Learning to navigate an archive is a rite of passage for many young scholars. Yet acquiring these skills is hardly a one-time activity. After all, many archives are undergoing rapid changes in the way they relate to their materials or to the public. Moreover, the ethics of archival provenance has opened important debates.
These issues and more are the focus of Hazine, a blog dedicated to scholarly research on the “Middle East and beyond” that is itself undergoing changes, broadening its scope and engaging with new audiences.
The site “isn’t just for the Middle East studies community,” said N.A. Mansour, one of the site’s new editors. “I want it to function as a place for someone who is curious about any of the topics we cover: be it curation or data literacy, or if they want visual resources for something they’re designing, or if they want to try to begin that family history.”
Hazine began as an archives review site in 2013. After a relaunch in 2018 by Mansour and co-editor Heather Hughes, the site is now in the process of transforming into a multilingual platform for reviews, interviews, profiles, digital-humanities tools, and more.
The site recently raised $5,000 to support its next phase. With the help of these funds, the editors intend to pay contributors, develop new tools, and translate existing materials.
A User-Oriented Perspective
Scholars familiar with Hazine say it makes scholarly resources more accessible and friendly.
Arafat A. Razzaque, a research associate at the University of Cambridge’s Centre of Islamic Studies, tweeted out his support for the recent fund-raising campaign.
Over email, he added that he thinks “Hazine helps make archives and libraries more accessible and familiar,” and that the best thing about the site is “its primarily user-oriented perspective, addressing the practical experience of research with any collection.”
Indeed, Hazine is keen to be useful. Mansour said the site’s editors were recently asked: How do I apply to conferences? “I didn’t know,” she said in a phone interview. “So I asked a bunch of people on Twitter, edited, and condensed it.”
This became Hazine’s resource, “A Guide to Annual Meetings: How to Submit Papers, Panels and More!” The short guide draws on advice offered by nine different scholars, and it is tailored to the annual meet-ups of the American Academy of Religion and the Middle East Studies Association.
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In large part, Mansour said, “Collaborating with the public is just talking to people.” As an example, she pointed to Hazine’s plans to translate its resources into Arabic.
“A lot of the push to begin translating came from talking to people in Egypt when I was living there—having conversations with people at Dar al-Kutub al-Misriyya (the National Library and Archives of Egypt) and Al-Azhar (University Library).”
Making Research Friendly
Tine Lavent, a Cairo-based librarian and educator, said over email that she finds Hazine “enormously helpful” because it keeps her updated “about what’s new (and older but equally important) in Middle East Studies and Islamic Studies.” She added that Hazine is becoming a focal point “where people with all kinds of backgrounds—students, researchers, and librarians—can start to find what they need.”
“Academia can be a scary place sometimes,” Lavent said, “but they manage to make it friendly.”