2014 Shi'i Studies Symposium, "Reason and Esotericism"

hermeneutics, law, theology, heresiography, epistemology, politics, and anthropology

April 4th 2014


Coulter Lounge, International House, 1414 East 59th Street, Chicago, IL



8.15-8.45: Coffee

8.45-9.00: Opening remarks

9.00-11.00: Panel 1: Pre-modern tafsīr and taʾwīl

Hassan Ansari: The Tafsīr al-ʿAskarī: a brief history of the development of a Shiʿi text

George Warner: Explaining Prayer: A Passage from Ibn Bābawayh’s ʿIlal al-Sharāʾiʿ in Context

Tahera Qutbuddin: Principles of Fatimid Esoteric Interpretation (taʾwīl): An Analysis Based on the Majālis mu’ayyadiyya of al-Muʾayyad al-Shirazi (d. 470/1078)

Paul Walker: Examples of Taʾwīl in Fatimid Ismaili Texts

11-11.15: Coffee break

11.15-1.15: Panel 2: Pre-modern texts and contexts

Bella Tendler: ʿAbd Allāh b. Sabaʾ and the role of the Nuṣayrī Bāb: Rehabilitating the Heresiarchs of the Islamic Tradition

Ed Hayes: Proto-Nuṣayrī Opposition to Jaʿfar ‘the Liar’ and the Business of Building Coalitions Between Mainstream and Esotericist Imamis

Mushegh Asatryan: The World and Worldview of Early Shiʿi Ghulāt (8th-9th cc).

Rodrigo Adem: Ismaili Doctrine: Context and Sources

1.15-2.15: Lunch

2.15-4.15: Panel 3: Politics and anthropology of knowledge

Alireza Doostdar: The Occult Sciences in Iran: Between Sanction and Censure

Olly Akkerman: The Politics of the Bohra Bāṭin Archive: Ismaili Manuscript Culture and the Language of Secrecy 

Devin Stewart:  Taqiyya and Tawriya, or the Art of Ambiguity

Hamid Reza Maghsoodi: To Define the Indefinable; the Epistemology of Maktab-i Maʿārif-i Khurāsān

4.15-4.30: Coffee break

4.30-6.00: Panel 4: Early modern philosophy and esotericism

Ata Anzali: Philosophers, Sufis, and their Opponents in the Late Safavid period: Some Observations

Sajjad Rizvi: Esoteric Shiʿism in the Later School of al-Ḥilla: Walāya and Apocalyptism in Rajab al-Bursī and al-Ḥasan b. Sulaymān al-Ḥillī

Matt Melvin-Koushki: Occultism, Imamophilism and Rationalism in Timurid-Safavid Iran: The Case of Lettrism

6.00-8.00: Reception

This event is free and open to the public. Funding and support have been provided by the Center for International Studies and the Norman Wait Harris Fund, the Martin Marty Center at the Divinity School, the Division of the Humanities, the Franke Institute for the Humanities, the Council for Advanced Studies, the Islamic Studies Workshop and the Middle East History and Theory (MEHAT) workshop, the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Central Asian Studies Society, and International House’s ‘Global Voices’ program