Jo Van Steenbergen - MMS

Onderstaande beschrijving is in het Engels:

Jo Van Steenbergen was a student of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the KULeuven (Belgium) where he obtained his PhD in 2003. He previously was a research assistant of the Research Foundation-Flanders (Belgium) and a research fellow of the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo (Egypt). In 2004 he was appointed lecturer at the University of St Andrews (UK), in the School of History's departments of Mediaeval History and Middle Eastern Studies. Since early 2007, he is at Ghent University (Belgium), first as a lecturer (assistant professor) of Arabic and Islamic Studies, and since 2009 as a research senior lecturer (associate professor). He is a specialist of pre-modern Islamic history and participates in the teaching of Islamic history and religion.

He also is a visiting lecturer for the School of Oriental and African Studies' "Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art" (London, UK). In 2008 he was a visiting lecturer at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonne, Paris, France) and in 2009 a visiting professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies of the National University of Malaysia (UKM) (Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia). In each case, he taught/teaches on his main area of research: the history of the islamic Middle East and its physical expression in art, architecture and urbanisation.




MMS - The 'Mamlukisation' of the Mamluk Sultanate. Political Traditions and State Formation in 15th century Egypt and Syria

European Research Council Starting Grant no. 240865 (MMS) - team members (6): Jo Van Steenbergen (PI), NN, NN, Veerle Adriaenssens, Stijn Van Nieuwenhuyse, NN - 2009-14

The objective of the project is a comprehensive and coherent reconstruction of the political traditions that, in the interplay between individuals, institutions and social interactions, dominated the Syro- Egyptian Mamluk sultanate in the 15th century. In doing so, we will be aiming to validate the ambitious and revisionist hypothesis that a surprisingly thorough transformation of this regime took place, as a very different set of traditions emerged that were constructed around the criterion of military slavery (‘mamlukisation’). If successful, a new framework for historical enquiry will emerge, that will enable, and even urge for, the consideration and reconsideration of all aspects of late medieval Islamic history, including from a comparative, trans-cultural and trans-regional perspective.
Due to conceptual limitations vis-à-vis the nature of late medieval Islamic history and its place and meaning in world history, and due to the fragmented and particularistic approach in current research of the Mamluk regime’s 15th century history, such a study has never been undertaken before. The project will overcome these limitations by promoting a radically different vision of that history, seeing it within a context of global processes of historical change and transformation. Such processes are considered to have taken place on the level of individuals and their interaction with other individuals, within the traditional research framework of the regime’s well-known political and military institutions, but more importantly also within a much broader conceptual framework of evolving networks of interdependent individuals. Furthermore, it is a crucial concern of the project to overstep any particularistic biases and to bring into the equation all available sources for 15th century Mamluk history, so as to ensure that all recorded subtleties of these processes are considered and that conclusions drawn from them transcend the conjectural.

Practically, the objective of the project will be attained through an interrelated three-stage approach with very clear intermediate goals:

  1. to scrutinise the sources from a prosopographical perspective and to re-organise the extremely fragmented and scattered trove of relevant data in them in a more accessible format in a relational database (with web-application)
  2. to use those data for separate, but inter-related meso-historical studies of those individuals, of their institutional actions, and of their social interaction, as these were evolving through the 15th century
  3. to develop a macro-historical framework that makes sense of the dynamic interplay between individuals, institutions and interaction, defining this as a quest for the underlying traditions, or the practices that followed generally accepted rules and promoted certain values and norms of behaviour.

By thus examining the impact of change on 15th century political traditions, the project aims to demonstrate how this revolved around a process of state formation, which puts this regime on a par with simultaneously emerging European states. The project will be a vital and ground-breaking contribution to the understanding of the historical transition to early modern states, in the Islamic world as well as across the Mediterranean, in Europe. It essentially means turning the understanding of late medieval Islamic history upside down, as successful research results will entail the proposition that there was a ‘mamlukisation’ of the Mamluk sultanate and that this predominant, hegemonic regime can only be deemed deserving of the commonly used epithet Mamluk —referring to military slavery as a defining criterion— in the course of the 15th century, i.e. almost two centuries after its inception."