Polymathy and Interdisciplinarity in Premodern Islamic Epistemic Cultures

01 February 2024 → 31 January 2029
European funding: framework programme
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Middle Eastern history
    • Arabic languages
    • Literatures in Arabic
    • History of ideas
    • Study of Islam and quranic studies
  • Natural sciences
    • History and biography of mathematical sciences
Other information
Project description

KNOW is the first comprehensive study of polymathy and interdisciplinarity in premodern Islam. The project sets out to write a history
of knowledge that takes the interaction between disciplines as its primary subject. The project’s historical framework is the postformative period, 1200-1800 CE, which saw the rise of new institutions of learning, the proliferation of libraries, the formation and
integration of disciplines and curricular texts, and an increase in academic travel, facilitating interdisciplinary cooperation,
competition and conflict. Despite its significance, our knowledge of this period remains rudimentary. The project promises to
transform our understanding of the intellectual dynamics of this period by applying the lens of polymathy and interdisciplinarity.
Previous scholarship has focused on intellectual products (i.e., doctrines and texts) and has tended to project our contemporary
disciplinary divisions onto the premodern period (e.g., humanities v. sciences; religious v. secular). This project departs from these
approaches by focusing on epistemic processes and practices rather than products and artefacts. To do so, the project tests three
research hypotheses: (1) cultural and intellectual vibrancy of the premodern period is evident in the interaction between disciplines,
(2) madrasa education and hospital culture produced an interdisciplinary space, (3) interdisciplinary practices created a common
scholarly language. The project’s interdisciplinary methodology draws on the history of science, interdisciplinary studies and
polymathy studies. The PI will be supported by an interdisciplinary team of three postdoctoral researchers covering, together, the
intersections between philology, theology, exegesis, law, medicine, logic, algebra, and geometry in premodern Islamic epistemic
cultures. Know will make significant contributions to interdisciplinarity and polymathy studies, as well as the emergent field of the
history of knowledge.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Council Executive Agency (ERCEA). Neither the European Union nor the authority can be held responsible for them.