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Ahmed Ragab, Richmond Visiting Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Williams College
Time and time again: clocks, memory and the temporalities of Islamic Sciences
In 1203, the huge clock (15’ wide and 5’ high) that resided in the Great Mosque of Damascus was working once more after years of failed attempts at its repair. Finally, entrusted to the talented son of its original designer, the clock could once more tell the hours and regulate the time in the heart of the Levantine capital. Eight centuries later, the clock was recreated in an attempt to provide evidence for the superiority of Islamic sciences, and how they belong in “the modern world.”
Tracing the story of the Damascene clock and the daily schedules of contemporary scholars, this talk investigates the techno-scientific production of time and how such production, in turn, shaped the temporality of scientific knowledge in the medieval Islamic context. It also examines how that science and its concomitant temporality are invoked, reimagined and recreated in colonial and postcolonial contexts.