Li Guo

  • Fellowship Dates 2014-2015
  • Research Topic Egyptian Shadow Theatre on the Eve of Modernity, 1600-1900
  • Fellow or Grant Type Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
  • Affiliation Post-doctoral candidate University of Notre Dame
Shadow play is an art form with a rich history in world civilizations. When it comes to Egyptian shadow theatre, one thinks of Ibn Dāniyāl’s (d. 1310) three plays, the only known medieval Arabic theatric texts, and the karagöz shows, a Turkish import observed in Cairo in the 19th century. Little is known of what happened to the indigenous Arab khayāl al-zill (shadow play) after its heyday in the Mamluk period (1250-1517) under the encroachment of two competing influences - Ottoman karagöz and Western drama. This research explores this question through an inventory of original textual and visual materials. Scholarly interest in Arabic shadow play began in the 1900s when German scholars, G. Jacob, F. Kern, P. Kahle and C. Prüfer, discovered handwritten scripts, attended performances and documented them. Between the two World Wars and in their aftermath, only Kahle continued the work, resulting in a series of publications that laid the foundation for all research to come. Scholars today believe that Arabs rediscovered their cultural heritage of shadow play through German scholarship yet little is known about the early collaboration between Arab and German scholars. The renewed interest in the study of shadow play in the Arab world after World War II underlines the collective efforts to reevaluate Arab cultural heritage in the postcolonial era. Breakthroughs in identifying new texts emerged in 1961 and 1978. These two discoveries have yet to draw scholarly attention. This research focuses on several manuscripts containing post-Mamluk shadow plays, held in Cairo’s National Library. While philological work is the main task of this project, attention is additionally afforded to interdisciplinary syntheses informed by recent scholarship on performance, ethnography, musicology and art history.

Apply for a Fellowship

Interested in scholarly research in Egypt? ARCE fellowships fund a variety of academic study projects for 3 to 12 months. Learn More