Call for Papers: International Congress for Medieval Studies

Call for Papers: International Congress for Medieval Studies

Screen Shot 2021-08-30 at 9.22.54 AMThe Great Lakes Adiban Society (GLAS) is the sponsor of two events at the upcoming International Congress for Medieval Studies, to convene on May 9–14, 2022. This event includes two panels relating to medieval Islam:

  1. Sociability between Justice and Tyranny
  2. Medieval Islamicate Paratexts in Contexts

To submit a paper to either of these events, go to, select the respective title for which you would like to apply under the dropdown menu “Session Selection,” or follow the hyperlinks noted below.

The due-date for all submissions is September 15, 2021. We will inform you of our decision within a week, and per ICMS guidelines, any papers not accepted will be passed on to the Medieval Institute to be considered for inclusion in the General Sessions.

For any questions, please contact Nathan Tabor,

Please read below for the full descriptions of these panels; for more information about our group, and to join our mailing list, visit

Panel 1. Sociability between Justice and Tyranny

This panel explores the question of how Islamicate texts from a wide variety of traditions ambivalently consider the role of sociability within pre-modern settings, whether lauded as ethical conduct or condemned as unjust tyranny. Muslim majority and Muslim-ruled societies dwelling in lands between the western reaches of the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern Indian Ocean shared notions of association and political order informed by connected multi-lingual literatures and widely accepted notions of proper comportment. Among these varied settings, friendship could be a deeply existential and often a political endeavor, and noble enmities were often grounded in conversation and intellectual exchange. So too, pre-modern Islamicate texts occasionally valorized characters, settings, and scenarios that unseated the social order, as tricksters (ʿayyarun) and conspirators (khuwwan) interrupted friendships or overturned proper governance.

This tension between maintaining social order and overturning it can be witnessed in Islamicate literary manuals, works on ethical guidance, and didactic stories that portray sociability as accommodating both conviviality and competition; while treatises on political instruction and governance dwell on the just and companionable charisma of absolutist rulers. In the marketplace, Sufi brotherhoods and professional guilds cultivated values that appeared to overturn accepted norms on sociability and centralized rule, witnessed among the ideas of qalandar, khaksar, and luti orders; on the political front, accusations of conspiracy or heretical practices served to legitimate conquests that often began under similarly questionable circumstances; and within the private realm family relationships were often fraught to the point that go-betweens and servants became singular trustworthy intimates. Potential questions that could be addressed within this panel include:

  • How does a military leader comport with a victorious or defeated adversary?
  • What is the proper way to rejoin a party after being sick from imbibing too much alcohol?
  • What are the rules of conduct in literary, physical, and martial competitions?
  • What are the gracious ways to defer confrontation with kings and other social superiors?
  • What are the rules of ethical seduction?
  • How do certain texts obfuscate their counter arguments against social cohesion?
  • What are the ways in which mirrors for princes perhaps distract rulers from tyranny?

We hope that by considering a wide variety of texts from across Islamicate traditions this panel can illuminate subtle ambivalences toward sociability and despotism to better understand the competitive nature of friendship and the seductive pull of absolutist rule. Click here to apply.

Panel 2. Medieval Islamicate Paratexts in Contexts

In recent years, the study of paratexts in modern and premodern contexts has received increased critical attention, with scholars examining how features of a book or manuscript outside of its primary textual content contribute to the work’s overall meaning, reception, and interpretation. Oftentimes, modern editions of premodern works obscure or entirely erase such features, significantly altering the reading or perusing experience. In an effort to heighten sensitivities to the dynamics of such phenomena, this panel will explore the nature of the paratext in the lettered traditions of the medieval Islamicate world and ask how developments in textual technology (manuscript, lithograph, print, digital) as well as practices of reading and editing have changed how such works are understood and valorized.

As the existence of detailed style guides for premodern Muslim scribes and secretaries demonstrates, how one decided to present a text on the page and in a book was not just an aesthetic choice, but one of profound social importance. The medieval Islamicate paratext was therefore often subject to careful consideration and possessed of a certain shared semiotics. In the context of premodern Islamicate manuscript culture, aspects of the paratext may be thought to include (though are not limited to): prefaces and prologues, marginalia, illustrations, illuminations, calligraphic choices, colophons, doodles, page layout, and binding. In order to understand the complicated ways in which these elements imbued meaning, the panel might consider the following questions:

  • What role have paratexts played in a work’s reception and canonicity?
  • How stable are paratexts across different manuscript editions?
  • How did paratexts work in different textual genres (literary works, history, biography, law etc.)?
  • What do paratexts communicate about genre, authority, and textual community?
  • What, if anything, distinguishes the paratext from the text in the medieval Islamicate context?
  • How does paratextuality complicate understandings of Islamicate authorship?
  • How have new textual technologies shifted the borders between text and paratext, and what are the implications of these shifts?
  • What possibilities and problems does the digitization of manuscripts present for retrieving the premodern paratext?
  • What do secretarial style guides (inshaʾ treatises) reveal about premodern attitudes to the paratext?
  • How does paratextuality in the Islamicate world contribute to or complicate Eurocentric theories of the paratext and the history of the book?

In exploring these and related questions, we hope to illuminate historically contingent and yet expansive ways of reading and interpreting Islamicate written works, stimulate comparative discussion between scholars of diverse lettered traditions, and highlight especially problematic examples and trends of what we might call paratextual erasure. Click here to apply.


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