.

  • August, 2012: Mining pre-Modern Islamic Sources @ “Working with Text in a Digital Age,” the summer institute at Tufts U, Medford, MA.

  • April, 2012: Dreaming Ḥanbalites: Dream-Tales in Prosopographical Dictionaries (in Russian) @ The 34th Annual Session of St. Petersburg Arabists, SPbIOS/IOM of RAS.

  • April, 2012: Digital History of the Muslim World: Computer-Aided Analysis of Biographical Dictionaries @ “Methods and means for digital analysis of ancient and medieval texts and manuscripts,” the workshop at the Katholieke Universitet, Leuven & the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium (KVAB), Brussels.

  • November, 2010: “Popular” Preaching in the Sunnī Context and the Legitimization of Waʿẓ in the Late 12th Century CE @ Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA.

  • November, 2009: AḤmad b. Ḥanbal’s (d. 241/855) Argumentative Strategies @ Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Annual Meeting, Boston, MA.

  • April, 2009: Dreaming Ḥanbalites @ Dreams and Visions in Islamic Societies, U of Michigan conference.

  • March, 2004: The Origins of the Term Ṣūfī (in Russian) @ 26th Annual Session of St. Petersburg Arabists, SPbIOS/IOM of RAS.

  • April, 2003: Argumentation with Ḥadīṯ Reports in Ibn al-Ǧawzī’s Talbīs Iblīs (“Devil’s Delusions”) (in Russian) @ 25th Annual Session of St. Petersburg Arabists, SPbIOS/IOM of RAS.

  • December, 2003: The Paradigm of the Science of Ḥadīṯ (ʿilm al-ḥadīṯ) (in Russian) @ Annual Academic Session, SPbIOS/IOM of RAS.

  • April, 2002: Ibn al-Ǧawzī’s Image in the Western Scholarship (in Russian) @ 24th Annual Session of St. Petersburg Arabists, SPbIOS/IOM of RAS.

Invited talks, guest lectures

  • November 17, 2016: From Text to Map: Arabic Biographical Collections and Geospatial Analysis @ Center for Geographic Analysis, Harvard University

  • 2016: Writing a 50-volume book in 14th-century Damascus: Algorithmic Analysis, Text Reuse & the Arabic Written Tradition. Different versions of this invited lecture @

    • Davidson College (November 9, 2016)

    • University of Michigan (March 10, 2016)

  • 2015–2016: Of Graphs, Maps, and 30,000 Muslims: Premodern Arabic Texts & the Digital Humanities. Different versions of this invited lecture @

    • Center for Digital Humanities/Department of History, University of South Carolina (November 14, 2016)

    • Duke University (November 11, 2016)

    • School of Oriental and African Studies [SOAS], University of London (November 23, 2015)

    • University of Manchester (November 25, 2015)

    • University of St Andrews (November 27, 2015)

    • University of Maryland [MITH] (March 2, 2016)  for more details: http://mith.umd.edu/dialogues/dd-spring-2016-maxim-romanov/)

    • University of Tübingen (May 11, 2016)

  • June 1, 2016: Future in the Past: Using Modern Computational Methods for the Analysis of Premodern Arabic Texts, Guest Lecture @ “Society and Religion in the Arab World” (an introductory Arabic and Islamic Studies seminar taught by Marie Hakenberg), Leipzig University

  • May 4, 2016: Annotation of geographical data (together with Chiara Palladino), Session 14 of the Sunoikisis Digital Classics 2016, for more details:  https://github.com/SunoikisisDC/SunoikisisDC-2016

  • April 26, 2016: [Discovering] Spatial and Chronological Patterns in Historical Texts @ Unlocking the Digital Humanities, A Seminar organized by Leipzig University & Tufts University, Spring 2016

  • December, 2015: Arabic and Islamic Studies and the Digital Humanities @ The Brill Workshop on the Digital Humanities (December 2-3, Leiden; May 1-2, Boston)

  • March, 2015: Introduction to Classical Arabic Through the Words of the Prophet, A “Lightning talk” on DH Topics (over Skype) @ Digital Humanities Institute—Beirut 2015, American University of Beirut. For more details, dhibeirut.wordpress.com.

  • February, 2015: Digital Humanities the Premodern Islamic World: Of Graphs, Maps, and 30,000 Muslims. Invited public lecture @ the University of California—Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA (February 25, 2015). For more details, see information on the website of The Gustav E. von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern Studies at UCLA.

  • August, 2014: The Social Geography of the Islamic World (661–1300 CE): on the Method, Invited presentation @ PROSOP Workshop, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL (August 15, 2014). See, www.prosop.org.

  • April, 2014: The Social Geography of the Islamic World (661–1300 CE), Invited talk @ the University of Richmond, Richmond, VA (April 10, 2014)

  • April, 2014: Distant Reading of Arabic Biographical Collections, Guest Lecture @ “Saints and Sinners in Muslim Literature,” (Prof. Mimi Hanaoka) @ the University of Richmond, Richmond, VA (April 10, 2014)

  • April, 2014: Future in the Past: Using Digital Methods to Study Medieval Arabic Texts, Presentation for the Students of Arabic @ Tufts University (April 7, 2014).

