I am an Associate Professor of premodern literature in the Comparative and World Literature department at San Francisco State University, where I’ve been teaching since 2005.  My location in a Comparative and World Literature department means that my teaching necessarily extends beyond my training as in European and Mediterranean studies to embrace the literatures of premodern Asia, Africa and the Americas.  My research and writing is likewise marked by comparative methods and interdisciplinarity: my first book, In Light of Another’s Word: European Ethnography in the Middle Ages (UPenn, 2014), considered postcolonial critical-anthropological critiques of colonial ethnographic description in order to bring into sharp relief the differences of premodern ethnographic representation, namely its dialogism, particularly where European description predated colonial control.  In showing a Latin Europe incorporative and integrative of the voices and perspectives of its (internal and external) others, I was also interested in the open-ended nature of European identity in its formative period. My current book project continues this interest while returning me to the complex ‘matter of Saracens,’ which first drew me to the study of the Middle Ages . Translating Saracens deploys translatio/n theory and material culture studies to read the movement of symbolic objects associated with Muslim imperial authority in epics and other late medieval genres as the material expression of the widespread medieval trope of ‘translatio imperii et studii’, the transfer of past imperial authority and cultural prestige to Europe. I thereby call for renewed attention, through the work of these critically neglected objects, to  ‘the Arabic role’ (Menocal 1987) in Europe’s cultural and imperial self-fashioning.

Shirin A. Khanmohamadi

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