Empire through Language: al-Ḥajjāj b. Yūsuf al-Thaqafī and the Power of Oratory in Umayyad Iraq
Stetkevych, Suzanne P.
This dissertation examines the speeches and the literary-historical figure of al-Ḥajjāj b. Yūsuf al-Thaqafī (d. 714), the governor of Iraq under the Umayyad dynasty (661-750), to explore the role that public speech played in the process of building the Islamic empire as its key ideological tool. The first part of the dissertation (Chapters 1-3) establishes that al-Ḥajjāj is an exceptionally opportune case study of Umayyad oratory. It challenges the perceived image of the governor as notoriously brutish tyrant and mere servant of the Umayyads; explains the formation of this image; and provides an alternative account. Al-Ḥajjāj emerges as a semi-autonomous ruler of the Islamic East who made use of a vast array of cultural means to buttress his legitimacy and participated thereby in laying down the ideological principles of the Umayyad empire. Ḥadīths and other sources indicate that among these cultural means, Friday speech played an especially important role for al-Ḥajjāj. The second part (Chapters 4-6) deals with al-Ḥajjāj’s speeches and, more generally, with Umayyad oratory, which has remained an unexplored field because of authenticity-related issues. Chapter 4 discusses the ideology that al-Ḥajjāj’s speeches project and draws attention to their performative quality. Appendix I contains translations of nineteen speeches. Chapter 5—through a detailed analysis of ten variants of one celebrated speech—develops a method in dealing with the authenticity question and highlights oral patterns of transmission based on memorization. The oral transmission of this speech runs against the general view that regards early Islamic oratory as literary inventions of Abbasid historians. Appendix II offers a further excursus into matters of transmission. Finally, Chapter 6 explores the practice and the developing perceptions of Umayyad oratory through different types of material in al-Bayān wa-l-tabyīn by al-Jāḥiẓ (d. 868). This study offers an example of a memory formation in the case of a key early Islamic figure and his oratory and draws attention to the phenomenon of Umayyad public speech both as a crucial political tool in building the Empire in its own time and as a cultural product fundamental to Arab self-identification and identity in later period.
Embargo Lift Date
MetadataShow full item record
Showing items related by title, author, creator and subject.