• Brinkley M. Messick

    Professor of Anthropology
    862 Schermerhorn Ext, Mail Code: 5538, United States
    +1 212 854 7459



    Writing and reading, considered as cultural and historical phenomena, have figured centrally in my research on Islamic societies in both Arabia and North Africa. This work considers the production and circulation, inscription and subsequent interpretation of Arabic texts such as regional histories, law books, and court records. I have sought to understand the relation of writing and authority, events such as the advent of print technology, hybrid contemporary practices of reading, and local histories of record keeping and archiving. Much of this work dovetails with my general interests in legal anthropology and legal history, and with my specific interests in Islamic law. My two current projects are on sharīʿa litigation, focusing on doctrine and court records and questions of truth and method, and evidence and interpretation, and on the agrarian sharīʿa, concerning the relations of landed property, trade, state and family.



    Messick, B. 2018. Sharīʿa Scripts: A Historical Anthropology (New York: Columbia University  Press).

    Messick, B. 2016, “Islamic Texts: The Anthropologist as Reader,” in Islamic Studies in the Twenty-first Century, Ed. L. Buskens and A. van Sandwijk (Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press), 29-46.

    Messick, B. 2008. “Interpreting Tears: A Marriage Case from Imamic Yemen,” The Islamic Marriage Contract. Eds. Asifa Qureishi and Frank E. Vogel, (Harvard University Press), pp. 156-179.

    Messick, B. 2002. “Evidence: From Memory to Archive,” Islamic Law & Society 9,2:1-40.

    Messick, B. 2001. "Indexing the Self: Expression and Intent in Islamic Legal Acts," Islamic Law & Society 8(2): 151-78.

    Masud, M.K., B. Messick and D.S. Powers, eds. 1996. Islamic Legal Interpretation (Cambridge: Harvard University Press).

    Messick, B. 1993. The Calligraphic State: Textual Domination and History in a Muslim Society (Berkeley: University of California Press).

    Messick, B. 1987. “Subordinate Discourse: Women, Weaving and Gender Relations in North Africa,” American Ethnologist 14(2): 20-35.