  • April, 2014: Classical Arabic through the Words of the Prophet: Teaching Classical Arabic in the Digital Age, Brown Bag Presentation for Arabic Instructors @ Tufts University (April 2, 2014). 

  • March, 2014: Studying Classical Arabic Sources in the Digital Age: Social Geography and Social History, Invited talk for Holy Cross Manuscripts, Inscriptions and Documents Club the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA (March 14, 2014)

  • March, 2014: Computational Reading of Classical Arabic Sources: the Case of Biographical Collections, Presentation @ the Department of Classics, Tufts University (March 10, 2014).

  • February, 2014: Building a Historical Gazetteer, Guest Lecture @ “Computational methods in the humanities,” An honors course (Prof. David J. Birnbaum) @ the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA (February, 21, 2014)

  • February, 2014: Connectedness of the Islamic World (661–1300 CE), Invited Talk @ the European Union Center of Excellence European Studies Center, the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA (February, 20, 2014)

  • February, 2014: Computational Reading of Classical Arabic Sources: the Case of Biographical Collections, Invited Talk @ Bard College, Annadale-on-Hudson, NY (February 11, 2014).

  • January, 2014: Computational Reading of Classical Arabic Sources: the Case of Biographical Collections, Invited Talk @ The Center for Digital Research in the Humanities (CDRH) at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL), Lincoln, NE (January 30, 2014). 

Digital projects and collaborations

  • 2016—ongoing: Open Islamicate Texts Initiative (Open ITI) is a multi-institutional effort to construct the first machine-actionable scholarly corpus of premodern Islamicate texts. Led by researchers at the Aga Khan University (AKU), Leipzig University (LU), and the Roshan Institute for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland (College Park) and an interdisciplinary advisory board of leading digital humanists and Islamic, Persian, and Arabic studies scholars, ITI aims to provide the essential textual infrastructure in Persian and Arabic for new forms of macro textual analysis and digital scholarship. In the process, Open ITI will enable new synergies between Digital Humanities and the inter-related Islamicate fields of Islamic, Persian, and Arabic Studies. ITI team members work on bringing together a united Islamicate textual corpus that would contain approximately 10,000 Islamicate texts (ca. 7,000 Arabic and 3,000 Persian texts). Co-PIs (alphabetically): Matthew Miller (UMD), Maxim Romanov (LU), Sarah Savant (AKU). For more details: http://iti-corpus.github.io/.

  • 2016—ongoing: Kraken ibn Ocropus. Building on the foundational open-source OCR work of the Leipzig University’s (LU) Alexander von Humboldt Chair for Digital Humanities, the Open ITI team develops a flexible, trainable OCR pipeline for Islamicate languages. We are building on an open-source OCR software called Kraken (developed by Benjamin Kiessling, LU) that enables us to make this our OCR technology freely available to the broader Islamic, Persian, and Arabic Studies communities in the near future. Unlike more traditional OCR approaches, Kraken relies on a neural network—which mimics the way we learn—to recognize letters in the images of entire lines of text without trying first to segment lines into words and then words into letters. This segmentation step—a mainstream OCR approach that persistently fails on connected scripts—is thus completely removed from the process, making Kraken uniquely powerful for dealing with a diverse variety of ligatures in connected Arabic script. We have achieved accuracy rates for classical Arabic texts in the high nineties, and currently testing Kraken on Persian and Syriac printed texts. Our efforts also focus on the development of an online interface that will facilitate the production and collection of training data and the post-correction of the initial OCR output. Team (alphabetically): Elijah Cooke (UMD), Benjamin Kiessling (LU), Matthew Miller (UMD), Maxim Romanov (LU), Sarah Savant (AKU). For the detailed report on the state of the project: https://www.academia.edu/28923960/.

  • 2015—ongoing: OpenArabic Project. The goal of the project is to build a machine-actionable corpus of premodern texts in Arabic to encourage computational analysis of the Arabic written tradition. The project is in the process of being merged into the Open ITI. A detailed progress report is available on GitHub at: https://github.com/OpenArabic/Annotation/.

  • 2014—ongoing: OpenArabic mARkdown. The main goal is to provide a simple system for tagging structural and semantic information in premodern and early modern Arabic texts that are being prepared within the framework of the OpenArabic Project that would facilitate algorithmic analysis in the same way (and even more efficiently) as more complex TEI XML does. A detailed description of and instructions for using OpenArabic mARkdown can be found at: http://maximromanov.github.io/mARkdown/

  • 2014—ongoing: Islamic Geography. 2014–2016: in collaboration with Cameron Jackson (Class 2016, double-major in Arabic and Computer Science, Tufts University); 2016–: in collaboration with Masoumeh Seydi (PhD Student in Digital Humanities, Leipzig University). The project includes two main parts: 1) al-Ṯurayyā (Pleiades in Arabic)—a digital gazetteer of the classical Islamic world; the latest working version version of al-Ṯurayyā is available at https://althurayya.github.io/; for a previous version, see:   http://maximromanov.github.io/projects/althurayya_02/. 2) Ṣūraŧ al-arḍ (The Shape of the World in Arabic)—a computational geospatial model of the classical Islamic world for studying of geospatial data from premodern Islamic texts. Ṣūraŧ al-arḍ is inspired and builds upon http://orbis.stanford.edu/, the Stanford geospatial Network Model of the Roman World (developed by Elijah Meeks and Walter Scheidel). The Ṣūraŧ al-arḍ will help us to better understand spatial connections within the Islamic world, to visually study geographical and travel literature, and, most importantly, to study ample data from biographical collections by tracing geographies of different social and religious groups. The working demo version of Ṣūraŧ al-arḍ is available at  maximromanov.github.io/projects/surat_al_ard_01/.

