Elisabetta Benigni graduated from the Università La Sapienza in Rome (Faculty of Oriental Studies) in 2004 and received her PhD in Historical and Philological Studies in the Islamic and Arab World from the same university in 2009. Her dissertation, published in 2010, is based on a diachronic analysis of the genre of adab al‐suğūn (prison literature) in Arab literature, with a particular focus on modern and contemporary literary works. Benigni is also interested in the transmission of texts, translations and cross‐influences in early modern and modern Mediterranean contexts.
As a fellow of Zukunftsphilologie, she focussed her attention on the life, work and legacy of a Mediterranean thinker, known in romance languages as Fra Anselm Turmeda and in Arabic as Abu Muhammad Abdullah b. Abdullah al‐Turjumān al‐Mayūrqī.
Benigni''s project seeks to remedy the schizophrenic representation of this fascinating figure by approaching Turmeda’s life not in terms of national, religious or linguistic categories, but by examining carefully the cultural entanglements that informed it within the context of the historical possibilities of the Mediterranean world in the fourteenth and fifteenth century. Her study also engages in an ongoing debate about the coherence – or the lack thereof – of the cultural space known as the Mediterranean world. Benigni aims to give special attention to the role of translation and translators in the making of a Mediterranean lingua franca, not only in the sense of a common language but also in the sense of shared semiotics. Moreover, she stressed the role of mutual exchanges and religious conversions in the proliferation and multiplication of identities in the early modern world.
Lejla Demiri holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge (2008). She received her BA (1998) and MA (2000) degrees in Islamic Theology from Marmara University, Istanbul. Demiri also studied Christian Theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas – Angelicum (2002/03) and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where she received her Post-graduate Diploma (2003) and Licentiate Degree (2004).
Demiri worked as a Junior Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge (Trinity Hall, 2007–2010) and subsequently held a postdoc-fellowship (2010/11) of the Berlin-based research-program Europe in the Middle East – the Middle East in Europe (2010/11). She also taught at the University of Cambridge and the Cambridge Muslim College. Her research explores Muslim-Christian theological encounters. Since 2002, Demiri is actively involved in interfaith dialogue.
During her Zukunftsphilologie-fellowship, she examined Muslim perceptions of the religious "Other" in the early modern Ottoman world with a special focus on ''Abd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī ''s (1641-1731) writings on religious pluralism.
Hafid Ismaili Alaoui is Associate Professor of Arabic at the Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Ibn Zohr University, Agadir/Morocco. He received his PhD in Linguistics in 2003 with a dissertation on "Linguistics in contemporary Arab culture: A critical analytical study of issues of reception and its problems" (Al-lisaniyyat fil-thaqafa al-arabiyya al-mu'asira, Beirut 2009).
Alaoui is the Academic Coordinator of a research group on language communication and argumentation at the University of Ibn Zohr. He has published three books and more than twenty articles which cover a wide range of language-related themes including Arabic linguistics, epistemology and argumentation theory and the Arabic reception of contemporary Western linguistic theory.
As a fellow of Zukunftsphilologie in Berlin, Alaoui worked on his current book project entitled "German Linguistic Orientalism and the Study of Arabic".
Prashant Keshavmurthy is currently Assistant Professor of Persian Studies at the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University. He completed his dissertation at the Department of Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures with an affiliation to the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University, New York, in 2010. In his dissertation, Keshavmurthy first analyzed the conceptions of fiction and its authorship in Persian and Urdu literary cultures of the 13th and 18th centuries. Subsequently, he examined the paradigmatic shift in mimesis in the Urdu literary world after 1857 which resulted in the interpretative obscuration of this pre?colonial heritage.
During his Zukunftsphilologie-fellowship, Keshavmurthy focussed on one of the projects comprising the first part of his dissertation, arguing that in the pre?colonial Persianate world a poet's life was conceived as an effect of his poetry, of the meanings he made, rather than preceding it – as from the late 19th century onwards – as pre?poetic "experience". Simultaneously mundane and metaphysical, a poet's life replicated the logic of double meaning in his texts. Keshavmurthy will argue that the double meaning of the life of Kashmir's most famous Persian language poet, Ghani Kashmiri (d. 1669), as told over three centuries in biographical dictionaries, is ultimately modeled on the logic of double meaning in his own distiches.
Keshavmurthy's interests include literary translation, pre?colonial literary theory and culture, Mughal urban history and literary modernity in Urdu. Besides the book manuscript based on his doctoral thesis, he is also preparing a book of translations into English from 16th, 17th and 18th century Persian poets. Keshavmurty's "Finitude and the Authorship of Fiction: Muhammad 'Awfi's Preface to his Chronicle Lubab alalbab (The Piths of Intellect)" was published in Arab Studies Journal (2011).
Saeko Shibayama holds degrees from the International Christian University, Tokyo (BA), in Comparative Literature from the University of Toronto (MA), and in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University, New York (PhD).
Her dissertation, "The Convergence of the 'Ways': The Twilight of Early Chinese Literary Studies and the Rise of Waka Poetics in the Long Twelfth Century in Japan", examines parallel structures in two intellectual movements in early Japan. On the one hand, the history and literature curriculum in the State Academy promoted the rigorous study of the Chinese classics during the ninth through eleventh centuries. Interpretations of individual texts, including methodologies for translating classical Chinese into Japanese, were transmitted within a handful of scholarly families. The composition of waka ("Japanese poems"), on the other hand, poems of thirty-one syllables written in vernacular Japanese, is described in eighth-century records, while the study of waka evolved in the twelfth century. Shibayama's dissertation documents how Japan's indigenous poetic tradition took on the various formalities of early Chinese literary practices, and became both academic and chauvinistic at the dawn of the Japanese Middle Ages. A key figure who made the transition between the two practices was the scholar-official, Ōe Masafusa (1041–1111).
As a fellow of Zukunftsphilologie, Shibayama pursued research on the works of Masafusa. She examined some 120 Buddhist prayers Masafusa composed on behalf of his Japanese imperial patrons in highly stylized Chinese, with frequent borrowing from Chinese writings such as the canonical anthology Wenxuan (6th century). Formerly a student of Yiddish language and literature, Shibayama hoped to explore the relationship between one vernacular language and its more religiously sanctified counterpart (e.g., Hebrew, Latin and Chinese). Inspired by the work of Ernst Robert Curtius and Charles Haskins, she began with "the Renaissance of the Twelfth Century"' in Japan and moved on to other cultures.