Olsen, Chronicles as sources for rituals in early Mamluk period

Chronicles as sources for rituals in the early Mamluk period: manifestations of power and protest

Rasmus B. Olsen (Birkbeck College, London)

My paper will examine the narrative tropes employed by 14th century Arabic chroniclers when describing political rituals with special reference to complaint processions (mawƗkib) staged by urban populations. In recent years several studies of rituals in Medieval European political culture have dealt with the question of authorial agency, asking whether we can trust the descriptions of chronicles when analysing rituals as politico-cultural phenomena. This question has hardly been addressed within the field of Islamic studies. By focusing on the terminology used by chroniclers from Damascus and Cairo respectively when describing protesters and their actions, I wish to explore which literary tropes were used for framing these events. This examination will in turn be used to determine whether authors of chronicles employed consistent narrative patterns for describing protest processions and whether these patterns differed from city to city.