  • 2013—ongoing: Kitab (an acronym that also means “book” in Arabic), a cultural history project treating the history of books and cultural memory. It undertakes a far-reaching evaluation of the classical Arabic textual tradition (750—1200) for the purpose of understanding how cultural memory was negotiated and shaped by authors when they created books. Its ingenuity derives from the application of text reuse methods, which detect the copying of texts into other texts and thus enable study of the form and content of the textual tradition. Project website (in progress): kitab-project.org . NB: Collaborative project led by Sarah Savant (Islamic History, Aga Khan University—London); in collaboration with David Smith (Computer Science, Northeastern), and Alexander von Humboldt Chair for Digital Humanities (Leipzig University); my contribution, among other things, includes the study of Arabic Biographical Collections as a genre.

  • 2013–2015: Studying Classical Arabic Legacy @ Tufts University together with Gregory Crane @ Department of Classics & Perseus Project. Main goals: 1) to develop a catalog of digitally available sources in classical Arabic (as an Arabic supplement to The Perseus Catalog), to facilitate access to these sources and better understand what Arabic sources are available and what sources have been overlooked. Pilot Arabic catalog: http://catalog.perseus.org/ (In “Work Original Language” select Arabic); 2) to develop courses and course materials for teaching classical Arabic with the use of computational tools in order to enhance and speed up learning process; Specific outcome: Introduction into Classical Arabic Through the Words of the Prophet: A Frequency-Based Ḥadīṯ Reader (available at:
    http://maximromanov.github.io/2016/05-30.html) ; 3) to develop courses for studying specific classical sources in Arabic and in English translation in order to generate new knowledge about the Islamic world (research courses / digital projects).

  • 2012—ongoing: al-Raqmiyyāt: Digital Islamic History (maximromanov.github.io)  Personal research blog that highlights my digital studies of Islamic historical sources in Arabic, with the focus on documenting major steps of my digital experiments with 10,000 Arabic texts, highlighting general exploration of both the entire corpus and specific sources. The main goal is to log research progress, share discoveries and provide some guidance to young and senior scholars of Islam and Islamic history interested in employing digital methods in their research.

Teaching: Classes

  • Islamicate Texts, DH: Islamicate World 2.0: Studying Islamic Cultures through Computational Textual Analysis. In this new project-based course, students from two universities will come together to learn the basics of computational textual analysis while participating as student researchers in the nascent project of exploring the vast and largely unexplored tomes of textual data about the Islamicate world. It will also introduce students to theoretical and methodological debates in the field of global digital humanities. Like the digital humanities field that inspires its approach, it will be a highly interdisciplinary course that studies texts from multiple genres (lyric poetry to historical chronicles, legal treatises to the Qurʾān) and languages (Arabic, Persian) with the aid of computational textual analysis tools. There are no language prerequisites, but it is preferable if students at least have elementary knowledge of either Arabic, Persian, Turkish, or Urdu. (http://islamicate-dh.github.io/) @ the U of Maryland (College Park) and the Leipzig U, Fall/Winter 2016-7;  co-taught with Matthew Miller (UMD).

  • GIS, DH: From Text to Map, A two-week intensive introduction (32 contact hours) to a variety of ways of thinking about and working with humanities data in digital mapping environments; co-taught with David J. Wrisley, American University of Beirut @ “Culture & Technology”—The European Summer University in Digital Humanities, Leipzig University, Summer 2016 (www.culingtec.uni-leipzig.de)

  • Classical Language, Religion, DH: Classical Arabic Through the Words of the Prophet (Introduction to Classical Arabic through the Corpus of Ḥadīṯ), Tufts University, Spring 2015

  • Digital Humanities, Methods: Introduction to Text Mining for the Students of Humanities, Tufts University, Spring 2015; (also as an independent study with two students: Tufts University, Fall 2014)

  • History, Digital Humanities: Mapping the Classical Islamic World, Tufts University, Winter 2014; Digital Project: Mapping Data from al-Muqaddasī’s geographical treatise (10th century CE)

  • History, DH: The First Millennium of the Islamic Near East 600–1600 CE, U of Michigan, Fall 2012 (as a teaching assistant); Digital Project: Timemaps

  • Religion, History: Introduction to Islam, U of Michigan: Spring 2011, Winter 2011 (as a teaching assistant), Spring 2010

  • Language: Elementary Modern Standard Arabic, U of Michigan: Fall 2010, Fall/Winter 2009–2010, Fall/Winter 2008–2009, Fall/Winter 2007–2008

  • Classical Language: Elementary Classical Arabic, U of Michigan, Fall/Winter 2006–2007

Teaching: Workshops

  • December 2016: Georeferencing Printed Maps @ Analyzing Text Reuse @ Scale / Working with Big Humanities Data @ Leipzig University, organized by Thomas Köntges & Maxim Romanov (within the framework of Leipzig Workshop Week, 14–18 December 2015).

