Dr Fozia Bora
- Position: Associate Professor of Islamic History
- Areas of expertise: Arabic history and historiography; Islamicate archives and book cultures; Arabic codicology; Islam and gender; access, representation and community curation in the museum/heritage sector
- Email: F.G.Bora@leeds.ac.uk
- Phone: +44(0)113 343 3416
- Location: 402a Michael Sadler
- Website: Twitter | LinkedIn
My research and teaching are focused broadly on the history and historiography of early and medieval Islam, specifically Arabic historical texts of the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk eras in the 6th-9th Islamic centuries (12th–15th centuries CE).
I took my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of Oxford, where I began my academic journey by studying for a BA in English, after which I spent two years working as a journalist in London. On reading Amitav Gosh's fascinating and suggestive novel In An Antique Land, I was inspired to explore the pre-modern Islamicate world and returned to university for an MPhil in Classical and Medieval Islamic history. This led to a specialisation in Mamluk historiography and, after an extended maternity leave, to doctoral research, for which I made a diplomatic edition of the Mamluk scholar Ibn al-Furat's (d. 1405) underappreciated yet rich account of late Fatimid rule from the unique autograph manuscript of his multi-volume chronicle of the Islamic world, and produced an historiographical analysis of this corpus of texts (some otherwise lost) dating from the 6th/12th century of Islamic history.
My 2019 monograph revisited Ibn al-Furat's multi-genre inventory of texts in order to demonstrate archivality as an epistemic key to Mamluk historical writing, one which holds deep explanatory power alongside the well-trodden ground of encyclopaedism. I am currently writing a second book on the artistic, epistemological and archival value of the Arabic mukhtaṣar or digest, both across genres and in history-writing in particular.
I received my doctorate in early 2011, taught Islamic history at the Markfield Institute of Higher Education from February 2010, took up a Research Fellowship at the Cambridge Muslim College in 2011/2012 and came to Leeds in September 2012, where I am based in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies (LCS). (Note: please direct MAR/PhD inquiries to me at LCS and not at the Institute for Medieval Studies at Leeds, with which I also have an association.)
I was the Convenor of the 2018-19 Sadler Seminar series Creating/Curating the Decolonial Classroom, and led a community engagement and curation pilot project in 2022 with Dr Vahideh Golzard, working with Persian and Arabic manuscripts and incunabula in the Special Collections of the Brotherton Library, funded by Research England.
In March 2021 I was privileged to receive a Women of Achievement Award from the University of Leeds, in recognition my work on engaging communities outside academia with my research and for championing inclusive pedagogy in LCS.
- Chair of the British Association of Islamic Studies
- Islam consultant for the Oxford English Dictionary (third edition) and for Oxford Dictionaries Online
- Contributor to the Encyclopaedia of Islam 3
- Trustee of the Gibb Memorial Trust
- ‘Ibn al-Furāt’, as a historian of the Crusades, in A. Mallett, The Franks and their Image in Medieval Muslim Texts, Brill forthcoming in 2023.
- ‘Archives and Archival Sensibilities in Medieval Arabic Historiography’ Essay for Maydān (a peer-reviewed online publication of George Mason University), 3 December 2019.
- Writing History in the Medieval Islamic World: The Value of Chronicles as Archives (I B Tauris, June 2019).
- 'Did Salah al-Din Destroy the Fatimids' Books? An Historiographical Enquiry', Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 25:1 (2015), pp. 21–39. This article was generously awarded the Royal Asiatic Society's Staunton Prize.
- 'A Mamluk Historian's Holograph. Messages from a Musawwada of Tar?kh', Journal of Islamic Manuscripts, Volume 3, Number 2, 2012 , pp. 119–153.
- Article for The Conversation (July 2015; reprinted in Newsweek Europe, Express Tribune Karachi and CNN): 'Discovery of ‘oldest’ Qur'an fragments could resolve enigmatic history of holy text'.
