The sensory turn in many areas of the humanities has so far failed to make a decisive impression on the study of Muslim cultures in historical perspective.
However, in the last couple of years there has been a rise in interest in historical manifestations of the Muslim sensorium, as is demonstrated by a series of symposia devoted to the topic on both sides of the Atlantic, several large-scale research projects, as well as multiple ongoing publication projects, including a 2022 Special Issue of The Senses & Society and a multi-author Reader in Islamic Sensory History (forthcoming in Brill's Handbook of Oriental Studies series, ed. Adam Bursi and Christian Lange).
In this talk, I aim to summarize these recent developments, provide insights from a number of case studies, describe the challenges involved, and formulate some ambitions for the future study of Islamic sensory history.
Christian Lange (PhD Harvard, 2006) is Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Utrecht and a fellow of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Art and Sciences.
His research focuses on premodern Islamic intellectual and cultural history, particularly in the areas of Islamic eschatology, Islamic law and legal theory, Islamic mysticism, and the Muslim sensorium. Since joining Utrecht University in 2011, he has been the principal investigator of the ERC Starting Grant project "The here and the hereafter in Islamic traditions" (HHIT, 2011-2015), as well as of the ERC Consolidator Grant project "The senses of Islam" (SENSIS, 2017-2022).