Greetings travelers of the internets! If you’re reading this chances are pretty good that you’re familiar with my work as a historian of the medieval and early modern Islamicate world, perhaps via my personal blog or my social media presence. This newsletter will touch on aspects of that work- particularly the more theoretical and critical side of it- but I have undertake a much wider ambit here, one that I felt was ill-suited to any of my other online presences. Over the last few years, while completing my doctoral studies and then in the immediate aftermath (perhaps too dramatic a word!), I have been exploring new horizons of study and thought while also refining many long-standing features of my thinking and approaches to the world, from the political to the theological to the phenomenological. I’ve also begun to feel tentatively more comfortable expressing my thoughts in public about a wider array of subjects, and, even more tentatively, believe that you- yes, you dear reader- just might enjoy reading them and might even benefit from said experience- not all my reflections will be on ‘deep time’ but most will be historical in some sense, and likewise I genuinely hope that many will act as spurs for the doxological and for contemplation and transformation in light of those reflections.
What I am aiming for with this newsletter is an approach to history and to life generally that is more integrative and expansive than that which I generally do in my professional work as a historian; an uncharitable way of putting it might be that here I will talk about things in which I am no expert but as often as not an interested amateur. I am neither a scientist nor a theologian in the professional sense of either, to be sure, but I do believe (out of sheer hubris perhaps!) that I’ve insights into both and other fields of human inquiry and practice that are worth presenting.
More concretely, this newsletter will tackle variations on the following three themes:
1) topics in the history of deep time, including, but not limited to, the history of life on earth, the metaphysical and theological ramifications of evolution in deep time, ways in which ‘big history’ (a term I viscerally dislike even if I am drawn to what it aims at describing!) and ‘shallow history’ can mutually inform one another, and so forth, with particular interest in how the study of and phenomenological participation in histories of deep time can have theological and doxological repercussions and cross-fertilizations as it were
2) more rarely probably topics in Islamicate history- my actual field of expertise!- from a more theoretical and methodological angle, particularly as that history and my practice of it intersects with the other two topics, especially
3) critical understanding of the role of technology and technics in human history and especially in the modern, industrialized age, with perspectives drawn in part from the works of thinkers like Ellul, Illitch, Mumford, Rosa, and others, examining in particular the role that historical thinking can play in explicating our current situation and providing possible vantage points for ways forward, with recent developments placed in light of both deep time perspectives and theological and philosophical ones.
I will continue to produce translations, essays on specific Islamicate historical topics, and the like on my personal website, thicketandthorp.com, but will reserve my thoughts on these other more diffuse topics for this newsletter. So if any or all of the above interests you, please subscribe! And while all content will be free and open, if you would like to support my writing do consider becoming a paying subscriber, I would very much appreciate it, every little bit helps.