Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Awards
2018 Winner (Humanities)
In the Sultan’s Salon: Learning, Religion, and Rulership at the Mamluk Court of Qanisawh al-Ghawri (r. 1501-1516)
Göttingen University in Germany, Faculty of Philosophy
Supervised by Sebastian Günther
Christian Mauder’s dissertation is the first to thoroughly investigate court culture in Islamic history and the first to focus on Mamluk court culture under the rule of Qanisawh al-Ghawri. By developing a theoretical understanding of the concept of "court" using comparative and interdisciplinary approaches, Mauder argues that contrary to established wisdom, late Mamluk intellectual life was vibrant and made novel contributions to intellectual life in the late middle and early modern periods. One reviewer said that “nobody will ever be able to think of al-Ghawri’s reign in the same way again... It is intellectually broad and far reaching.” Another reviewer indicated that this dissertation “challenges the whole narrative of decline and makes us rethink our understanding of the grand narrative of Muslim civilization.”
The dissertation is outstanding in its originality, drawing on an impressive body of sources in multiple languages, including primary sources rarely or ever consulted, and linking together the disciplines of history, philosophy, literary theory, religious studies, sociology and communication theory. The committee members were very impressed by the author’s analytical rigor, innovative methodology, creative thinking, beautiful writing and thoroughness that make this piece an exemplary one.