Year in Review: Global Islam

July 10, 2015

By Lisa Rofel 

Academic year 2014/15 marked our inaugural year. We chose Global Islam as our first theme both because world events have catapulted Muslim lives and Islamic religious practices into international attention, and also because of the impact these events have had on our students.  Studying these global entanglements, and the resulting worlds that are now emerging, requires trans-disciplinary approaches. It also requires a rethinking of regional priorities.  Although scholarship on Islam and Muslim societies often focuses on the Middle East, the largest Muslim populations reside in Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. 

The events we organized this academic year on Global Islam have explored a range of topics: 

  • In the fall quarter, we had a very successful cluster of events addressing Islam, univeralism/difference, and “jihadism” with Dr. Darryl Li (Ph.D. Harvard Anthropology and J.D. Yale Law School), who works on Muslims in the Bosnian War and international human rights law, and Professor Henri Lauzière (History Department, Northwestern University) who teaches Islamic intellectual history and writes about Salafism. They engaged with our campus in three different events: a public lecture about jihadism, a joint academic lecture on their current research, and a reading seminar on their work.   The public lecture attracted over a hundred people from the campus and the Santa Cruz community, indicating a great deal of interest in learning more about Muslim worlds. 
  • In winter quarter, we had two important events addressing, respectively, Islam and environmental issues with respect to Pakistan, with Professor Naveeda Khan (Anthropology Department, Johns Hopkins University), and Islam and state formation, with respect to the Sudan, with Professor Noah Salomon (Religious Studies Department, Carleton College) .  Again, we had a cluster of events: graduate student workshop, public lectures, scholarly seminars, and reading seminars on their work.
  • For spring quarter 2015 we invited the renowned Dr. Amina Wadud as our Visionary to give a public lecture on gender, Islamic feminism and Islam.  Dr. Wadud is an African American scholar of gender and Islam with a focus on Qur'an exegesis. She has courageously given public sermons on the Qur’an even though certain Muslims think women should not do so.  
  • In spring quarter also held a film festival on Muslim-themed films.   We invited three filmmakers to present their work: Christian Suhr, a filmmaker and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Aarhus University, Denmark. His film, Descending with Angels (2013), is a meditation on Muslim exorcism and psychiatric treatment in Denmark; Mounir Fatmi, a prize-winning filmmaker who lives and works between Paris and  his native Morocco. His work addresses the need to challenge dogmas and ideologies of all sorts, including ideologies of consumption; and Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche, another award-winning filmmaker, born in Algeria and currently residing in France, whose films address disaffected urban youth, his native Algeria, and political allegories.

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