There has been a break of several months, but finally I got a confirmation that CY Advanced Studies in France will finance my research. So I go on with contemporary period under a new, narrow title: "Mystical legacies and cultural transgression in the Mediterranean and Euro-Mediterranean writing". I will study the Francophone authors such as Abdelwahab Meddeb and Fouad Laroui, tracing their relation with historical Sufism and the transformative potential may introduce in the contemporary Euro-Mediterranean reality.
There have been some new things in October, of course, although I spent a lot of time in my characteristic meditations that apparently lead to nothing, and in fact lead to everything. I took a critical distance in relation to my project, redesigned my coordinates, thought about alternatives.
Among concrete results of the month, I count a book review submitted to Arabica (Todd Lawson's Tafsir as Mystical Experience), which does not look like much, but it required a jump across a symbolic obstacle (a Brill-edited journal, etc; I'm still very fragile when it comes to those affairs of academic prestige).
For the rest of the time, I studied Anselmo Turmeda, a 14th-c. Majorcan convert who became caid Abdallah al-Tarjuman in the service of the bey of Tunis. The figure exemplifies the Christian / Muslim frontier, its resistance and permeability. Having the concept of the border in mind, I also read Thomas Nail's Theory of the Border, a work aspiring to transhistorical relevance, yet of little use, I think, in my specific domain. It is a bit shallow. But as I go in depth, I tend to qualify an increasing number of other people's books as shallow. Which of cause needs to stop somewhere.
Enough of Eastern Europe, it's time to start publishing in any Brill journal. I'm writing a book review for Arabica, on Todd Lawson's Tafsir as Mystical Experience. The title sounds fascinating, and fits my project; the content is much less fascinating; a sort of technical work, very hard to follow. In fact, it is about Shia and quite far from my Andalusian perspective, but I recon I should read it anyway.
The end of September / beginning of October has been eventful, with various lectures and workshops. I appreciated especially two events given by the Moroccan scholar Zakaria Rhani. It offers me a sort of more realistic insight into what Sufism may be today, from a local perspective. It brings me down to earth from my conceptual excursions that remain in the old perennialist horizon. For sure, my work is precisely in the interstice between the Maghrebian (cultural - political - religious) reality and the European game of concepts.
Right now, I'm facing the essential. I think about writing a major, defining essay concerning the extra-cultural. I'm also thinking about books that will appear as the result of my project. It's time to make sketches, lists of chapters, to start writing something that will later on enter those books.
I also revisited my old Polish version of Natrętny duch pustyni. I do regret this book did not appear in its proper time in Poland. I do believe it was some sort of missing element, that wouldn't change the course of national cultural history for sure, but at least would mark something, testify that other kind of awareness was possible at that time. It would mark a point to which, later on, scholars and historians might return. But I lost the chance, for my country more than for myself, since I'm still in it, while my country is not. Anyway, it doesn't matter now. What remains to do is to write other books, and to think about my place in a much larger context. How my outlook of extra-cultural becoming is to take shape, how it is to foster and articulate that eternal adventure.
I've been lazily reading Norman Daniel's The Arabs and Mediaeval Europe (1975), and started Laroui's Les tribulations du dernier Sijilmassi.
Trying to read Zephyrs of the Najd, that go strangely slow, and finish an old article on crux transmarina, that somehow I was not able to finish the last ten years or so. This one will travel as far as Bucharest. I feel strangely demotivated, even if I was moderately glad with "Transforming minority" yesterday. Perhaps I reach the limit of "research article" as a genre. Something needs to change in my intellectual life. Even if I recon I still did not reach the top of how good a research article may be. There have been some I liked. But have I ever been a true artist in this?
Perhaps I need a delve in a personal idea of humanities, stop doing those featureless, impersonal things. I still didn't find a formula of essay, formula of writing with which I might identify fully. The search goes on...
I finally finished the "Transformative minority" and submitted it to an Orientalist journal in Prague. It took a long time, but gave me a certain sense of competence. Even if I feel that it is only a modest beginning of much more exciting and advanced things. Clearly, there is a qualitative jump in my writings; not only are they in English, but also they are some 60% longer than they used to be. On the other hand, the paper is to celebrate as the first publication issued from my project.
I finished Peter Webb, and read Stetkevych's Zephyrs of Najd.
Today there was a lecture on Ibn Habib. They also mentioned a session of Arabic close reading next Wednesday, and I made myself invited.
New books from the library; I slowly finish "Transforming minority", adding new elements on Elipandus' adoptionism and such things. I decided to publish as well my old essay on crux transmarina.
Reading Peter Webb's Imagining the Arabs, about the origins of Arabian identification in pre-Islamic times.
Overall, it was a good day; enjoying my research.
Of course, there have been plenty of new knowledge at the conference. Things about Central Asia I never heard about. But more crucially, a mental difference in relation of all that load of nonsense I got used to in Warsaw. Here, people are simply informed. They do know what they talk about.
New ideas, also. Most important, perhaps, to speak about imperial stake-holders instead of imperial subjects.
I've sent Poetic's project to two colleagues for consultation: Peter Webb and Ecaterina Lung from Romania. I'm curious how this project might be seen not only between Islam and Latin Christianity, but also as something that goes on around the Byzantine world or in the Balkans. Hopefully they may suggest me something, just as Stefan Sperl did. I should keep a record of this, just to fill my acknowledgements' page later on. There was no acknowledgements in Poland - that's also another difference and another new mental habit to acquire. But here people adopt those attitudes of cooperation.
Yesterday I didn't even touch the article, just read the Caliphe de l'epouvante, which may be, after all, unfitting my purpose; unfitting the expectation, in any case. Nonetheless, I will have to read also his Arabic novel, Hatha al-Andalusi, translated devastatingly into English as Muslim Suicide. It's about Ibn Sab'in, who effectively is believed to have committed suicide in Mecca - perhaps one of the symbolic ends of al-Andalus, together with the burial of Ibn Rushd and emigration of Ibn Arabi, celebrated by Corbin (was it like this?).
But now there is the conference, about various conquests and empires. It seems more historical than in any other sense that might touch me, but it will be much to learn nonetheless.
Tomorrow starts the conference "Negotiation in Conquest: wars, treaties and recollections of the rise of the caliphate".
Today I will try to see again the "Transforming minority" and see if I can submit it tonight.
Now that my project proposal entered the bowels of the ERC, I start my research and think about some papers to publish.
Task 1. "A transforming minority" for Orientalni Archiv in Prague is nearly ready; I'm just anxious to make it better, more informative, more in-depth. I brought Lipton's Rethinking Ibn Arabi from the library again, and I slowly try to get the final version.
Task 2. Also, I think about publishing literary criticism on Bensalem Himmich and Fouad Laroui in any journal of comparative literature. I'm reading Caliphe de l'épouvante for the moment.
Task 3. I should translate some of my comments on al-Jawziyya into English. I've even got the idea of writing a tiny monograph about al-Jawziyya in order to publish it electronically with the Polish Oriental Society (if they still do this).
Task 4. I'm also reading Titus Burckhardt, his travel book on Fez, which goes slow because somehow I find it difficult to digest his German. I should write also a simple article on him.
Task 5. The idea is also that I should make myself a very careful, in-depth set of research notes on Andalusian history. Sort of things I used to do when I was PhD student, and have never done since. Just going through Literatura hispanoàrabe by Maria Jesus Rubiera Mata, that I don't have in very high consideration, but that's what there is.