Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: Feb. 27, 2023, 6:30 a.m. Humanist 36.409 - pubs cfp: critical use in Islamic architecture

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 409.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
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        Date: 2023-02-26 19:58:56+00:00
        From: Yael Rice <>
        Subject: CFP: The Urgency of the Digital (special journal issue)

Dear all,

I share below (and have also attached to this email and linked here
a Call For Papers for "The Urgency of the Digital," a special issue of
the /International Journal of Islamic Architecture/ to be published in
June 2025. We welcome submissions from practitioners, urbanists, art
historians, specialists in literary and religious studies, archivists,
librarians, data scientists, software developers, anthropologists,
geographers, sociologists, and historians whose work resonates with the
topic. Proposal submissions (due by *June 1, 2023*) and queries should
be sent to <>.

I would be grateful if you would share the CFP with colleagues and any
other interested parties and lists.


     International Journal of Islamic Architecture (IJIA)
     Special Issue: The Urgency of the Digital
     Thematic volume planned for July 1, 2025
     Proposal submission deadline: June 1, 2023

     This special issue focuses on the critical and urgent use of digital
     tools, interfaces, media, and methods for the study and design of
     Islamic architecture, cities, and the built environment. Over recent
     decades, architectural historians, architects, and other specialists
     of the built environment have drawn increasingly on digitized
     databases, digital data, and processing software to reimagine the
     history, documentation, design, and construction of buildings,
     gardens, and cities wholesale. Representations of historical,
     contemporary, razed and never-built structures are now fully
     realizable, and massive corpora of information that once took many
     months or years to sort can now be analyzed in seconds. Yet, digital
     tools, infrastructures, and databases bring their own set of
     concerns. Databases, like all archives, do not merely contain
     information, they /are/ information. And as such, they bear the
     marks of the epistemologies that shape them. Digital files are
     always remediated, meaning that they are the products of multiple
     human interventions, just as analogue media are. Some of the
     platforms that facilitate virtual reality simulations of
     architecture, cities, and transcontinental migrations enjoy an
     uncomfortable kinship with the pervasive governmental and private
     surveillance technologies in use today. Artificial intelligence (AI)
     has enormous potential to transform the way that architects, city
     planners, and historical preservationists work, and yet racial,
     gendered, ethnic, and religious biases in the datasets that
     machine-learning algorithms employ raise questions about the
     ramifications of these undertakings. Digital frameworks enable more
     expansive, multi-layered, and speculative investigations of
     buildings, cities, and spaces, but they also demand rigorous scrutiny.

     With computational tools, the many lengthy geographies in Arabic,
     Persian, Turkish, Urdu, and other languages that scholars have long
     mined for textual evidence of architectural, urban design,
     construction, and migration practices can be analyzed at scale. This
     approach–what’s known in digital humanities parlance as “distant
     reading”–permits the identification of historical patterns, common
     literary forms, and intellectual networks that might have eluded
     analogue methods. It therefore allows texts to be understood as part
     of broader, interrelated phenomena rather than as isolated works.
     The capacity for large-scale textual processing may seem especially
     well-suited to works, like geographies, that are themselves
     large-scale and densely packed with information. However, many
     distant reading technologies have historically privileged
     left-to-right and Roman scripts, and thus betray disciplinary biases
     that require their own rumination and interpretation.

     Endeavors underway to remedy these technological and hermeneutical
     morasses can bring their own insights. For example, the aim of the
     University of Maryland-based Open Islamicate Texts Initiative’s
     Arabic-script Optical Character Recognition Project (OpenITI AOCP)
     is to create technical infrastructure to process texts that use
     Arabic scripts. Comprising a team of literary specialists,
     historians, and computer scientists, this initiative models an
     interdisciplinary, collaborative working approach that bears on how
     humanities scholars form research hypotheses and conduct
     investigations. In such contexts, digital work can be urgent,
     generative, and transformative.

     Along similar lines, proposed articles might investigate how
     software that was created for the analysis of French Gothic churches
     or the drafting of architecture using English-language commands
     transfers (or does not transfer) to the study and design of
     buildings in the Islamic world. Authors might probe how the study
     of, for instance, madrasas or gardens through the schemes of big
     data differs from finer-grained investigations that focus on a
     single monument, or what it means to use Cartesian coordinate
     systems to map realms that were perceived and traversed historically
     through non-Cartesian lenses. The urgent use of digital files and
     technologies to reconstruct the physical spaces where crimes against
     humanity have occurred, like the Forensic Architecture research
     group does, might also be taken up.