  • February 2015: Digital Humanities & Islamic Studies @ the University of California, Los Angeles.  Organized by Asma Sayeed & The Gustav E. von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern Studies at UCLA.

  • October 2014: Textual Corpora and the Digital Islamic Humanities @ Brown University as a session leader together with Elli Mylonas; organized by Elias Muhanna.  For details: http://islamichumanities.org/workshop-2014/

  • May 2009: Electronic Libraries/Databases of Arabic and Islamic sources  a part of the Project “The Reviews of / Manuals for Electronic Databases of Arabic and Islamic Sources,” in cooperation with Michael Bonner @ University of Michigan.

    • 2008–2009: detailed reviews and manuals for over 10 different databases / electronic libraries were prepared to be used as instructional materials for the Workshop

  • June 2005: Sources for Research on Islam: Textual, Visual, Digital.  in cooperation with Professor Marion Katz (New York University) @ SSRC Summer Institute “Teaching Islam in Eurasia,” Kazan, Russia.

Organizing: Workshops, Panels, Roundtables

  • November 2016: Networked Texts: New Ways of Seeing the Arabic Textual Tradition (750-1500), a Panel co-organized with Dr. Sarah Savant (Aga Khan University—London) at the annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association, Boston 2016

  • November 2016: Non-traditional methods for Teaching Traditional Languages, a Roundtable at the annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association, Boston 2016

  • December 2015: Analyzing Text Reuse at Scale / Working with Big Humanities Data @ Leipzig University, organized by Thomas Köntges & Maxim Romanov (within the framework of Leipzig Workshop Week, 14–18 December 2015).

  • December 2015: Digital Arabic and Digital Persian Research Workshop @ Leipzig University, organized by Maxim Romanov (within the framework of Leipzig Workshop Week, 14–18 December 2015).

  • November, 2013: Digital Humanities in Middle East Studies (organized together with Børre Ludvigsen and Will Hanley), a series of two panels and a roundtable: “Traditional Sources, Nontraditional Methods,” “Digital Communication,” and Roundtable at the annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association, New Orleans 2013

  • November, 2010: Islamic Preaching, a Panel at the annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association, San Diego, 2010

Fellowships, grants, awards & honors received

  • F2015–W2016 (declined): Research Fellowship (Visiting Fellow) at Islamic Legal Studies Program,  Harvard Law School, Harvard University.

  • F2012–S2013: Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

  • Summer 2013: Hajja Razia Sharif Sheikh Scholarship Award in Islamic Studies, U of Michigan.

  • Fall 2013: People’s Choice Award for the poster “Social History of the Muslim World in the Digital Age: Making Sense of 29,000 Biographies from al-Ḏahabī’s ‘History of Islam’ ” @ Cyberinfrastructure Days, U of Michigan, November 7-8, 2012.

  • W2012–S2012: Rackham Humanities Research Fellowship, U of Michigan.

  • F2011–W2012: Supplementary Grant for the 2011–2012 academic year, Global Supplementary Grant Program, Open Society Institute.

  • Winter 2011: Rackham Graduate Student Research Grant, U of Michigan.

  • Winter 2011: Radcliffe/Ramsdell Fellowship, U of Michigan.

  • Spring 2008: George and Celeste Hourani Award in Arabic, Armenian, Persian, Turkish, and Islamic Studies, the Department of Near Eastern Studies, U of Michigan.

  • Winter 2005 & 2004: Honorary awards for Website development, SPbIOS/IOM of RAS:  www.orientalstudies.ru

  • Winter 2004: Honorary award for the best articles and papers by young scholars (for the article “The Paradigm of the Science of the Ḥadīṯ”), SPbIOS/IOM of RAS.

Additional training & experience

  • Summer, 2012: “Working with Text in a Digital Age”, a 3-week summer institute @ Tufts University (Perseus Project)

  • Winter, 2012: THATCamp @ the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association, Chicago

  • Winter, 2011: Introduction to ArcGIS, a series of workshops @ U of Michigan

  • 2009–2010: Cataloguing Arabic manuscripts @ U of Michigan, Special Collections

  • May, 2009: Introduction to Manuscript Studies (Dr. Adam Gacek) @ U of Michigan

  • 2005–2006: Digitalization of Manuscripts from the Dunhuang Collection, SPbIOS/IOM of RAS

Other academic publications in Arabic and Islamic studies

Reference Materials

  • 2006: Girgas, Vladimir. Arabic-Russian Dictionary for the Qur"’an and Ḥadīth (Slovar’ k arabskoy khrestomatii i Koranu). Kazan’, 1881; Preparation of the improved reprint edition; in cooperation with Dr. Stanislav M. Prozorov. Cover title: Arabsko-Russkiy Slovar’ k Koranu I Hadisam, St. Petersburg: Dilya Publishers, 2006, ISBN 978-5-88503-555-2.

