Scientific Report (ANR)

Summary of the project

Dynamics of Transmission: Families, Authority and Knowledge in the Early Modern Middle East, 15th-17th c.

Family networks and transmission of knowledge and authority in the Medieval and Early Modern Middle East

The role of family-type networks in the Middle East from the 15th to the 17th centuries remained understudied and continued to be very regionally or socially focused, despite some punctual research. However family history has become one of the most stimulating fields in Middle Eastern studies in the last two decades. Thus, the DYNTRAN project has been developed along two main lines of inquiry in order to interrogate the concept of “family” in the Medieval and Early Modern Middle East by examining issues such as the terms of language employed to refer to the family, among others, and to explore the relation between family networks and the transmission of knowledge and authority, be it political, spiritual, artistic, economical or professional.

Further, the project aimed not only at analyzing the objects and the frameworks of the transmission, but also at examining the means, practices and strategies essential to this process in their historical context. Finally, it has been particularly interested in investigating the adaptation and development of lineages striving to assure their permanence through time and space. Thus, the project sought to identify these networks and their social and economic environment on the larger scale of the Muslim Middle-East.

Bringing together different area studies of the Muslim Middle-East: An interdisciplinary dialogue between history, textual studies and art history

From a methodological point of view, our approach sought to build on the collaboration between teams, by facilitating an interdisciplinary dialogue between scholars from fields such as art history, textual studies, and history broadly speaking. The interdisciplinary approach of the project also brought together sources of different kinds, such as texts, documents and objects. It sought as well to establish a bridge between Arab-Muslim, Ottoman, Persian and Central Asian area studies.

Workshops were organized in Marburg (2015), Cairo (2016) and Naples (2017) in order to bring together the French and German teams of DYNTRAN and fostered the discussion on these methodologies and aims. These major gatherings were accompanied by three smaller panels held as part of larger international conferences, all in the year 2017, in France, in Germany, and in Lebanon. The discussions of all workshops were wrapped up coherently in the closing symposium in Paris in March 2018.

In addition, the French team accomplished significant fieldwork to collect new resources, organizing missions particularly in Central Asia and Afghanistan.

Main results and future prospects

The research conducted within the framework of DYNTRAN project shed light on the family, spiritual, and professional networks and their role in facilitating trade and knowledge transfer throughout the region; it also uncovered mechanisms used by these networks for training and skills transfer. The project focused on analyzing the ways in which knowledge and authority transfer occurred, both directly and indirectly. Another subset of transmission mechanisms occurred in official or institutionalized ways versus informal mechanisms.

The project members adopted three main thematic categories: a) Strategies of Transmission; b) Forms of Authority in Social Context; c) The role of “family-type” networks as carriers of knowledge and authority.

Preliminary results were published in the special issue of the peer- reviewed journal Eurasian Studies (2017/2), edited by Maria Szuppe and Sandra Aube with the collaboration of Anthony T. Quickel, and entitled: Channels of Transmission: Family and Professional Lineages in the Early Modern Middle East.

The final collective volume of DYNTRAN will cover the whole range of our project. Edited by Ch. Werner, M. Szuppe, N. Michel and A. Fuess with the title Families, Authority and Knowledge in the Early Modern Middle East. Dynamics of Transmission (15th-17th centuries), it will be published late in 2019 in the series “Miroir de l’Orient musulman” (dir. D. Aigle) by Brepols Publishers.

Individual articles (19) have been published in different journals and edited books, and papers (39) presented at conferences by the project members. Bibliography: /publications-by-dyntran

-Thirty-two working papers related to the project have been published monthly by members of the project and invited contributors on the project website (

Workshops: Programs and abstracts of the three general workshops, the final symposium, and three conference panels organized by DYNTRAN between 2015 and 2018 can be downloaded on: workshops

-Successful fieldwork led within the framework of DYNTRAN opens interesting perspectives for future cooperations for several project members, especially with the Délégation Archéologique Française en Afghanistan (DAFA).

-Our French-German cooperation contributed towards the development of two new projects directly connected to the DYNTAN project : (a) the DFG Priority Program “Transottomanica” ; (b) the ANR-DFG “EGYlandscape: Land and Landscapes in Mamluk and Ottoman Egypt [13th-18th C.]”, 2019-2021.

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