The Calligraphic State: Textual Domination and History in a Muslim Society

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University of California Press, Jun 16, 1996 - History - 341 pages
In this innovative combination of anthropology, history, and postmodern theory, Brinkley Messick examines the changing relation of writing and authority in a Muslim society from the late nineteenth century to the present. The creation and interpretation of texts, from sacred scriptures to administrative and legal contracts, are among the fundamental ways that authority is established and maintained in a complex state. Yet few scholars have explored this process and the ways in which it changes, especially outside the Western world.

Messick brings together intensive ethnography and textual analysis from a wealth of material: Islamic jurisprudence, Yemeni histories, local documents. In exploring the structure and transformation of literacy, law, and statecraft in Yemen, he raises important issues that are of comparative significance for understanding political life in other Muslim and nonwestern states as well.
 

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Contents

Genealogies of the Text
15
The Pen and the Sword
37
Disenchantment
54
Audition
75
Relations of Interpretation
135
Sharia Society
152
Judicial Presence
167
INSCRIPTION
201
Spiral Texts
231
concLUSION
251
BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE
257
Gloss ARY
259
Notes
265
BibliographY
317
INDEx
333
Copyright

Evidence of the Word
203

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About the author (1996)

Brinkley Messick is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan.

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