As an ongoing project, Serai aims to serve as a virtual meeting place, seminar room, library, directory, and laboratory. Thanks to its flexible platform, it is already home to several unique datasets based on individual members' evolving research. All new members are welcome, indeed encouraged, to share their research and teaching materials through Serai’s growing library. In addition, the site facilitates access to thematically-relevant digital resources elsewhere on the Web by keeping curated directories (ranging from virtual libraries, archives, and exhibits to one-off digital projects) as well as a revolving archive of current and past conferences, CfPs, fellowships, and publication announcements. All of these resources have been provisionally categorized and can be further updated, annotated, and tagged by all registered members.
At the same time, Serai also invites researchers and students across institutions, disciplines, and linguistic specializations to develop more collaborative research practices and scholarly communication that can help overcome the growing isolation of academic practice. To that aim, it provides the technical infrastructure for producing, exchanging, editing, and annotating in real time new resources in a variety of digital formats and for a range of publics and purposes. Some of its current features include:
A blogging platform for publishing texts and embedding images, videos, and PDFs.
A group workbench for collaborating with others on a particular project/topic. The workbench allows you to develop materials while retaining full control over access. Thanks to the portal's granular permissions structure, group "owners" can grant reading/writing/editing permissions to individual group members over particular resources, and decide which materials to release for public viewing or editing.
Etherpads for collaborative note-taking and writing in real time. Etherpads can be embedded in any page to make them accessible to group members (or all site visitors), or retained as stand-alone, invisible "behind the scenes" group brainstorming tools.
Zotero library integration, allowing groups to import bibliographic records from a Zotero library into Serai's database for further annotation and integration with other types of resources.
An evolving set of taxonomies with controlled vocabularies for categorizing resources by type, period, language, religion, and disciplinary interest. New controlled vocabularies can be initiated and curated by groups to support their specific interests and needs.
Tagging tools for thematic and ad-hoc marking of resources.
Robust search and browse engines for locating and aggregating resources.
Serai is completely free and open -- it is built on Open Source software and is committed to Open Access scholarship. Its success will be measured by its becoming not only a tool for scholars and students in this growing area, but a historical archive in its own right, offering future scholars access to the ever changing nature of scholarship in the digital age. To ensure its continued relevance to the scholarly community and the wider public, Serai depends on its membership to keep updating and augmenting its content and technical infrastructure on an ongoing basis. We encourage you to get involved and shape Serai's future direction -- please join us! To learn more about the people behind Serai click here.
What is Serai?: A Mission Statement
A Serai, also called a Caravanserai, is a temporary resting/meeting place—an inn for travelers passing through on caravans (OED). Similarly, the word Serai also marks a cross-roads for a profusion of linguistic signs, with varied spellings and associations: while the word is etymologically derived from Persian, it is often interpreted as Turkish. We hope Serai will capture the historical contingency of this linguistic sign, functioning as a discursive location that signals the cultural, religious, linguistic, and political flux marking historical interactions within and across Christianate and Islamicate societies. Indeed, this collaboratory takes a deliberately broad spatiotemporal arch, from ca. 600 to ca. 1800 CE and from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, in an effort to rethink received scholarly periodization and region-making. By probing a range of premodern moments, we hope to disrupt the familiar teleology of a “clash of civilizations” and stereotypes of east and west, and of Islam and Christianity, that are re-lived almost daily in contemporary headlines. Instead, our aim is to pluralize history by offering glimpses of the many micro-histories within the longue durée of global interaction between the peoples of the Eurasian and African continents. Such histories will necessarily involve not only “East/West contact” but interactions between the many different religious and ethnic groups living within the boundaries of both “Christian” and “Islamic” empires.
- Natalie Rothman, Julia Schleck, Jyotsna Singh, and Karen Nelson (October 2015)