Paris Seminar on Bohra Shia: ‘Bohra Manuscript Culture, Archive and Secrecy’


About The Event

On June 1, 2017, The CEIAS (Center for South Asian Studies) in cooperation with the EHESS (School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) and the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research) held a seminar on “Material Culture and Devotional Practices in Shiite Societies”. In the first session of the seminar Dr. Olly Akkerman, presented her lecture on “Bohra Manuscript Culture, Archive and Secrecy: A Social Codicological Ethnography”.

The Alawi Bohras, a small but vibrant Muslim Shia community in India that is almost entirely closed to outsiders, hold a secret Arabic manuscript culture, which is enshrined and preserved in royal archives. Having had unique access to one of these archives, Olly Akkerman’s presentation unraveled the (as yet unstudied) physical and social aspects of the Alawi Bohra philological tradition. Through the lens of what she calls social codicology, i.e. the conducting of philological fieldwork and participant observation in the community in Baroda, Gujarat, she discussed the social role of this archive as a repository of secret texts, and examined the social lives of its manuscripts.

Olly Akkerman is a doctoral candidate at the Freie Universität Berlin, trained in Islamic Studies and Philology at Leiden University. Her current project deals with the material culture of the Bohra archives and the transmission of its Arabic manuscript tradition.


  • Cost: Free
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The CEIAS (Center for South Asian Studies)

Our Speakers

Dr. Olly Akkerman
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