South Asia Institute
South Asia Institute

Spring 2006

Contemporary Islamic Movements

February 16-17, 2006
The University of Texas at Austin Campus

Thompson Conference Center

The conference "Contemporary Islamic Movements: Ideology, Aesthetics, Politics" seeks to explore Islamic thought, politics and social life through an interdisciplinary approach.* The representation of Muslim life and Islam in public and private forums leaves much to be desired in terms of its depiction of the complexity of Muslim experiences and practices across the globe. By assembling scholars who have first hand knowledge of Muslim societies and of Islam, the conference will address and engage with these representational themes. The presenters have conducted scholarly investigations in the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, Europe and Africa and will speak on Islamist movements, theological debates, Muslim aesthetics, gender categories and politics and on Muslims living as demographic minorities, all extremely pertinent issues in the contemporary moment. Our endeavor is to bring forward a comprehensive and broad understanding of the variety of ways Muslims lead and experience social life and practice their religion over a range of geographical spaces and political circumstances. This will challenge the monolithic and narrow representation of Muslims and Islam in this country and elsewhere.

This conference is free and open to the public. 

Participants and Papers (download abstracts pdf, 840 kb)

Reza Aslan
Keynote Speaker

Reza Aslan was born in Tehran, Iran in 1972 and left in 1979 during the revolution to come to the United States.  Aslan has degrees from Santa Clara University, Harvard University, and is currently a Doctoral candidate in Religious Studies at The University of California at Santa Barbara. Until recently, he was both Visiting Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Iowa and Truman Capote Fellow at the Iowa Writer's Workshop, where he received a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction. He has lectured extensively on the Middle East, and has published numerous articles on the religion and politics of the Middle East.

 In 1998 Reza Aslan was elected president of Harvard’s chapter of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, a United Nations organization committed to the cause of global understanding. In that capacity, Aslan brought U.N. Deputy Secretary Denis Halliday to Harvard for his first public appearance since resigning his post as the Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq in protest of sanctions. His speech received national attention and sparked a worldwide speaking tour. In 1999 after the consecutive nuclear tests by India and Pakistan, the W.C.R.P. under Aslan’s leadership brought the ambassadors of the two countries to Harvard in order to discuss for the first time their shared nuclear future.  His work with W.C.R.P. led to a position as legislative assistant for the Friend’s Committee on National Legislation in D.C., where Aslan worked as a liaison to Congress on issues of arms control and the Middle East.

 In August of 2000, Aslan was named Visiting Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Iowa, becoming the first full-time professor of Islam in the history of the state. In that capacity, he taught courses in Introduction to Islam, Gender and Human Rights, and Religion and Politics in the Middle East, as well as supervising theses in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the Women’s Movement in Iran, and Gender Violence Laws in Pakistan.

When the Pentagon and World Trade Center was attacked in September of 2001, Aslan put his expertise of the Middle East to work for both the University and the greater Iowa community by traveling throughout the state speaking to public and private organizations, businesses, churches, mosques, and universities. His efforts in Iowa received national attention in such periodicals as U.S.A. Today, U.S. News and World Report, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In 2003, Aslan left his post at the University of Iowa to concentrate full-time on writing. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Slate Magazine, Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and the Nation. He has appeared on "Meet The Press," Hardball," "The Daily Show," and "Nightline." No god but God is his first book.


Laura Adams
Lecturer, Sociology, Princeton University
Title: “Ideology and Elites in Post-Soviet Central Asia”

Irfan Ahmad
University of Amsterdam
Title: "Erosion of Secularism, Explosion of Jihad: Explaining Islamist Radicalization in India"

Schirin Amir-Moazami
Assistant Professor, Univeristy of Frankfurt-Oder
Title: "Feminism, Islam and Liberal Public Spheres in Europe: A Case Study on Secular-Feminist Intellectuals in France and Germany"

Asef Bayat
ISIM Chair (Leiden University) and Director, ISIM
Title: "Does Islam Have No Fun?"

Moustafa Bayoumi
Associate Professor, English, City University of New York
Title: "A Grammar of Motives, or How to Read Flags, Keffiyas, and Hijabs in Brooklyn New York

Iftikhar Dadi
Assistant Professor, Art History, Cornell University
Title: "Historicizing the Mughal Miniature in Contemporary Pakistani Art"

Lara Deeb
Assistant Professor, Women's Studies, UC Irvine
Title: "Pious Modern: Lebanese Shi'i Women and Transformations in Religiosity"

Georgi Derluguian
Professor, Sociology, Northwestern University
Title: "The Young Anarchists with Qurans in the Northern Caucasus"

Faisal Devji
Assistant Professor, History, New School University
Title: "Landscapes of Jihad" 

Najeeb Jan
University of Michigan
Title: “Having a Party ‘Ulama Style: The Deoband and the Politics of Blasphemy” 

Scott Kugle
Research Fellow, ISIM
Title: “Queer Jihad: Gay and Lesbian Muslim Activists Between Virtual and Actual Communities."

Barbara Metcalf
Professor, History, University of Michigan
Concluding Remarks

Nazif M. Shahrani
Professor, Anthropology, Central Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Indiana University
Title: “Reclaiming Islam in Uzbekistan: Soviet Legacies and Post-Soviet Realities”

Abdulkader Tayob
ISIM Chair (Radboud University, Nijmegen)
Title: “Shariah Between Law, Religion and Identity.” 

Jenny B. White
Professor, Anthropology, Boston University
Title: “The Sacred and the Profane: Turkish Islam in Transition”

This conference is organized by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES), Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies (CREEES), the South Asia Institute (SAI), the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM), the Religious Studies Program (RS), and the Center for European Studies (CES).

*This site is being hosted for the above mentioned organizations through the South Asia Institute’s website.