The Ph.D. Program in History

at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York

History Program Events

2/4 – Kristina Richardson will discuss her Roma in the Medieval Islamic World with Marina Rustow 

In Middle Eastern cities as early as the mid-8th century, the Sons of Sasan begged, trained animals, sold medicinal plants and potions, and told fortunes. They captivated the imagination of Arab writers and playwrights, who immortalized their strange ways in poems, plays, and the Thousand and One Nights. Using a wide range of sources, Richardson investigates the lived experiences of these Sons of Sasan, who changed their name to Ghuraba’ (Strangers) by the late 1200s. This name became the Arabic word for the Roma and Roma-affiliated groups also known under the pejorative term ‘Gypsies’.

This book uses mostly Ghuraba’-authored works to understand their tribal organization and professional niches as well as providing a glossary of their language Sin. It also examines the urban homes, neighborhoods, and cemeteries that they constructed. Within these isolated communities they developed and nurtured a deep literary culture and astrological tradition, broadening our appreciation of the cultural contributions of medieval minority communities. Remarkably, the Ghuraba’ began blockprinting textual amulets by the 10th century, centuries before printing on paper arrived in central Europe. When Roma tribes migrated from Ottoman territories into Bavaria and Bohemia in the 1410s, they may have carried this printing technology into the Holy Roman Empire.

Sawyer Seminar “Race and the Middle East North Africa”:
Friday, February 4 at 1:00 PM: Kristina Richardson will discuss her Roma in the Medieval Islamic World with Marina Rustow 

Kristina Richardson is Associate Professor of History at Queens College and The Graduate Center, CUNY. She is the author of Difference and Disability in the Medieval Islamic World: Blighted Bodies (Edinburgh, 2012) and co-editor of Ayyām Kamāl al-Dīn: Ḥalab fī awākhir al-qarn al-‘āshir / The Notebook of Kamāl al-Dīn the Weaver (Beirut, 2021). She is currently writing a history of early Islamic Basra and its African and South Asian free and unfree laborers.

Marina Rustow is the Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East and professor of Near Eastern Studies and History at Princeton University. She is Director of the Princeton Geniza Lab and a MacArthur fellow, and is the author of Heresy and the Politics of Community: The Jews of the Fatimid Caliphate.

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