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Paul E. Walker
University of Chicago (Chicago, IL 60637-5418)

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars
Research Programs

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2004 – 12/31/2004

Imperial Rhetoric: The Public Voice of a Medieval Shiite Dynasty

This project will produce the first catalog of the two hundred fifty or more texts of Fatimid decrees and proclamations that have survived in one form or another. The Fatimids were the only major Shiite dynasty in medieval Islam. Faced with religious and political opposition from nearly every quarter, they governed a diverse body of subjects, the majority of whom were Sunni. Yet the Fatimids managed to attract and hold the loyalty of those they ruled, including many of these same Sunnis, and to endure for two and a half centuries. The documents to be studied here reveal Fatimid public rhetoric and the strategies it entailed to argue the dynasty's claim to rule and to defend itself and its policies. The audience who heard the reading of public statements of this kind was not restricted to the Ismailis, who were committed to the dynasty on religious grounds, but comprised the whole of the populace that made up its empire.