Translations from Russian into English

  • in progress: Krachkovskii, Ignatii Yulianovich. Arabic Geographical Literature, translation into English. In cooperation with Michael Bonner @ U of Michigan.

Translations from English into Russian

  • 2010: Chittick, William. Sufism: a Beginner’s Guide. Oxford, England: Oneworld Publications, 2008 (Moscow: “Vostochnaya Literatura”: ISBN 978-5-02-036498-1)

  • 2006: Cook, Michael. Forbidding Wrong in Islam. Cambridge University Press, 2003; in print (St. Petersburg: Dilya Publishers: ISBN 978-5-88503-684-9); translation into Russian, editing.

  • 2006: Watt, W. Montgomery. MuḤammad in Mecca. Oxford, 1956 (St. Petersburg: Dilya Publishers, 2006: ISBN 5-88503-507-5); editing, indices, proof-reading.

  • 2006: Burton, John. Introduction to the Ḥadīth. Edinburgh University Press, 1994, (St.  Petersburg: Dilya Publishers, 2006, ISBN 5-88503-461-3); translation into Russian (with a co-translator), editing, indices, proof-reading.

  • 2005, not published: Leaman, Oliver. Islamic Aesthetic: An Introduction. Edinburgh University Press, 2004, (St. Petersburg: Dilya Publishers); translation into Russian (with a co-translator), editing.

  • 2005: Watt, Montgomery & Richard Bell. Introduction to the Qurʾān. Edinburgh University Press, 1970 (first published), (St. Petersburg: Dilya Publishers, 2005, ISBN 5-88503-385-4); translation into Russian (with a co-translators), pre-editing, indices, proof-reading.

  • 2004: Knysh, Alexander. Islamic Mysticism: a short history. Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill, 2000; translation into Russian, indices, proof-reading and cover design (St. Petersburg: Dilya Publishers, 2004, ISBN 5-88503-232-7).

Natural languages

  • Arabic: modern standard & classical

  • English: fluent spoken & written

  • Russian: native

  • other: reading knowledge of German, French, Indonesian; elementary Persian & Turkish

Formal languages and computer skills

  • Actively using: Python, R, LaTeX, QGIS, Cluster Computing

  • Learning: Javascript, D3

Professional membership

  • 2016–present: Middle East Medievalists (MEM)

  • 2012–present: American Oriental Society (AOS)

  • 2008–present: Middle East Studies Association (MESA)

Service to the field

  • 2013–present: I am regularly consulting my colleagues on the design of digital projects—both formally and informally—in the area of historical studies of the Islamic world. Over the past three years I have been in touch with over two dozen junior and senior colleagues in the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Israel and Germany.

  • : Participating in workshops as an invited expert (selected list):

    • November 11, 2016: [Duke University] Jara’id 2.0: Indexing the Early Arabic Public Sphere, A Workshop in Arabic Digital Humanities (organizer: Adam Mestyan)

    • November 16, 2016: [Harvard Law School] Digital Islamic Law and History: Resources and Methods @ Harvard Law School, SHARIAsource (invited by Intisar Rabb, Founding Editor-In-Chief, SHARIAsource, Professor at Harvard Law School

    • November 17, 2016: [Harvard Law School] Resource Sharing Workshop: Comparing and Sharing Digital Archival Projects and Resources @ Harvard Law School, SHARIAsource (together with Intisar Rabb, Founding Editor-In-Chief, SHARIAsource, Professor at Harvard Law School)

    • June 20–24, 2016: [Institute for Advanced Study] Digital Ottoman Platform II, organized by Sabine Schmidtke (IAS) and Amy Singer (Tel Aviv University).

    • June 8–12, 2015: [Institute for Advanced Study] Digital Ottoman Platform I, organized by Sabine Schmidtke (IAS) and Amy Singer (Tel Aviv University).

Supervising

  • Leipzig U, 2016–: Masoumeh Seydi, PhD candidate in Digital Humanities: “Modeling and Visualizing Geographical Information from Premodern Textual Sources”

  • Tufts U, 2015–2016: Cameron Jackson, BA Honors Thesis (Class 2016): “An Interactive Model of the Classical Islamic World” (http://cjacks0413.github.io/imiw/). Defended with highest honors.

References

  • >> >>: available upon request

Dissertation

  • Title: Computational Reading of Arabic Biographical Collections with Special Reference to Preaching in the Sunnī World (661–1300 CE)

  • Abstract: A project in the digital humanities, the dissertation explores methods of computational text analysis. Relying on text-mining techniques to extract meaningful data from unstructured text, the study offers an effective and flexible method for the analysis of Arabic biographical collections, the most valuable source for the social history of the pre-modern Islamic world. It uses the largest collection, “The History of Islam” of al-Ḏahabī (d. 1348), as a case-study of applying the new method and shows how almost 30,000 biographies can be studied as a whole.   
    A step toward finding a viable solution for studying the entire digital corpus of classical Islamic texts (400 mln. words), Chapter I offers a detailed explanation of “computational reading” that was built upon existing digital approaches from a variety of disciplines. Chapter II models big data extracted from the main source to further our understanding of the social geography of the Islamic world and its major social transformations, simultaneously providing an important background for the next chapter. Chapter III applies the devised method to the study of Islamic preaching from chronological, geographical and social perspectives that have been overlooked in the academic treatment of this subject. Largely an exploratory overview, it traces long-term changes in preaching practices as well as statuses of preachers within the Islamic élites. This chapter demonstrates how exactly computational reading can contribute to the studies of specific phenomena and practices. The final section overviews broad prospects of the further application of “computational reading” to a variety of genres of pre-modern Arabic literature.   
    The dissertation heavily relies on the visual display of information in the form of graphs, charts, maps, and tables that are used in the main body and supplied in Appendices. More details...

