[INDOLOGY] CFP: Philology and archaeology. On manuscript collections unearthed by archaeology

Andrew Ollett andrew.ollett at gmail.com
Wed Jan 26 18:11:07 UTC 2022

I forward, on the request of a colleague who is not on this list, the
following call for papers (


*Philology and archaeologyOn manuscript collections unearthed by
Since the nineteenth-century, there have been numerous examples of eminent
findings of manuscript collections in archaeological contexts. Some of
these have necessarily captured the attention of philologists, starting
with the hundreds of thousands of manuscripts from the genizah of Cairo,
unearthed in 1896, which have since produced a refined social history of
the medieval city. A few years later, the caves of Dunhuang yielded
thousands of manuscripts from multiple traditions, especially Buddhist,
allowing a recasting of historical studies on its diffusion along the silk
road during the first millennium. Similarly, the manuscripts of Qumran,
found from 1947 in clay jars on the edge of the Dead Sea, revolutionised
biblical studies, offering direct access to texts hitherto uniquely
available at the end of a long chain of transmission. Likewise, the
Qur’anic manuscripts discovered at the Great Mosque in Sanʿāʾ and the
multi-lingual manuscripts found at the Qubbat al-Khazna at the Umayyad
Great Mosque in Damascus have invigorated philological and historical
research. Alongside these outstanding discoveries, how many more
manuscripts were found through archaeological explorations and away from
institutions crafted to preserve them, such as libraries or archives?

These fortuitous manuscript discoveries do not exhaust all the
intersections between philology and archaeology, but they stress the need
to rethink their relation. Building on case studies of textual corpora
uncovered by archaeology, this workshop aims to re-interrogate the common
history, and explore a few missed epistemological encounters between the
two disciplines.

Whether in biblical studies or classical studies, for instance, archaeology
and philology share common topics and periods of the past that specialists
can grasp, either through texts that have been transmitted by the
traditions of preservation and copying, or through the material assemblages
that have been uncovered by archaeologists. Archaeology and philology also
share a common discipline – epigraphy – which mobilises material and
textual registers in various ways.

Nevertheless, the history of epigraphy illustrates the chronological gap
between the institutionalisation of philology and that of archaeology. In
the Western tradition, nearly three centuries separate their recognition as
fields of knowledge of the past. In Europe, academies of inscriptions go
back to the 16th century, in the wake of the scientific triumph of
philology, while archaeology had to wait until the 19th and even the 20th
century to be endowed with scientific institutions. Even though
complementary, their respective histories consist of gaps, of competition,
of dominant and auxiliary positions, of the wish for autonomy and

Although philology and archaeology regularly intersect over topics,
periods, and even disciplines such as epigraphy, they continue to be
suspicious of one another, ready to declare themselves epistemologically
irreconcilable. For instance, the notion of context, rather than
representing a common heuristic vocabulary, often divides the two knowledge
systems. While philology’s ideal has long appeared as the establishment of
an original text capable of definitively freeing itself from all that it
does not contain, and from the different contexts that it has passed
through or that have passed through it, the practice of archaeology gives
context a unique place in knowledge production when the objects unearthed
have meaning only through their exact situation and localization, and
through their link to the external context.

One also finds many similarities from the point of view of techniques of
knowledge. Stemmatology on the one hand, stratigraphy on the other; both
seek an original item and meaning, recalling the similarities of the two
approaches. Their complementarity is rarely examined besides a clear
‘chiasmatic’ relation. Philology aims towards materialising meaning;
archaeology towards semanticising materiality. In recent years, the
developments in textual studies, such as material bibliography, have
clearly confirmed the possibility of a convergence. Manuscripts found in an
archaeological context highlight particularly well the need for a material
science of textual supports.

Possible topics for contributions include, but are not limited to:

   - Case studies of manuscripts unearthed by archaeology
   - History of philological and archaeological scholarship
   - Archaeology at the service of philology & philology at the service of
   - Comparative epistemological studies of philology and archaeology
   - Historical accounts of the uses of context in archaeological and
   philological research
   - History of manuscript transmission over time (traditions and
   - The politics of contextualisation and territorialisation in colonial
   and nationalist knowledge production (“facts on the ground”)

Proposals, consisting of a title, a 600-800-word description and a brief
CV, should be sent as a single, merged PDF to secretariat(at)cjb.ma by 25
February 2022. Notifications of acceptance or non-acceptance will be sent
out by 15 March 2022. Accepted proposals will be invited to take part in an
in-person workshop at the Centre Jacques-Berque (Rabat, Morocco) on 24-25
May 2022. In case it is not possible to have a meeting in Rabat, the
workshop will take place as a hybrid event. Limited funding is available.
Please indicate in your application whether you can cover your travel
and/or accommodation expenses. We especially welcome contributions from
scholars from the Global South as well as junior researchers.

After the workshop, participants are expected to complete their papers
within 6 months (max. 9000 words). All contributions will undergo
double-blind peer review. Upon positive peer review, the paper will be
published in Philological Encounters.

Any queries should be addressed to Dr. Adrien Delmas: secretariat(at)cjb.ma

This event is convened by Adrien Delmas (Centre Jacques-Berque, Rabat) and
Islam Dayeh (FU Berlin), and is sponsored by Centre Jacque-Berques (Rabat),
Freie Universität Berlin, Zukunftsphilologie/Forum Transregionale Studien
Berlin and Brill.
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