Recent Conference/Seminar Papers
- 'Archives and archival sensibilities in medieval Arabic historiography', All Souls College, Oxford, October 2019
- 'Mukhtasar in the long view: abridgement as archival practice', Leeds International Medieval Congress, July 2018
- ‘Middle Period Arabic chronicles as archives of knowledge: theoretical and practical considerations’, workshop on Chronicles as Archives in Medieval Islamicate Contexts, Leeds Humanities Research Institute, December 2016
- 'Did Salah al-Din destroy the Fatimids' books?', RAS Fresh Perspectives lecture at the Royal Asiatic Society, London, September 2015
- 'Documenting the production of knowledge: rethinking Arabic chronicles as archives', IMPAcT research group colloquium, Oriental Institute, University of Oxford, July 2015
- ‘Salah al-Din and the Libraries of Fatimid Egypt', Medieval Studies Seminars, School of History, May 2014 and International Medieval Congress, July 2014, University of Leeds
- ‘Natural Selection: Fatimid Voices in Mamluk Chronicles – the Account of the Death of al-Hakim in al-Quda‘i’s ‘Uyun al-Ma’arif’, Colloquium on the History of Egypt and Syria in the Fatimid, Ayubid and Mamluk Eras 21, University of Ghent, Belgium, May 2012
- ‘A History of Arabic Historiography’, Cambridge Muslim College, January 2012
- ‘Madrasas in the Medieval Near East: Religious Scholarship and Political Subversion’, School of Divinity, University of Cambridge, December 2011
- ‘Historiography in Mamluk Egypt: the Interplay Between Normative and Subversive Impulses’, Arabic Pasts: Histories and Historiography conference, Agha Khan University/School of African and Asian Studies, London, September 2010
For the past several years I have hosted or given talks on Islamic/Middle Eastern history at the Ilkley Literature Festival, have spoken about my research at mosques and on Muslim community platforms and advise several West Yorkshire schools and local authorities on the teaching of Islamic History at school level.
My article for The Conversation July 2015 on the discovery of early Qur'an fragments in Birmingham University Library was reprinted in Newsweek Europe, the Express Tribune in Karachi and CNN.com: 'Discovery of ‘oldest’ Qur'an fragments could resolve enigmatic history of holy text'.
I have also contributed to television programmes including BBC Timewatch: Crusades, Forbidden Art with Mary Beard, to BBC Radio (Radio 4 and BBC Radio Scotland), to Newsweek and to the BBC website across multiple languages.
- Director of Postgraduate Research Studies in LCS
- British Association of Islamic Studies (BRAIS)
- British Association for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES)
- Middle East Medievalists
(Co-supervision at 50–90%)
- Sally Stephens (MAR): The Zajal and the lost performance history of al-Andalus: Metric crossover, assimilation, and exchange [completed 2016, passed with Distinction]
- Farasat Latif (PhD): A comparison of four medieval Muslim historians' narratives of Saqifa [completed 2020]
- Atta Muhammad (PhD): The public sphere of the later Abbasid caliphate (1000–1258): the role of Sufism (funded by a Punjab Higher Education Commission PhD Scholarship) [completed 2020]
- Ivana Cosmano (PhD): Transforming Norms and Desires: Gendered Self-Fashioning Amongst Young, Educated Jordanians (funded by the LCS School Award for Excellence) [completed 2021]
- Sanah Mehnaz (PhD): Concepts of ‘honour’ in Islam and Muslim communities: perceptions, praxis and new modalities (funded by a White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities doctoral award)
- Ali Alrashidi: Historical representations of the “Shī'ī Century” in the Islamic West: Fātimid discourses of legitimacy during the Maghribi phase (AH 297-360/909-969 CE)
- Husain Alajmi: Bypassing Sectarianism in Islamic Spain – A critical discussion of Ibn ʿAbd Rabbih’s (AH 246–328 / 860–940 CE) and Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr’s (AH 368–463/978–1071 CE) historiographic treatment of the Prophet’s family: intellectual independence in an Andalusian pattern
- Iram Bostan: The Deficient Mind? Debating Rationality, Inferiority and the Religious Authority of Women within the Islamic Tradition (funded by a White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities doctoral award)
- Jawad Shah: Writing women in the Arabic biographical dictionary: authorship and authority in a reinvented genre (funded by the LCS School Award for Excellence)
- Eyad Houssami: Arabic and Decolonial Transmission in the Ecological Humanities: Knowledge Production in Post-Ottoman Beirut (funded by a White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities doctoral award)
Research groups and institutes
- Iqbal Centre