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Call for Papers

Workshop South-South linkages in Islam. Translocal agents, ideas, lifeworlds (19th and 20th centuries)

Centre for Modern Oriental Studies, Berlin
5th and 6th November 2004

The workshop intends to explore the meaning of South-South communication, interaction and exchange between various Asian and African parts of the Muslim world. Socio-cultural, political and economic relations both within and between Islamic areas in Asia and Africa have attracted renewed academic attention since around 2000. This welcome revision of established research interests is slowly broadening our view beyond a one-dimensional focus on relations between Islam and the mainly Christian West, dominated by hegemony and dependency. Studying the translocal dimension of Islam in Asia and Africa, both in history and in the present, helps undermine a clichéd understanding of Islam, which today seems more vital than ever.

Recent research at the Centre for Modern Oriental Studies, represented by the convenors of this workshop, has picked up on these trends. In a cross-regional perspective, projects on North Africa and the Middle East take a closer look at the role of contacts among Muslims in the process of army reform in the 19th and early 20th century Mediterranean (Dennerlein/Hamzah/Moreau). Another project analyses transnational Arab-Islamic intellectual journals in the late 20th century (Rogler). Projects related to South and South East Asia study the transmission of Islamic knowledge across these regions and into Africa in the late 20th and early 21st centuries (Reetz/Noor). These and other projects at the Centre highlight how translocal agents, ideas and lifeworlds, constituted with reference to Islam, transcend established cultural and political boundaries. They penetrate different cultural and political milieus in the process, while at the same time themselves undergoing change.

The impact and consequences of these processes have so far not been sufficiently analyzed. We would like to stimulate debate on the contingency and changing character of South-South connections in Islam and on the historical space(s) that emerge from them. This discussion could also be used to test and challenge theoretical approaches (such as the world system theory or theories of networks) that have been used to classify them up to now.
- Translocal agents seem to move effortlessly within a larger "Muslim" space across political and cultural boundaries. Yet, what is their perception of these boundaries? How are translocal Muslim agents perceived and how do they negotiate their status? What devices do they use to reconcile transnational itineraries with local conditions and identifications? Do they foment social and religious change or restoration?
- Ideas in a Muslim context have so far been described as characterized by their local 'embedding' on the one hand, and their transnational and potentially universal frame of reference on the other hand. Looking at the movement or circulation of ideas between regions and continents adds a further dimension to the study of cultural diversity and its accommodation in the Muslim world.
- Lifeworlds do not seem clearly bounded but are composite and partly mobile, at times serving as travelling human habitats. Studying lifeworlds that cut across established boundaries may be yet another access to understanding how shared spaces of experience and frames of reference were acted out and appropriated on the individual level.

The workshop invites papers to study new aspects of the complex dynamics of exchange, interaction and transformation. It will take place on 5th and 6th November 2004 at the Centre for Modern Oriental Studies in Berlin. Preliminary planning suggests about 15 presentations, including a public lecture to communicate the research done on this topic to a wider audience. It is envisaged that papers circulate among participants, which would require their completion in advance. Proposals for presentations should be submitted per email by the end of April 2004 to one of the addresses given below. Papers should be ready by 15th September 2004. The conveners will seek to publish a selection of papers as a special edition of an international academic journal, to which they would be submitted for review and selection. Support for travel and accommodation can be granted on application on the basis of a limited budget for expenses to participants from outside Berlin whose papers have been accepted for the workshop and who cannot solicit travel funding from their own institutions.

For further information, please contact one of the following workshop coordinators:
Dr. Bettina Dennerlein (bettina.dennerlein@rz-hu.berlin.de)
Dr. Dietrich Reetz (dreetz@rz.hu-berlin.de)

Dr. Bettina Dennerlein, Dyala Hamzah, Dr. Odile Moreau, Dr. Farish Noor, Dr. Dietrich Reetz, Lutz Rogler

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updated July 15, 2004