About the thinkers
About Intellectual Encounters
The Intellectual Encounters Project
Main Website Features
History and Future Plans
I. The Intellectual Encounters Project
Intellectual Encounters (IE) is a new virtual framework for studying the intellectual and multi-cultural legacy of the medieval Islamic world. Led by three renowned academics from Israel, Palestine, the U.S. and Germany, the project incorporates high-quality resources and the latest technology to foster interdisciplinary research and greater cross-cultural understanding. The project’s website is first and foremost a virtual library of medieval philosophical texts with a broad array of research tools that highlight interconnections among medieval philosophical writings. The website also incorporates technology that enables contemporary academics, and – in the future – educated laypeople, from diverse backgrounds to discuss these medieval texts in several languages. Finally, Intellectual Encounters aims to promote greater academic collaboration through a series of related graduate courses and research programs to take place at universities in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East. These programs seek to strengthen scholarly ties through both online and face-to-face encounters.
The Intellectual Encounters Website
The medieval world of Islam is characterized by a unique intellectual commonality shaped by a mosaic of religious and ethnic groups. The contribution of these groups to the development of philosophy and science is particularly striking, and is, in principle, recognized by all scholars of the relevant material. It is heralded by terms such as “symbiosis” and “convivencia”, and is often idealized in (anachronistic) terms as tolerance and pluralism. And yet, when actually studying the relevant material, contemporary scholars and students tend to revert to familiar one-dimensional patterns of focusing within one tradition and ignoring the interconnections among medieval scholars of different groups. Scholars and others who do seek a more integrated approach are hampered by their lack of language training and/or access to resources. Although the web today contains dynamic tools for overcoming this narrow approach, most websites on medieval thought limit their scopes primarily to one tradition.
The major aim of Intellectual Encounters is to develop a virtual library of philosophical and scientific texts of the medieval Islamic world that highlights the interconnections among thinkers of different religious, ethnic and cultural communities.
Beyond emphasizing parallel developments in the thought of the intellectuals belonging to different communities, the website seeks to demonstrate their interdependence and to bring to life the continuous dialogue they conducted in their writings. In this respect, the website serves not only as a showcase for choice treasures, but also as an effective research and teaching tool. The project thus intends to foster an international community of scholars, students and, eventually, educated laypeople dedicated to studying these works comparatively and to engaging in ongoing discussions about them.
Academic Collaboration Projects
As a corollary to the website, Intellectual Encounters aims to foster greater academic exchange through research and cooperation projects related to the website and its themes. During the fall 2010 semester, the project organized a graduate course in medieval philosophy, held simultaneously in four universities – Yale University [US]; al-Quds University [Palestine]; Bar Ilan University [Israel]; and a European site (TBD). The courses made use of the website’s resources while enriching the website’s library. Students had numerous opportunities to interact virtually and were invited to meet face-to-face at a graduate workshop in Marrakesh in June 2011.
II. Main Website Features
The website incorporates three main components: a virtual library; innovative research and teaching tools; and a scholarly workspace and platform for academic exchange.
The website provides a searchable, accessible, and high quality database of medieval philosophical and scientific texts. Rather than adding texts at random, the
IE advisory committee
decided to launch the website with a focus on three prominent medieval thinkers (the Muslim, al-Ghazali [d. 1111]; the Jewish, Maimonides [d. 1204] and the Christian, Yahya b. ‘Adi [d. 974]) and their writings on three philosophic topics (ethics, cosmology and epistemology). The
plans to add other thinkers and themes on an ongoing basis and welcomes recommendations from users (
please click here
). Each text, whenever possible, will include a manuscript version, a published edition, translations, and commentaries. The texts will be accessible in three languages (Arabic, Hebrew and English).
Research and Teaching Tools
The website provides an array of tools for the researcher and the instructor:
Each text has been uploaded as a searchable pdf, enabling morphological searches and browse functions by thinker, text, topics and keywords within the text and/or within the comments of users; users may search by language as well.
The website also provides biographical information on each thinker, brief essays on key philosophical themes, and socio-cultural information about the periods in which they lived.
Interactive maps and timelines demonstrate visually the interconnections among thinkers and situate the lives and activities of thinkers in the broader geographic and historical context of the medieval Islamic world.
All of the tools are designed to assist users in detecting and displaying comparative aspects among texts.
Scholarly Workspace and Platform for Exchange
The third set of website features serves the needs of the individual scholar and facilitates scholarly discussion. Registered users can
Personalize the library by creating lists of favorite texts
Upload additional texts and links for personal use and/or for sharing with others, subject to webmaster’s approval.
Write notes on texts for private use and/or post public questions, comments or corrections on any text.
Participate in the open forum for scholarly discussion with the ability of participants to write in different languages.
Learn about and share of the latest activity in the field, such as conferences, fellowships and other scholarly projects in the field of medieval philosophy in the Islamic world (to share an upcoming event, click
III. History and Future Plans
From Inception until Today
The story of Intellectual Encounters begins with the friendship of two scholars, Sarah Stroumsa and Sari Nusseibeh, and their shared passion for reviving the intellectual and cultural legacy of the medieval Islamic world. With an incubator grant from Yad Hanadiv (the Rothschild foundation in Israel), they developed the idea of a virtual library that would highlight the interconnections among major thinkers of this period and that would provide a virtual meeting space for scholars across boundaries. In 2007, Professors Stroumsa and Nusseibeh convened a workshop of specialists on medieval Islamic philosophy both from the Middle East and the U.S. at Harvard University to develop the form and content of the website. Together, the academic committee conceived of the scope of the library’s focus and developed an initial “3-3” plan—that is, to launch the website with a focus on three prominent medieval thinkers (the Muslim, al-Ghazali [d. 1111]; the Jewish, Maimonides [d. 1204] and the Christian, Yahya b. ‘Adi [d. 974]) and their writings on three philosophic topics (ethics, cosmology and epistemology) — with subsequent plans to add other thinkers and themes on an ongoing basis.
The project is now led by a steering committee composed of Professor Stroumsa of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Professor Nusseibeh of al-Quds University; Professor Frank Griffel of Yale University; and Professor Sabine Schmidtke of the Freie Universität Berlin. In 2009, with a foundation grant, the steering committee hired an academic director, Dr. Raquel Ukeles (PhD, Harvard 2006, in Islamic and Jewish Studies), a research coordinator, Yossi Soffer of Hebrew University, and contracted with a website development team from the Center for Educational Technology. The website beta was made available in April 2010, and the website was launched in fall 2010. In fall 2010, Dr. Ukeles was appointed as special projects coordinator, and Dr. Ayala Eliyahu (Phd, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Islamic and Jewish Philosophy) was appointed as academic director.
In May 2012, the project entered a new phase, with the joining of Professor Sabine Schmidtke of the Freie Universität Berlin to the project's steering committee, and the decision to work in cooperation with Professor Schmidtke's team in the Research Unit "Intellectual History of the Islamicate World – Islam, Christianity and Judaism Intertwined".
Going forward, Intellectual Encounters plans to add texts on a continual basis, upgrade and expand the features of the website and facilitate additional academic collaboration projects.
While the first phase is geared primarily to academics and graduate students, our medium term goal is to make the website accessible to a broad audience of students at every level and all who are interested in studying the major works and intellectual culture of the medieval Islamic world.
In the long term, we envision the website being housed and managed jointly by an international consortium of manuscript libraries and university collections. We are eager to form collaborative partnerships with manuscript libraries, research institutions and publishers to deepen and expand the resources of the library and build the foundation of our long term vision.
For more information, questions or comments, please
About Intellectual Encounters
Staff and Advisors