Middle East Studies

Annual Conferences

The Primacy of Form (2019)

This exploratory conference proposed that the vast diversity of ideas and practices associated with Islam deserve investigation through presuming continuities and divergences between forms. In the prevailing contours of Islamic studies as an academic field, pride of place is given to genealogies of ideas, theological precepts, and practices. What if we stand apart from problems of coherence and incoherence of ideas, or the effort to seek logics of practice?

What can be said to support, or contest, the notion that forms articulate Islam? How might we address forms, for example those embodied in structures and genres, with due attention to historicity and without presuming Islamic universals? Forms do not bind to permanent ideological investments, allowing us to explain Islam’s sociohistorical unboundedness. Forms that predate the mention of Islam become Islamic through particular historical processes. Forms identified with Islam can shed their Islamicness and acquire new coordinates in other contexts. Such transitions explicate the significance, yet permeability, of all boundaries, challenging Islam’s exceptionality. In the longue durée, forms can explain diachronic continuities. When observed turning into vessels for new ideas, forms index processes of change and transformation. Identified as literary genres and bureaucratic procedures, forms signify processes of authorization and exclusion.

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Assessing the Islamic Past: Historical and Philosophical Interventions (2018

This two-day conference was dedicated to exploring epistemological issues pertaining to how we read sources for the Islamic past and construct scholarly narratives about them. Presenters engaged a wide variety of materials, time periods, and geographical locations with the aim of constructing a common conversation on the topic. The panels were moderated by colleagues with expertise beyond Islamic materials, in order to highlight the significance of conceptual matters.

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Politics of Time, Material Culture and Islamic Religiosity (2015)

This symposium brought together scholars who work on different regions of the historic and contemporary Middle East and Islamicate world in order to explore how history-making as a modern intervention has transformed the everyday lives of people through refiguring religious and political realities on the ground. It further sought to interrogate the processes by which material culture, time and Islam as a discursive concept and practice are co-constitutively reconfigured, their institutional possibilities and the dynamics through which such interactions generate multiple temporal experiences of history even while articulating distinctive epistemological, temporal and cultural worlds. In exploring the imagined ends and practical means of these political and social projects of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the symposium aimed to make disciplinary connections between history, religious studies, comparative literature, archaeology, anthropology, development studies, post-colonial research, heritage and material culture. This general orientation facilitated the exploration of how material objects, images and sites are enfolded into authoritative practices of historicity and time in the twentieth and twenty first centuries in ways that question the naturalist assumptions of the linearity and developmentalist trajectory of the modern nation-state.

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Sharia, Government and Development (2014)

This workshop brought together scholars whose works explore the relationships between Islamic law, governance, and socioeconomic development in early modern and modern settings. In this general vein, the event will focus on two interrelated topics: law and governance, and law and development. 

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