  • Committee: Alexander Knysh, Chair, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Michigan; Michael Bonner, Professor of Medieval Islamic History, University of Michigan; Richard Bulliet, Professor of History, Columbia University; Sherman Jackson, Professor of Religion and American Studies, University of South California; Andrew Shryock, Professor of Cultural Anthropology, University of Michigan

Dissertation: From Introduction

My dissertation is a project in the digital humanities. Over the past few years “digital humanities” became an extremely overused buzzword, and one often gets a feeling that, as a Russian saying goes, only the lazy do not speak of themselves as digital humanists. For this reason, some clarifications are in order. The digital humanities still remains a vaguely defined field1 and DH studies range widely from theoretical inquiries into possible effects of technological developments on the humanities at large to the development and application of digital methods to traditional sources. While the prevailing majority of digital humanists prefer to contribute to the area of theoretical inquiries, this dissertation is primarily about studying traditional sources with non-traditional methods.

The initial plan was to write a dissertation on the history of “public preaching” (waʿẓ). My sociological background and my overall interest in Arabic biographical literature, which was firmly instilled in me by my Russian mentor Professor Stanislav M. Prozorov, steered me toward the history of “public preaching” through the analysis of biographical collections. In order to study preachers as a social group it was necessary to study all their biographies. Unfortunately, conventional close reading was of little help and a different method was necessary. In order to understand how this social group fitted into Islamic society, it was necessary to know what Islamic society was, i.e. it was necessary to study all other biographies as well.2 Only this would allow to place preachers into a wider context of Islamic society as it is represented on the pages of biographical collections. This also required a different method.

Graduate students in our field often learn additional languages of the Islamicate world in order to advance their research. In order to solve my methodological issues I needed not a different language, but a different kind of language—a language that would allow me to work with texts in a radically different manner. It so happened that learning scripting languages—in my case Python and R—was the answer. These formal languages indeed allow one to read texts in a completely different way, no matter in what language they are, and no matter how long they are. They enhance and augment our ability to read by allowing us to work with practically unlimited volumes of text. They allowed me to pull together almost 30,000 biographies from al-Ḏahabī’s Taʾrīḫ al-islām, the largest biographical collection that became the backbone of my study, and start studying them as a whole.

Since digital methods have not yet entered the domain of Islamic studies, the first part of the dissertation offers a detailed explanation of “computational reading” that has been developed over the past two years. This method is built upon existing digital techniques and approaches that were picked from a variety of disciplines and adapted to the analysis of Arabic biographical collections. I fully realize that the reader might find the exposition of the method painfully technical, but since the method is essential for the entire study and largely unprecedented, its inner workings must be explained in sufficient details. Most importantly, I hope that this part will provide young scholars who are willing to step into the still uncharted terrain of digital methods of textual analysis with a desperately needed road map. Something that I, to my own misfortune, did not have.

The first part is also meant to be a step toward finding a viable approach for studying the vast digital corpus of classical Islamic texts which keeps on growing practically by the minute. If Islamicists do not find a way to deal with this big issue, eventually someone else will. In this light it is worth drawing attention to an experimental study conducted by a group of information scientists. Published in an American academic journal,3 this “computer study of the reliability of Arabic stories” attempts to evaluate the reliability of chains of transmitters (sing. isnād) in Prophetic reports (sing. ḥadīṯ) using contemporary information reliability theories. Although these scientists are far from producing anything as appealing to reading public as, for example, Guns, Germs, and Steel,4 there are no reasons to believe that our field will forever remain immune to those who might want to follow in the footsteps of Jared Diamond, a biologist-turn-historian.

The second part is on modeling. Extracted with digital methods, “big data” still need to be re-organized in some coherent manner in order to be useful for analysis. Modeling is a way to achieve this. As clearly defined systems of assumptions about different kinds of data and their interrelations, models are designed to provide explanations for complex processes.5 Thus, this part models big data extracted from al-Ḏahabī’s Taʾrīḫ al-islām to further our understanding of the social geography of the Islamic world and major social transformations that the Muslim community underwent in the course of its early history. Although largely a road map for further research, this part provides an important chronological, geographical and social background for the last part of the dissertation.

The third part is an application of the devised method to the study of Islamic preaching. It focuses on an exploratory overview of all major forms of Islamic preaching as they feature on the electronic pages of my corpus that covers about 700 years of Islamic history. Partially determined by the current state of the development of computational reading, this part studies the major forms of Islamic preaching from chronological, geographical and social perspectives that have been largely overlooked in the academic treatment of this subject. The choice of establishing the overview, instead of trying to find answers to particular historical questions, was deliberate. Working with big data makes it abundantly clear that there are too many unknowns and that asking specific questions without knowing what is and what is not in the data only leads to wrong answers. At this stage, “exploratory analysis” is much more crucial than specific inquiries. One of the major goals of this part is also to demonstrate how exactly computational reading can contribute to the studies of specific phenomena and practices in the pre-modern Islamic world.

