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Shahrzad Irannejad: Of Names, Descriptions and Labels: brain anatomy in the Greco-Arabic medical tradition
April 22, 2022 @ 15:00 - 17:00 CEST
Apart from having been praiseworthy as one of the summits of Ancient Greek anatomical science, Galen’s description of the anatomy of the brain went on to enjoy widespread acceptance in the medieval Arabic tradition. Among the Galenic texts translated into classical Arabic during the ʿAbbāsid Translation Movement were On Anatomical Procedures and On the Usefulness of the Parts of the Body. As I will show in this paper, the knowledge of brain anatomy in the Arabic tradition, as canonized in Avicenna’s The Canon of Medicine, was the result of an organic synthesis of Galenic anatomy, Aristotelian philosophy, and post-Galenic physiological and psychological theories — all having gone through processes of translation and summarization. I will show how, in a process of summarization, two forces were at play influencing data selection in transfer (of textual knowledge) in the case of brain anatomy: that of chosing labelled “anatomical” structures, and that of describing un-labeled structures that were deemed necessary for “physiological” functions of the brain. Focusing on the two quintessential figures in the Greek and Arabic traditions, namely Galen and Avicenna, and drawing on historical semantics, I will also discuss the diachronic development of terminology of brain anatomy in the Greco-Arabic tradition. (Text from Shahrzad Irannejad)
Shahrzad Irannejad is currently a PhD candidate at the interdisciplinary Research Training Group “Early Concepts of Humans and Nature: Universal, Specific, Interchanged”, JGU Mainz, Germany. In her PhD project “Localization of the Avicennean inner senses in a Hippocratic body”, she studies the Greek precursors to the various elements of the theory of Inner Senses as epitomized in the works of Avicenna. Her research, thus, deals with how concepts and ideas regarding the brain and the mind were transformed as they travelled beyond linguistic and cultural borders from the Greek to the medieval Arabic tradition. In looking into the mechanics of textual transfer of knowledge in the medieval Islamicate world, she is keen on engaging with both the codicological aspects of the material media of knowledge transfer, and individual agents of knowledge, go-betweens, and other actors. She is also currently a visiting research fellow at Orient-Institut Istanbul working on a project entitled “Bodies of Knowledge facing epidemics: (Islam-icate) Humoral Medicine vs. Prophetic Medicine” within the Standing Working Group “Iran and Beyond: Breaking Ground for Sustainable Scholarly Collaboration” (IRSSC).