Current Perspectives on Ibn ʿArabī and “Akbarī” Thought

24 juin 2019

25 juin 2019


Photo: © Francesco Piraino

The fact that the thought of Ibn ʿArabī (560-638/1165-1240) is at the same time  intensely innovative and deeply rooted in the tradition may explain in part why it had such a lasting influence both among followers and detractors. His ideas, as understood by the first generations of those who claimed his heritage, shaped the development of Islamic thought and religious experience in following centuries.

They became – even if this is not always explicitly acknowledged – the common conceptual background of a variety of spiritual movements and textual traditions, in both learned and popular Sufism. At the same time, they have been the focal point of the criticism and condemnations of those who oppose Sufism at large, or problematic aspects of Sufi speculations. These issues concerning the reception of Ibn ʿArabī’s ideas are still ongoing today through new appropriations in discourses in and about Islam.

The aim of this meeting is to bring together confirmed and emerging specialists in order to gain some perspective on the current academic research on Ibn ʿArabī and “Akbarī” thought and to discuss research directions for the future. It will also bring to light questions arising from the reading and use of Ibn ʿArabī’s ideas today, taking into account the new approaches and better access to the texts provided by recent tools for textual analysis, and evaluating how our present-day situation shapes our understanding of his works, and conversely, what an informed reading can bring to current re-appropriations and (mis)use.

The questions discussed will be organized around four main axes:

(1)       Ibn ʿArabī and his milieu: Between continuities and ruptures

- What do we know about the Andalusian milieu from which Ibn ʿArabī emerged? 

- Are there clear continuities / ruptures with the thought of the “Sufi” and/or “Muʿtabirūn tradition” of his time?

- Can we define notable changes in his thought following his journey east?

(2)       The transmission and reception of Ibn ʿArabī’s thought in the “Akbarī school”

- What do we know about the transmission of Ibn ʿArabī’s works and ideas?

- Is it possible to define a set of issues where changes in the formulation or understanding seem to bring crucial transformation of his thought?

- Are there aspects of his thought that have been set aside or lessened?

(3)       Reading Ibn ʿArabī today: Ongoing issues and new approaches

- How to learn from past scholarship: Are there misleading understandings or formulations that should be avoided? 

- Are there notions that can be useful for a better reading but that are yet underused?

- What are the new possibilities emerging from recent tools for textual analysis? How to avoid the pitfalls of those approaches?

(4)       Using Ibn ʿArabī today: Between inspiration and instrumentalization

- What are the main interpretations (both by promoters and opponents) and appropriations of Ibn ʿArabī’s thought and name in contemporary Islam?

- What can historians of ideas, with their contextualized reading of Ibn ʿArabī’s oeuvre, offer to enrich contemporary discourse? Are there notions or works not yet sufficiently used that should or could be promoted? How to better inform the participants in contemporary debates?

- What is (or should be) the impact of contemporary issues in shaping the research on this corpus?

Keynotes speakers

Claude Addas - Denis Gril - James W. Morris


José Bellver (UCLouvain) | Nicholas Boylston (Harvard) | Stephen Hirtenstein (MIAS) | Giovanni Maria Martini (L’Orientale) | Oludamini Ogunnaike (College of William & Mary) | Ali Reza Pharaa (Stony Brook) | Sophie Tyser (EPHE/Uni-Bonn) | Gregory Vandamme (FNRS-FRESH/UCLouvain) | L. W. Cornelis van Lit (Utrecht)

Organized by Cécile Bonmariage & Gregory Vandamme

Scientific Comittee

Nicholas Boylston (Harvard) | Raphaël Gély (USLB) | Michele Petrone (UCLouvain) | Sophie Tyser (EPHE/Uni-Bonn)

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