Routes and Realms: The Power of Place in the Early Islamic World


ACLS Fellowship Program




This study illuminates the political resonance of geographical thought among early and medieval Muslims by introducing the concept of a “discourse of place,” which consists of a body of writing dividing the world into physically bounded and culturally identifiable regions. By comparing representations of four significant regions in this discourse—Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula—the first part of this study reveals a nuanced vocabulary and rich source-base from which authors drew to evoke a wide range of loyalties. The second part examines the ways in which later generations reproduced and reworked this discourse to respond to a particularly volatile political situation: that of Syria during the Crusader and Mongol invasions.