     Digital databases and archives offer another avenue ripe for
     investigation. Troves of image, sound, video, and text files are
     seemingly but a click away. Yet, for many, digitized collections
     remain out of reach due to paywalls, government censorship,
     copyright restrictions, inadequate internet speeds, frequent
     brownouts, and a reliance on monolingual (often English-language)
     interfaces. Migrants, minorities, people with disabilities, and
     certain genders also face obstacles accessing digital content
     online. We must then ask what it means to study and reproduce
     digitized representations of buildings, cities, and built
     environments of the Islamic world that are not accessible to those
     who are, or once were, local to those places. According to what
     paradigms are these data organized, and how are they and their
     metadata made digitally findable? Digitization of archival
     materials, for that matter, incurs enormous costs in terms of the
     use of labor, skill, materials, and computer servers. Who is
     shouldering those financial and ecological burdens, and why? And how
     are decisions made regarding which files are prioritized for

     This special issue encourages contributions that address the urgent
     promises and risks that digital infrastructures, tools, and
     approaches hold. We invite paper proposals that employ a wide
     spectrum of approaches, including but not limited to spatial
     mapping, social network analysis, distant reading, photogrammetry,
     3D printing, virtual reality and augmented reality simulators,
     humanities gaming, and electronic publishing, among other topics
     addressing contexts in or involving the Islamic world. Paper
     proposals may also examine how digital collections, interfaces, and
     software bear on the study and design of Islamic architecture,
     cities, and the built environment. Contributors are asked to reflect
     on what the translation of sources and evidence into electronic data
     entails, how these acts upend questions and procedures that are
     fundamental to our fields, and what pressing limitations and
     potentials the digital brings.

     Proposals should work from the framework outlined above. We
     encourage contributors to consider the themes of this special issue
     as they pertain to less frequently represented geographies such as
     sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
     Submissions addressing considerations of race, gender, migration,
     disability, and minority communities are particularly welcome.

     Questions that might be addressed by contributors to this special
     issue might include:

     1. What does it mean to investigate and design the built environment
     through a data-centric lens? What do digital approaches offer
     disciplines that are materially and pragmatically oriented? And how
     do we maintain any critical distance from the digital when we are
     also irretrievably and fully immersed within it?

     2. How does the computer see architectural forms and styles? How do
     large image datasets provide a corpus for reimagining architecture,
     landscape, city planning, and historic preservation in the Islamic
     world? What does AI—machine learning and its algorithms,
     especially—bring to the design process?

     3. What roles do digital databases and archives play in the design
     and study of architecture in the Islamic world today? Who has ready
     access to these materials, and why? How have earlier histories of
     classification, information design, and computers come to bear on
     contemporary naming authorities, information retrieval, and metadata

     4. How can (and should) computers and digital processes be used to
     reconstitute buildings, cities, landscapes, and built environments
     that have been destroyed, replaced, looted, or never excavated?
     Towards what ends might these same technologies be employed to
     speculatively imagine architecture that was never built, or to
     investigate state violence and violations of human rights? What are
     the ethical and practical implications of these enterprises?

     5. How do digital technologies remediate architectural photographs,
     plans, drawings, and other media, and what are the broader
     ramifications of these processes? What connections, if any, do these
     phenomena have with the histories of earlier media?

     6. What are the promises and pitfalls of big data approaches to the
     study of architecture and architectural history? How might current
     and historical acts of state-sponsored surveillance, documentation,
     and data science inflect and inform these endeavors?

     7. In what ways are current digital tools and approaches like
     digital mapping with GIS, distant reading, virtual reality, and
     artificial intelligence suited—or ill-suited—to the study of
     architecture and space in the Islamic world? How should the digital
     be leveraged towards more emic ends, if at all?

     8. How have digital technologies made previously “hidden”
     architectural histories of marginalized communities more visible?
     What are the costs and benefits of making information belonging (or
     that once belonged) to vulnerable and underrepresented groups
     publicly accessible?

     9. How might digital tools and processes bridge the study of the
     Islamic built environment with that of other artifacts bearing
     pictorial representations of architecture and space, such as
     manuscripts, printed books, photographs, and ceramic tiles? How
     might the digital challenge long-standing disciplinary boundaries
     that have removed architecture from the study of portable media?

     Articles offering historical and theoretical analysis (Design in
     Theory; DiT) should be between 6000 and 8000 words. Those on design
     and practice (Design in Practice; DiP) should be between 3000 and
     4000 words. Practitioners, urbanists, art historians, specialists in
     literary and religious studies, archivists, librarians, data
     scientists, software developers, anthropologists, geographers,
     sociologists, and historians whose work resonates with the topic of
     this special issue are welcome to contribute discussions that
     address the critical themes of the journal. Collaboratively authored
     articles are also welcome. Please send a title and a 400-word
     abstract to the guest editor, Yael Rice, Amherst College
     (, by June 1, 2023. 

     Authors of proposals will be contacted by July 1, 2023,
     and may be requested to submit full article drafts for consideration
     by January 30, 2024. All submissions will undergo blind peer review,
     editing, and revision. For detailed author instructions, please

All the best,
Yael Rice

Yael Rice (she, her, hers)
Associate Professor of the History of Art & Asian Languages and
208 Fayerweather Hall
Amherst College
Amherst, MA 01002
Tel.: (413) 542-5520

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