The three parts of the dissertation build upon each other, but ultimately can be treated as separate studies.

Dissertation Afterword: Further prospects

My dissertation, Computational Reading of Arabic Biographical Collections with Special Reference to Preaching in the Sunnī World (661-1300 ce), turned out to be more on the method of computational reading rather than on anything else, but the results are most exciting in terms of prospects that this method opens. After less than two years of development this method allows getting almost instantaneous insights into a great number of historical issues. Although technologically the approach has been developed practically from scratch, in spirit it follows in the footsteps of the quantitative method that has been used by the scholars of Islam since the 1970s. In its current state the method is best suited for analyzing biographical data from social, chronological and geographical perspectives, yet the complexity of analytical tasks can be increased ad infinitum. Computational reading is flexible, scalable and fast beyond comparison with conventional methods. Dwelling on these properties should offer a glimpse into the prospects of its further implementation.

The flexibility of computational reading allows asking various historical questions by designing analytical algorithms of any complexity. (It should be stressed that even though the method puts a lot of emphasis on the use of technology, its effectiveness implementation requires traditional training in Near Eastern studies.) Although the emphasis in the dissertation was primarily on the analysis of biographical data (dates, names and toponyms), computational reading also allows for the analysis of complex textual evidence.

Age statements from Taʾrīḫ al-islām. The left image shows the chronological fluctuation of the average lifespan, while the image on the right shows the chronological distribution of age statements (darker areas mean more age statements).

For example, we can get a glimpse into the age structure of Islamic élites through the computational analysis of age statement that often occur in biographies. Analyzing most frequent types of such statements in Taʾrīḫ al-islām, my experimental algorithm yields ages for over 5,100 individuals and shows that during the period of almost seven centuries the average lifespan fluctuated between 67 and 80 lunar years (Age Statements, left), clearly going down when age statements become more and more frequent, after c. 350/962 CE (Age Statements, right). Onomastic and toponymic synsets that allow re-grouping data using social, religious and geographical parameters may shed light on the age structure of different social groups and local communities. With minor modifications, this analytical algorithm can be applied to other sources as well. For example, the Hadiyyaŧ al-ʿārifīn offers age data on about 1,650 Islamic authors (out of approximately 8,800) and a very cursory glance at the results shows that the longevity was indeed characteristic of religious scholars,6 while most of the short-lived authors are usually found in the field of poetry and fine literature, where talent and audacity seem to have been more important than networks and perseverance. Ability to collect such data from numerous biographical collections will help to advance the study of the demography of the Islamic world.

In a similar manner, algorithms can be devised for a more complex analysis of onomastic data that would allow, for example, reproducing Bulliet’s study of conversion.7 The very fact that this study is still criticized8 after more than three decades from its publication shows that Bulliet’s model of conversion cannot be discarded through a critique of where it fails, if otherwise it still remains plausible and coherent. The old model will remain standing until an equally plausible alternative can be offered.  The flexibility of computational reading will allow re-testing the original model of conversion on new biographical collections, experimenting with its variations and developing a new one.

The emphasis in the dissertation was primarily on biographical collections, however, computational reading can be applied to texts of any genre, although it does work best for texts that show structural regularities of some kind. For example, one can design algorithms that will allow tracing the usage of Qurʾānic verses over the entire digital corpus of Islamic sources. Such a large-scale study of how the Qurʾān was quoted and interpreted by different authors will allow to improve our understanding of how different aspects of the Islamic scripture were coming to prominence depending on historical circumstances. The same can be done for Prophetic traditions (sing. ḥadīṯ), where computational reading will be particularly helpful for the analysis of the chains of transmitters. Compendia of legal decisions (sing. fatwá) can also be analyzed in the same manner and the exploratory analysis of possible correlations between the topics of legal decisions, locales and periods will most likely reveal unexpected commonalities and differences between regional communities of Muslims, as well as offer a unique perspective on the long-term regional development of Islamic law. Likewise, interesting experiments can be designed for the study of classical Arabic poetry. Considering that the meter can be identified computationally,9 the scholars of Arabic poetry can look for correlations between meters and themes, and, of course, put their discoveries in geographical and chronological perspectives.10

The scalability of computational reading allows testing whether the same historical questions yield similar results when asked of new sources—this is done by applying existing analytical algorithms to new sources. For example, the already devised complex means of identifying preachers and passages relevant to preaching can be effectively applied to local biographical collections and local histories, which will allow us to get a more detailed idea of the chronology of different preaching practices in particular regions of the Islamic world, and simultaneously test whether regional representation in Taʾrīḫ al-islām corresponds to that of local sources.

Computational reading is fast. It does take a great deal of time to put together the essentials—devise algorithms, compile synsets, reformat sources—but when they are ready, the results can be produced almost instantaneously. The results can be easily regenerated if analytical algorithms require adjustments or new sources added to the corpus; and it does not matter whether analytical algorithms are applied to a single text or the entire digital corpus of classical Arabic that already significantly exceeds 400 million words. In most cases the results come in volumes that are significant enough to trace historical patterns.

