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CAS Discussion Series “Religion and Culture”: Ignaz Goldziher and Gesture Studies: From Periphery to Center?

31 May 2023 @ 17:30 - 19:00

The Center for the Study of Religion (Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski) and the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia are pleased to announce the next seminar of the series

Religion and Culture

Topic for the 2022/2023 academic year: “Center and Periphery in Religions and Society”
Moderator: Simeon Evstatiev

You are cordially invited to a lecture by Prof. Livnat Holtzman

Ignaz Goldziher and Gesture Studies: From Periphery to Center?

The lecture will take place on 31 May 2023 at 5:30 p.m. at the Center for Advanced Study, 7B Stefan Karadzha St., entrance 3, 2nd floor

Ignaz Goldziher (d. 1921), the illustrious Jewish Hungarian scholar, is widely recognized as a key figure in the development of Arabic and Islamic studies. His groundbreaking contributions in Hadith, Qur’an exegesis, and Islamic theology have garnered considerable acclaim and are studied to date. However, a substantial portion of his work which holds promise for further insights into the Arabic cultures and literatures remains undiscovered. This lecture unveils an unknown facet of Goldziher’s work: his profound interest in gestures in the Arabic written sources and oral traditions.

Goldziher was trained as a philologist, but since the early stages of his studies he was more inclined to study the elusive connection between language, religion, and culture. He therefore harnessed the traditional tools of classical philology to serve the overall theory of Völkerpsychologie (developed by Heymann Steinthal, d. 1899, and Moritz Lazarus, d. 1903). Among the fruits of his bold move are two articles which are the harbingers of the study of gestures within Arabic and Islamic studies. While Goldziher’s contemporaries and the subsequent generation of Arabic philologists and orientalists were aware of his work on gestures, they showed little interest, if any, in his findings which were perceived as marginal and anecdotal. Goldziher’s work on gestures had some impact in Jewish studies, but as a rule, here too, his studies on gestures were neglected and almost completely forgotten. The following lecture therefore presents the secrets of gestures that Goldziher revealed through his laborious readings in the gigantic corpus of the Arabic sources and highlights the impact of Goldziher’s work on gestures in various fields. Finally, this lecture articulates the value of Goldziher’s findings on gestures for future research, aiming to elevate this peripheral topic to the forefront of Islamic and Arabic studies.

LIVNAT HOLTZMAN is an Associate Professor in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. She specializes in Islamic traditionalism and the Ḥadīth. Her publications include Anthropomorphism in Islam: The Challenge of Traditionalism (700–1350) (Edinburgh University Press 2018) and articles and book chapters on the religious thought of traditionalist thinkers like Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal (d. 855), Abū Yaʿlā (d. 1066), Ibn al-Jawzī (d. 1201), and Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) and his pupil Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 1350). She is currently working on the gestures, physical mannerisms, and the body language of the Prophet Muḥammad as reported in the Ḥadīth and other literary genres

The seminar is part of the program “Religion, Center, and Periphery: The Orient in Europe, Europe in the Orient” of the Center for the Study of Religions, supported by the Scientific Research Fund of Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski in 2023.


31 May 2023
17:30 - 19:00


Centre for Advanced Study Sofia


Centre for Advanced Study Sofia
7B Stefan Karadzha St, entr. 3
Sofia,‎ ‎1000‎ ‎Bulgaria
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