Arabic script is astounding!  Not only because it represents one of the most commonly spoken languages today –that is, the Arabic language– but because...

Arabic script is astounding!  Not only because it represents one of the most commonly spoken languages today –that is, the Arabic language– but because it has represented dozens of other languages over the course of human history from the Middle East to Asia, to Europe, and to the tip of South Africa. Letters of Light: Arabic Script in Calligraphy, Print, and Digital Design (Harvard University Press, 2017) is a recent example of the scholarship on the aesthetics of Arabic script and what it communicates. Author J.R. Osborn writes, not quite a standard history, not quite a work of communication studies, not quite a linguistic study, but a combination of all three that tells the story of Arabic script over ten centuries: from the formation of the calligraphic tradition to the rise of Unicode.

J.R. Osborn is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University in the Communication, Culture, and Technology Program.  His work explores media history, design, semiotics, communication technologies, and aesthetics with a regional focus of the Middle East and Africa.  J.R. is also a self-described ‘experimentalist of communication’ who works across media forms: from text to film to digital interface design and curatorial projects.  He holds Ph.D in Communication and a Certificate in Ethnographic Film from the University of California, San Diego.  Letters of Light is his first book.


Nadirah Mansour is a graduate student at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies working on the global intellectual history of the Arabic-language press. She tweets @NAMansour26 and produces another Middle-East and North Africa-related podcast: Reintroducing.

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