Reader in the History and Culture of the Maghrib
Fellow of Magdalene College
Amira K. Bennison became interested in the Middle East and North Africa while studying for her BA Hons in History and Arabic and Cambridge. After graduating, she went to live in Cairo for a year before studying for a Masters at Harvard University and a PhD at the SOAS. Her PhD, based on a year’s archival research in Morocco, looked at the impact of the French conquest of Algiers in 1830 on notions of political legitimacy in neighbouring Morocco. This involved an exploration of the significance of jihād in political legitimation in the western Maghrib published as Jihād and its Interpreatations in Pre-colonial Morocco (London: Curzon, 2002). She went on to the University of Manchester as a Leverhulme research fellow before moving to the University of Cambridge in 1997 where she is currently a senior lecturer. Her work has continued to explore political legitimacy but has expanded to encompass Islamic Spain as well as the Maghrib, and to consider urban planning, ceremonial and rhetoric alongside jihād. Dr. Bennison has appeared in several TV programmes about the history of the Middle East and North Africa including ‘Europe’s Lost Civilisation’; ‘The Thirties in Colour’ and ‘Islamic Science’. She is also a regular contributor to Radio 4’s ‘In Our Time’ with Melvyn Bragg.
|1989||BA (Hons) History and Arabic, University of Cambridge|
|1992||MA Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University|
|1996||PhD Moroccan History, SOAS, University of London|
|1996||Leverhulme Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Manchester University|
|1997-2002||Lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge|
|2002-date||Senior Lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge|
North Africa and the Middle East since 1500; 18th-19th century Muslim religio-political discourse and state structures; the medieval Islamic West; Islamic cultural history and historical globalisation
Since I began research for my doctorate, I have been interested in the way in which different regimes and dynasties in North Africa and Islamic Spain legitimised themselves. Having explored such dynasties’ usage of jihad, I began to look at textual descriptions of palaces and the ceremonies which took place within them from eighth century Cordoba to nineteenth century Morocco, and charting the emergence of a visual/material language of power.
As a result of my research on court ideology, I developed a small additional project on the experience of religious minorities under the Almohads in collaboration with Dr. Gallego-Garcia in Madrid funded by the British Academy (2007-9)
Recently, I received a two year Leverhulme Research Grant to explore these issues in Morocco and Granada in the 13th-15th centuries under the title Political Legitimacy in the Islamic West with the assistance of a research fellow, Dr James Brown.
I have also continued to work on the impact of European modernity and colonialism in the nineteenth century through a collaborative project on comparative religious internationalisms.
Religious Minorities under the Almohads, special issue of the Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies 2: 2 (2010) edited with María Angeles Gallego.
The Great Caliphs: the golden age of the ‘Abbasid empire, London: I. B. Tauris (2009) and New York: Yale University Press (2009).
Runner-up in the Longman-History Today Book of the Year Award, 2009.
Cities in the Premodern Islamic World: the Urban Impact of Religion, State and Society, London: RoutledgeCurzon (2007) edited with Alison L. Gascoigne.
‘The necklace of al-Shifa’: ‘Abbasid borrowings in the Islamic West’, Occasional Papers, School of ‘Abbasid Studies, Oriens 38 (2010) 251-276.
with María Angeles Gallego, ‘Religious minorities under the Almohads: an introduction’, Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies 2: 2 (2010) Special Issue: Religious Minorities under the Almohads, pp. 143-54.
‘Almohad tawḥīd and its implications for religious difference’ Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies, 2: 2 (2010) Special Issue, Religious Minorities under the Almohads, pp. 195-216.
‘The Umma in the City’, in A Companion to the Muslim World, Muslim Heritage Series 1, London: I. B. Tauris in association with the Institute of Isma‘ili Studies (2009) pp. 209-36.
‘The Ottoman Empire and its precedents from the perspective of English school Theory’, in Buzan, Barry and Gonzalez-Pelaez (eds), International Society and the Middle East: English School theory at the regional level, London: Palgrave (2009) pp. 45-69.
and María Ángeles Gallego, ‘Jewish trading in Fes on the eve of the Almohad conquest’, Miscelanea de Estudios Arabes y Hebraicos, seccíon Hebreo, 56 (2007) 33-51.
‘The Almohads and the Qur’ān of ‘Uthmān: The legacy of the Umayyads of Cordoba in the twelfth century Maghrib’, Al-Masaq 19: 2 (2007) pp. 131-154.
‘The peoples of the north in the eyes of the Muslims of Umayyad al-Andalus (711-1031)’, Journal of Global History 2: 2 (2007) pp. 157-74.
‘Power and the City in the Islamic West from the Umayyads to the Almohads’, in Bennison A. K. and Gascoigne, A. L. (eds), Cities in the Premodern Islamic World: the Urban Impact of Religion, State and Society, London: RoutledgeCurzon (2007) pp. 65-95.