[URBANTH-L]CFP: Post-Soviet Islam: An Anthropological Perspective

Angela Jancius acjancius at ysu.edu
Mon Nov 8 15:36:49 EST 2004

Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology
Call for Papers. Post-Soviet Islam: an anthropological perspective
June 29th – July 1st 2005, Halle/Saale (Germany)

The aim of this conference is to bring together social anthropologists 
and other social scientists working on issues relating to Islam in the 
Former Soviet Union. We welcome proposals from both local and foreign 
scholars who have completed extensive field research in the region. 
Papers dealing with Islam in other postsocialist contexts will be 
considered if they fit in with the overall themes of the conference.

After being suppressed by state authorities within the Soviet Union, 
Islam has re-entered the public sphere in the successor states. Of 
course, this is taking place very differently across the region. In 
Central Asia the majority of the populations in the new independent 
republics profess to be Muslim. In other areas, the Muslim population 
forms a minority, as in Georgia, or are part of a semi-autonomous Muslim 
entity within the larger Russian Federation.

The aim of the conference is to compare these differing experiences as 
well as to explore possible commonalities of the post-Soviet context. An 
important outcome would be to relate the anthropology of Islam in this 
region to the well developed anthropological literature on Islam in 
other areas of the world. Is there something about the post-Soviet 
experience which can provide a distinctive insight into these debates.

The conference will focus on following areas:

• Islam and politics. An important issue in the post-Soviet states is 
the involvement of Islam in the sphere of politics. In Central Asia, for 
example, state authorities attempt to co-opt Islam as a source of 
legitimacy for their regimes, while at the same time political and 
militant opposition groups throughout the region draw on Islam as the 
foundation of their programmes. There is a struggle, often violent, over 
the right to define what constitutes proper Islamic practice, what it 
means to be a ‘true’ Muslim. This feeds into trends within anthropology 
that approach Islam as a discourse or ideology, a resource for 
resistance to domination and a blueprint for social and political life.
• Local Muslim practice and global Islam. Conflict is not confined to 
ruling regimes and political oppositions. Imams and others who have a 
formal education in core Islamic texts of the Koran and Hadith often 
criticise much of local practice as un-Islamic since it is not founded 
on the sacred texts but instead derives from tradition. At the same time 
local Muslim practices, which include the visiting of shrines, various 
forms of religious healing, and the celebration of life cycle rituals 
within an Islamic frame, continue to have a strong following, and 
practitioners make their own appeals to legitimacy and ‘Muslimness’. 
This relates to the rich body of literature dealing with how we might 
incorporate both the variety of local practices and the ideal of a 
universal, textual Islam within a unitary framework.
• Islam as a source of individual or communal identity and morality. How 
are gender relations, ideas about the family, patterns of communal 
organisation and economic activities being influenced by Islam in the 
post-Soviet context, and how does Islam interact with other sources of 
authority and value such as socialist ideology and practice. The 
conference aims to compare how these issues are shaped by differing 
social and political realities and/or informed by a common Soviet legacy.

We especially encourage fieldwork based papers which investigate 
regional problems from a local perspective. Abstracts of no more than 
500 words should be submitted by the 15th of January 2005 to both 
organisers. Presentations will be limited to 30 minutes and participants 
will be expected to submit a full draft of their paper for circulation 
by 15th of May 2005. The working language is English.

For further information contact:
Johan Rasanayagam, email: rasanayagam at eth.mpg.de
Krisztina Kehl-Bodrogi, email: kehl at eth.mpg.de

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