Geographical Networks of the Legal Schools. Legend: Yellow cores and numbers on the left show individuals strongly associated with regions in question; yellow husks and numbers on the right show individuals who visited regions in question. NB: each maps has its own scale.

The volume of structured data that has been generated so far from Taʾrīḫ al-islām alone is sufficient for dozens of studies that will allow advancing our understanding of the social history of the pre-modern Islamic world. Most of these data remained outside this dissertation project, but to give an idea of these “byproducts,” we can take a quick look at the results for the major Sunnī legal schools. Figure above shows that each school had a distinct geographical network. In and of themselves these geographies are hardly surprising and largely agree with what the students of Islam have already discovered over the last century or so. (It is worth highlighting, however, that these maps are but a circumstantial result of the two-year research by a graduate student). At the same time, reformatted into graphs and chronological maps—similar to the ones that were used in the part on preaching and preachers—these data can give the scholars of Islam a much more subtle picture of how these geographical networks were changing over time, where and when they flourished, stagnated, and declined. The use of hierarchical lists of geographical entities—toponymic synsets—allows taking a more detailed view of these geographical networks and analyze connections not only between provinces, but also between urban centers and even city quarters. By putting data on all four legal schools on the same chronological maps we can get a glimpse into how these schools were coexisting with each other in different regional clusters. Figure below should give an idea of how the “relative weights” of the schools were changing over time in major regional clusters during the period of 470–670/1078–1272 CE.

“Relative Weights” of the Legal Schools in Regional Clusters. Legend: Solid core shows individuals  strongly associated with regions in question; semi-transparent husks show individuals who visited regions in question.

Needless to say that in the same manner one can trace the chronology and geography of any social group that can be identified in the sources through relevant onomastic elements or more complex textual descriptions. One of the major advantages of the computational approach is that instead of artificially imposing chronological and geographical boundaries, one can discover periods and regions that are important to specific phenomena, practices, or social groups.

Somewhat ironically, the advantages of computational reading pose problems. The volume of results generated with this method is overwhelming. The visualization of data with tables, graphs, and maps is helpful for getting meaningful insights into findings, but comprehension and interpretation of these data will require collaborative efforts and decades of more traditional research. Fortunately, computational reading also allows marshaling all relevant textual evidence for close reading.

Footnotes

  1. Burdick, Anne, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, and Jeffrey Schnapp. Digital_Humanities. The MIT Press, 2012, especially Chapter 4. Provocations: A Short Guide to the Digital_Humanities. 

  2. It is still hard to speak about the society at large, but I hope that methodologically I was able to make a few steps in the right direction that would allow us to better understand the Islamic élites that are described in biographical collections. 

  3. Bounhas, Ibrahim, Bilel Elayeb, Fabrice Evrard, and Yahya Slimani. “Toward a Computer Study of the Reliability of Arabic Stories.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (2010): 1686–1705. 

  4. Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. 1st ed. W. W. Norton \& Company, 2005 (first published in 1999). 

  5. For valuable examples of modeling “big data” see: Moretti, Franco. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History. Verso, 2007; Morris, Ian. The Measure of Civilization: How Social Development Decides the Fate of Nations. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013; also see ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World (http://orbis.stanford.edu/), developed by Walter Scheidel and Elijah Meeks. In the field of Islamic studies: Bulliet, Richard W. Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period: An Essay in Quantitative History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979. 

  6. Bulliet determines an average lifespan of 78 lunar years (Bulliet, Richard W. “A Quantitative Approach to Medieval Muslim Biographical Dictionaries.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 13, no. 2 (April 1, 1970), p. 200); Nawas gives 80 lunar years (Nawas, John. “Development of the Islamic Religious Sciences.” al-Masaq 11 (1999), p. 161, also see fn. 8 for more references); and Şentürk—79.82 (Şentürk, Recep. Narrative Social Structure: Anatomy of the Hadith Transmission Network, 610-1505. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2005, p. 65). In all three cases the emphasis is strongly on the religious élites, and even more so—on the transmitters of ḥadīṯ, for whom longevity was one of the most important characteristics; the coverage of Taʾrīḫ al-islām is, of course, not limited to any specific group. 

  7. Bulliet, Richard W. Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period: An Essay in Quantitative History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979. 

  8. Most recently: Wasserstein, David J. “Where Have All the Converts Gone? Difficulties in the Study of Conversion to Islam in al-Andalus.” Al-Qanṭara 33, no. 2 (February 11, 2013): 325–342. 

  9. For one such tool see, The Encyclopaedia of Arabic Poetry by Cultural Foundation, Abu Dhabi (UAE), reviewed in details by Michael Bonner and Maxim Romanov (available here). 

  10. Similar studies in the history of English fiction have already yielded a number of interesting and unexpected discoveries. For example, Jockers, Matthew L. Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History. 1st Edition. University of Illinois Press, 2013; Moretti, Franco. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History. Verso, 2007; Moretti, Franco. Distant Reading. 1st ed. Verso, 2013. 



Please, use the latest version at https://alraqmiyyat.github.io/