How to Read Old Nubian? This question may be more difficult to answer than initially appears. How is it possible to revive knowledge of a language than hasn’t been spoken over centuries, and to write its grammar today? Why is this possible with Old Nubian, but not with a related language such as Meroitic? This lecture will introduce the core concepts of legibility and readability in the context of Old Nubian studies, and sketch out the historical trajectory through which Old Nubian became a language once again accessible to human readers.
Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei received his Ph.D. in Media & Communications from the European Graduate School and Ph.D. in Modern Thought from the University of Aberdeen. He is a philologist and co-director of scholar-led open-access publishing platform punctum books. He is a specialist of the Old Nubian language and co-editor-in-chief of Dotawo: A Journal of Nubian Studies. He also directs project bureau for the arts and humanities The Department of Eagles and is editor of the New World Summit.
Van Gerven Oei’s recent publications include Cross-Examinations (MER. Paper Kunsthalle, 2015), and the edited volumes Beta Exercise: The Theory and Practice of Osamu Kanemura (punctum books, 2019; with Marco Mazzi), ‘Pataphilology: An Irreader (punctum books, 2018; with Sean Gurd) and Allegory of the Cave Painting (Mousse, 2015; with Mihnea Mircan). His three-volume work Lapidari (punctum books, 2015) provides the first complete overview of socialist monumentality in Albania.
As a translator, Van Gerven Oei works mostly with anonymous Medieval Nubian scribes and more recent authors such as Jean Daive, Hervé Guibert, Werner Hamacher, Dick Raaijmakers, Avital Ronell, and Nachoem M. Wijnberg. His writings have appeared in Afterall, Glossa, Journal of Juristic Papyrology, postmedieval, Theory & Event, among other venues.