Working Group (2018-2022)

Mediterranean Nautical Cartography: Islands or Gateways of Knowledge?

This project investigates the complex syncretic nature of some of the few extant Maghrebi-Arabic and Ottoman-Turkish sea charts and atlases of the Mediterranean as well as the cultural and linguistic translations processes that were involved in their making for sixteenth-century Islamicate audiences. The traditional approaches to the chosen objects relied upon biased ideologies which either rejected their being influenced by the Catalan and Italian models (Sezgin 2000) or downplayed them as late imitations of widespread models (Pujades 2007). Both views overlooked that translating and adapting Mediterranean nautical cartography for Islamicate audiences involved a complex process of decision making, as well as border crossing not only between languages, but also between forms of visual representation and knowledge systems. To overcome such biases, this project investigates the chosen objects thoroughly and situates them in the fields of the history of Mediterranean nautical cartography and of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern art and scholarship. It delves into the idea that they are creative interpretations, reconfigurations and innovative integrations of multilingual Islamicate and non-Islamicate regional and transregional sets of nautical and geographical materials and other kinds of materials (Brentjes 2007–15; Herrera 2008–17). The planned methods consider in a holistic manner the ways of reading and seeing the epistemic and historical links between the different components, as well as the layers of textual and visual narratives, such as identity narratives, and their connections with their target audiences. They include the study of communication with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern artistic and cultural products, such as various sorts of maps and illustrated books, in addition to educational and intellectual authorities and doctrines, and commercial, marketing, religious, social and political interests

Past Events

The Use of al-Idrisi's (d. c. 1165) Geographical Oeuvre in the Extant Products of the Mapmaking Workshops of the Sharafi Family in Sfax and Qayrawan during the 16th Century


Cultural Translation Processes in 16th Century Tunisia: The Case of ´Alī B. Aḥmad B. Muḥammad Al-Sharafī from Sfax