Directions in the Study of Religion: Elias Muhanna

Kristian Petersen talks with Elias Muhanna, Assistant Professor at Brown University, about Digital Islamic Studies.

Elias Muhanna is a scholar of classical Arabic literature and Islamic intellectual history at Brown University. His research focuses primarily on encyclopedic texts in the Islamic world and Europe, the cultural production of the Mamluk Empire, and the problem of the vernacular in different literary traditions.

Elias earned his PhD in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations from Harvard University, and his dissertation won the Bruce D. Craig Prize from the Mamluk Studies Review in 2012. His article, “The Sultan’s New Clothes: Ottoman-Mamluk Gift Exchange in the 15th Century” (Muqarnas) was awarded the 2008 Margaret P. Sevcenko Prize by the Historians of Islamic Art Association, and he is currently completing a book on classical and early modern encyclopedic literature in the Islamic world, as well as an abridged translation of Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri’s 14th-century Arabic compendium, “The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition” (forthcoming, 2015). He is the creator of the Digital Islamic Humanities Project at Brown, a multi-year initiative that convenes an annual conference and hosts a variety of research activities.

In addition to his scholarship, Elias writes frequently on the evolving political cultures of the contemporary Middle East. His blog, Qifa Nabki, is a forum for intellectual exchange and debate on Levantine politics, and was called the “the leading blog on Lebanese politics” by The Economist in 2013. His essays and criticism appear regularly in The New York TimesThe New YorkerThe NationForeign Policy, and many other publications.