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Disability in the Ottoman Arab World, 1500–1800


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 (ISBN-13: 9781139899307)

Physical, sensory, and mental impairments can influence an individual's status in society as much as the more familiar categories of gender, class, religion, race, and ethnicity. This was especially true of the early modern Arab Ottoman world, where being judged able or disabled impacted every aspect of a person's life, including performance of religious ritual, marriage, job opportunities, and the ability to buy and sell property. Sara Scalenghe's book is the first on the history of both physical and mental disabilities in the Middle East and North Africa, and the first to examine disability in the non-Western world before the nineteenth century. Unlike previous scholarly works that examine disability as discussed in religious texts such as the Qur'an and the Hadith, this study focuses on representations and classifications of disability and impairment across a wide range of biographical, legal, medical, and divinatory primary sources.

• The first history of both physical and mental disabilities in the Muslim Middle East • Examines blindness, deafness, intersex conditions, and impairments of the mind • Focuses on representations of disability across a wide range of primary sources


Introduction; 1. Blindness; 2. Deafness and muteness; 3. Intersex; 4. Impairments of the mind; Conclusion.


'… this is a multi-layered book that handles difficult material and complex issues with apparent ease, to reach important conclusions … it is a pleasure to read.' Colin Imber, The American Historical Review

'Disability in the Ottoman Arab World, 1500–1800 offers unique perspectives on both Ottoman history and disability history. It challenges preconceived and Western-conceived notions about disability in the early modern period, detailing complex societal relationships in an underexplored discipline. It is an enjoyable read, and Scalenghe's writing ensures sophisticated ideas are easily understood, whether one is an expert or beginner in Ottoman or disability studies.' John Little, H-Disability

'Sara Scalenghe's fascinating new book is a groundbreaking addition to a field still in its infancy: disability history in the Arab world … The book is a welcome contribution to the fields of Middle Eastern history, disability history, and the social history of premodern societies, and it will force students and scholars to think carefully about the complex relationships between impairment, rights and duties, and state and local intervention in the lives of those affected. Scalenghe demonstrates that there are a great many sources out there for students and scholars to analyze, and fields as varied as social history, medical history, legal history, and Middle East area studies are very clearly the richer for her contribution.' Beverly Tsacoyianis, Arab Studies Journal

'Disability in the Ottoman Arab World, 1500–1800 is a tremendous book that makes a significant contribution to our understanding of disability outside the modern western, industrialised context.' David M. Turner, Disability and Society

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