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Ethnicity in the Early Abbasid Period

A lecture by Michael Cooperson, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, UCLA.

Modern scholarship often uses modern ethnic terms when speaking of the early Abbasid period.  As it happens, some of the same terms (notably "Arab" and "Persian") were used then too, but what they meant at the time remains unclear.  This paper will explore this question by looking at figures who blurred the boundaries between ethnicities.  It will also look at how Arabic historiography dealt with fuzzy boundaries and the transformation of ethnic identity.

Michael Cooperson has taught Arabic language and literature at UCLA since 1995.  He has also taught at Dartmouth College, Stanford University, and the Middlebury School of Arabic.  His research interests include the cultural history of the early Abbasid caliphate and time travel as a literary device. He is currently halfway through a translation of the life of the ninth-century Hadith scholar Ibn Hanbal.  He is also working on Persian and Arab ethnicity in early Islam, and the history and sociolinguistics of Maltese.

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