Beyond Exceptionalism: Is a Common History Possible?


Amira Sonbol


This paper is about finding common values among what appear to be different and competitive cultures. While recent international conflicts present a picture of a clash of civilizations rooted in past history and present differences, the historical evidence actually leads to other narratives. Social and cultural history in particular, allows for a reorganization of knowledge that allows for the diffusion of culture and the production of common traditions. Rather than accept a world divided by historical narratives that allow for exceptionalism and difference, the paper proposes a shift by which common histories based on process and diffusion of culture be attempted. It proceeds to do so at the level of legal history taking specific examples to illustrate the development of law from and to different parts of the world and different periods to bring about contemporary laws that seem to be in total variance one from the other. The intent is to illustrate that by sifting through sources and comparing specificities of history of various geographical regions and historical periods, pausing new questions and reconceptualising human relations, that in fact we can move the agenda ahead to show where cultures meet and where they differ thereby allowing for greater and different discourses of understanding and affinity.


Amira Sonbol is Professor of Islamic History, Law and Society at the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. She specializes in the history of modern Egypt, Islamic history and law, women, gender and Islam and is the author of The New Mamluks: Egyptian Society and Modern Feudalism; Women, the Family and Divorce Laws in Islamic History; The Creation of a Medical Profession in Egypt: 1800-1922; The Memoirs of Abbas Hilmi II: Sovereign of Egypt; Women of the Jordan: Islam, Labor and Law; Beyond the Exotic: Muslim Women's Histories. Professor Sonbol is Editor-in-Chief of HAWWA: the Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World published by E.J. Brill and Co-Editor of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations (1996-2007), a quarterly journal co-published with Selly Oak Colleges (UK).

Designed by DelGraph 2009 ©mailto:delgraph@gmail.com?subject=email%20subject

Home    About     Speakers     Conference Program    Registration    Contact    Accommodation    Blog     Photos