Hodgson, Gellner and Eisenstadt As Pioneers of Islamicate Civilizational Analysis

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:20
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Said ARJOMAND, State University of New York, Stony Brook, USA
Robert Redfield’s comparative Social Anthropology of Civilizations Project at the University of Chicago in the 1950s had its immediate impact on the study of Indian civilization. Its impact on the study of the Islamicate civilization was delayed, however, partly due to the premature death of Marshall Hodgson (1968) whose Venture of Islam was edited and published posthumously in 1974. Hodgson coined the term ‘Islamicate’ to describe the civilization that grew around Islam in the “agrarianate-citied” world region from the Nile to Oxus rivers, and “Persianate” to counter the heavy Arabist bias in the prevailing reading of Islam, integrated the study of heterodox Shi`ism and mainstream of orthodox Sunni Islam, and offered a number of useful historical typologies, notably, ‘caliphal absolutism’, the ‘military-patronage state’ and gunpowder empires. Hodgson’s blind-spot was the role of nomadic polities and empires of conquest in the expansion and development of the Islamicate civilization. Meanwhile, the anthropologist Ernest Gellner was focusing on just that problem, drawing heavily on the work of Ibn Khaldun (d.1406) on the cycles of state formation, dynastic change and Islamic movements in nomadic Islamicate empires. In the 1980s, while developing his paradigm for axial civilizations, S.N. Eisenstadt tried his hands at producing a model of Islamicate axial civilization, combining the Khaldunian cycles of dynastic change with periodic oscillations between an Islamic primordial utopia and the historical reality of nomadic patrimonial sultanism, unexpectedly coexisting with an autonomous public sphere dominated by the ulema.