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Lucia Raggetti will be the speaker of this month's Current Issues seminar. The seminar is titled: 'Street Science': Ordinary Means for Extraordinary Magic
Event details of Current Issues with Lucia Raggetti
12 February 2024
15:00 -16:30

The cunning performers of various deceptions, who lived off swindles and petty crimes in Mediaeval Islamic urban centers, were actually endowed with a refined knowledge of natural properties, a true ‘street science’ that, to date, has found no place in the history of knowledge. They applied this expertise to diverse crafts, showing an uncanny ability to touch the mainsprings of human perception and conduct.

This lecture will explore the knowledge of nature in the Arabo-Islamic premodern milieu, especially among marginalized groups and street performers. It will also present the close connections between the knowledge of nature as applied by swindlers and craftsmen and that of the intellectual elites.

All Arabic technical handbooks engaged with entertainment and fraud give ample space to the useful and occult properties of mineral, vegetal, and animal substances (manāfiʿ and ḫawāṣṣ). This strong presence shows how the roots of this genre go back to the early Abbasid period, when the Arabo-Islamic culture acquired the huge antique and late antique lore of natural properties.

This research adopts a particular methodological approach, that begins with a thorough philological analysis of the sources, moves to the laboratory for the exploration of the material reality behind the text, and extends to a tentative reconstruction of the performative elements associated with specific bits of knowledge.