Seminari Alta Scuola
FSCIRE, Biblioteca La Pira, Via Umberto Maddalena, 112, 90137, Palermo

Translating Mysticism: Conceptual Problems, Challenges, and Opportunities

Brett Wilson
Central European University, Budapest

This seminar explores mysticism as concept used in history, religious studies, and cross-cultural translation. The course moves from sessions discussing theories and conceptualizations of mysticism as category of comparative analysis to case studies and applications of the concept in Islamic contexts. It keeps in view the constant challenge and dilemma of translation, particularly between Christian and Islamic traditions, including the imprecisions it involves as well as the new vistas it opens. The latter part of the seminar examines the possibilities of transforming mysticism into national culture with special attention to modern Sufism around the Mediterranean basin.

Brett Wilson works in the fields of late Ottoman and modern Turkish history with specialization in religious, intellectual, and global history. He completed his MA and PhD at Duke University (Durham, USA) and taught at Macalester College (St. Paul, USA) before joining the Department of History at Central European University (Vienna, Austria), where he is, currently, Associate Professor of History and the Director of the Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies (CEMS). His research interests include religious modernism, Sufism, print culture, and state relations with Islamic institutions. Working with Arabic, Ottoman, and Turkish language sources, his first book Translating the Qur’an in an Age of Nationalism: Print Culture and Modern Islam in Turkey (Oxford University Press, 2014) is a cultural history of the translation of the Qur'an as well as the transformation of the handwritten text into a printed, mass-produced book. His current book project examines the abolition of Sufism in the Turkish Republic, exploring the transformation of Sufism into national culture in the global context of secular reform during the interwar period.