Knox Hall (Room 207), Columbia University, 606 West 122nd St, New York
The historical study of Islamicate occult science, like few other categories, plunges the modern researcher into a quandary equally epistemological and ethical. Epistemological, because it challenges to the core our reflexive materialist-scientistic assumption that Magic can never be Science, that its claims to empiricism can only be deception or delusion. And ethical, because it is a site where colonialist-orientalist dogma is still firmly entrenched. With few exceptions, Muslim occult sciencers-in extreme contrast to their Christian peers-figure explicitly or implicitly in their historiography as superstitious, subrational natives fit only to be patronized, quarantined and ideally violently excised from Westernness altogether. This talk therefore presents Islamic Magic as an especially efficient means of decolonizing Western intellectual, social and political history more broadly, and proposes a (cosmic-)philological way forward.
Matthew Melvin-Koushki is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of South Carolina and a Visiting Scholar for the Shi'i Studies Research Program. Commentary will be given by A. Tunç Sen who is an Assistant Professor of History at Columbia University.