Istvàn Kristo-Nagy

Discipline: Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies

Project Summary

My main scholarly interests lie in comparative and interdisciplinary studies, especially the social and cultural history of Islam as compared and linked to other civilisations. My research has been centred on the formative period, the evolution of the Arabic adab, Islamicate political thought and wisdom literature. I am highly interested in the interaction between the social structures and the individual; what are the social structures which encourage individuals to fulfil their potential to the utmost, and what can individuals do to promote such structures in society. My research on Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ can be considered as a detailed case study of these questions, centred on one of the most important authors of Arabic literature and Islamicate thought.

During the LIVIT project, I was exploring the religious justifications for the legitimacy of the state’s violence against the individual. I focussed on the first inquisition and persecution in Islam, that of the Zanādiqa (Manicheans and other suspicious dualists) during the reign of two ʿAbbāsid caliphs, al-Mahdī and al-Hādī. This persecution is one of the most striking and less investigated examples of a violent campaign against a non-violent religious community within the Dār al-Islām. I have been also studying the figure of Iblīs (the Devil) as a symbol for individualism, often depicted as an inspirer of the arts and literature.

In addition to linking reflections on religion with those on society, I am trying to trace back fundamental questions of the humanities—such as religious and social phenomena—to geography and biology, and to explore connections between ethics, ethology and genetics.