CMRS Faculty Update – Luke Yarbrough

Published: April 21, 2020

UCLA Professor Luke Yarbrough, of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, has received a fellowship from the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the 2020-2021 Academic Year. In partnership with Professor Uriel Simonsohn of Haifa University, he has co-organized a research group whose project is titled “Cultural Brokerage in Pre-modern Islam“. Professor Jessica Goldberg from the Department of History at UCLA and Professor Maria Mavroudi from UC Berkeley’s Department of History are also part of the research group.

The group will explore the dynamic by which Islamic civilization was informed by cultural polycentricism and pluralism and which multiple groups and traditions took part in molding. A variety of individuals acting as cultural brokers who served as mediators between social and cultural groups were conduits of cultural transmission by transferring, mediating, embodying, and exchanging various social and cultural capitals, such as spiritual authority, erudition, kinship ties, legal capacities, and more.

This research addresses the role of cultural brokers in pre-modern Islam; in particular:

  • the different types of brokers (courtiers, converts, communal leaders, women, missionaries, merchants, holy individuals, etc.)
  • the circumstances which facilitated their activities (intellectual encounters, translation requirements, bureaucratic services, technological exigencies, trade and travel, enslavement, etc.)
  • the cultural outcomes or products of those activities, for example, the availability of information and its types, literary enterprises, poetic styles, technology, urban planning, architecture, etc.

Congratulations to Luke, Jessica, and the rest of the research team!