Mamluk history and culture (1250-1517)
Embedded in the rich traditions of the Henri Pirenne Institute for Medieval Studies, Islamic history research at UGent specialises in the history and culture of Egypt and Syria in the Mamluk period (ca. 1250-1517 CE).
In general, our research aims to look at Mamluk history and culture through a new lens, questioning standard accounts of Mamluk singularity and reconnecting it with the wider late medieval and early modern world. All Mamluk research at UGent, therefore, is being pursued within the overarching remit of developing and qualifying a different research paradigm for late medieval Syro-Egyptian political history, of regular radical social and cultural transformation of political elites, institutions and discourses in a complex practical environment that continuously shifted between a predominantly patriarchal and a more complex and centralised patrimonial social system and that was imagined, produced and reproduced as some Cairo-centred hegemonic local/regional form of the dawlat al-atrāk (rather than as any construction of a Mamluk sultanate, state or empire). This has emerged out of the research pathway followed by the group’s Principal Investigator, Jo Van Steenbergen, and is currently being pursued in various projects on Mamluk politics, society and culture, that all share common methodological approaches through prosopography, social network analysis, social semiotics, narratology & critical discourse analysis. The following three work packages are currently being developed:
- MP3 [Mamluk Political Prosopography Project]: development of a complex relational prosopographical & sociographical database for the political elites of the Mamluk period [with collaboration of software developer Clickworks] - this is an open database, that will continue to grow as more data continue to be added to it; at the same time, it can be used by the wider scholarly community, since a relevant selection of prosopographical and institutional data are accessible (for registered guests) and fully searchable (under construction !). See PROSOPOGRAPHY
- MPC [Mamluk Political Culture): study of the Mamluk sultanate’s politics, defined very basically as who got what, when and how in late medieval Egypt and Syria (1250-1517), or more precisely as the body of practices, discourses and institutions that determined the control over and redistribution of Mamluk society’s resources
- MCM [Mamluk Cultural Matrix]: study of the interaction between dynamic relationships of power, values & meanings, and cultural forms in the Mamluk social environment, developing and applying the holistic, semiotic concept of a Mamluk 'cultural matrix’ to a variety of subjects.