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This workshop seeks to map pre-colonial histories of local and transregional multilingualism in the Maghreb, north India, and Ethiopia. In the Maghreb this will include Berber in the North and the South, classical Arabic, French, Spanish and Judeo-Moroccan; in north India: Persian, Hindavi, Arabic and Sanskrit; in Ethiopia Geez and any traces of oral and written traditions in the other languages present in the region. In the medieval period Ethiopian culture was well connected with religious centres of learning in the Mediterranean and Middle East.

  • What were the dynamics of these “multilingual locals”—did people read and write in more than one language, or read and write in one but also participate in others? Did they keep literary tastes in the different languages separate or did they mix them?
  • Were languages understood to be in hierarchical relationships or to fulfill different functions in different domains?
  • What genres were considered crucial to each language’s/region’s literary culture? Were they translated from one language to another? Did the same genres occupy comparable positions in the different language traditions (e.g. ghazal, masnavi, qasida?)
  • Which works and genres travelled furthest in a language? Thanks to which human and material networks?
  • What significant traditions of orature existed, who embodied/carried them and in which spaces?
  • What were the “significant geographies” in each region and each language—did they map onto one other or did they diverge?

The full workshop programme, speakers and abstracts.