112th Annual Conference - Riverside Convention Center, California
Friday, October 31 - Sunday, November 2, 2014

This page is about the 2014 conference. For 2015 conference info, go to PAMLA 2015.

Crossing Horizons in Idris's Nuzhat al-mushtaq

Christine Chism, University of California, Los Angeles

This paper contrasts al-Idrisi’s discussion of the fourth climate in the Nuzhat al-mushtaq to Ibn Jubayr’s more anxious account of the same Mediterranean regions, arguing that Idrisi’s climatically organized text sidesteps the freighted divisions between the Dar al-Harb and the Dar al-Islam, to render up a geographically homogenized world.

Proposal: 

This paper explores the charting of the fourth climate in al-Idrisi’s Nuzhat al-mushtaq. This section of al-Idrisi's geography describes the lands most intimately known to al-Idrisi and probably most immediately of interest to Roger II of Sicily, the geography’s dedicatee.  I contrast Idrisi’s geographically leveling account to Ibn Jubayr’s more anxious account of the same Mediterranean regions, arguing that Idrisi’s climatically organized text sidesteps the freighted divisions between the Dar al-Harb and the Dar al-Islam, to render up a geographically homogenized world in simple, accessible, radically connective slices. Ibn Jubayr’s textured and dangerously traveled Mediterranean diminishes to the tip of an extended fretwork of towns and regions reaching from West Africa to the eastern coast of China.  Idrisi’s climatic organization liberates the viewer from the world-producing dialectics of the familiar and the strange that govern the rihla accounts of other Islamic writers such as Ibn Jubayr and Ibn Battuta, and instead invites the reader to view the world from the viewpoint of the celestial tropics whose boundaries delimit each of the climates.  Idrisi’s text, whose title translates to “The pleasure of him who longs to cross the horizons,” offers its readers an enticing fantasy of universal epistemological access – like an astrolabist changing climate plates to resituate him or herself in reference to a new latitude with its singular perceptual plane.  This changeability of perspective, aided by the visual maps and charts in each section of text, grants the reader unsurpassed virtual mobility, but it also sacrifices the narrative power of the rihlas by detaching the viewer from the world.  In making this argument, I draw upon classical and Islamic astronomical and geographical writings, and descriptions of Roger II's court in Sicily as well as Gayatri Spivak’s theories of worlding.

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