Institute for Islamic Theology

Osnabrück University navigation and search

Main content

Top content

Open Panels

Paper proposals (with title and abstract) for the following open panels can be submitted to the organizers of the panels until 15th May 2021.

Please note that you also have to register for the participation at the congress with the registration form at the website.

1) The Formation of the Concepts of Secularity/Secularism in the Arab/Islamicate Worlds

Organized by Housamedden Darwish (Leipzig University), 

In Arab/Islamicate cultures, a distinction is rarely made between secularity as an analytical/descriptive concept and secularism as an ideological/normative concept. Furthermore, the genealogy and conceptual history of the concepts secularity/secularism on the one hand, and the etymology of the terms on the other, have often been confused. Equally, understandings of the genealogy and conceptual history of the concept of secularism do not always take into consideration its two different, rather contradictory, but widely used senses. Different historical moments and processes contributed in the formation of the different conceptions of this concept.

The panel aims to explore these different moments and processes and study the different incarnations of the concepts of secularism/secularity in the Arab/Islamicate worlds since the beginning of the 19th century. Research suggests that while the concept of secularity can be traced back to the early 19th century, the initial and decisive formation of the ideological concept of secularism probably occurred in the late 19th century. However, there is still a need to inquire into the conceptual history of this process, with its ruptures and continuities. The objective of the panel is to address this need.

2) Online Databases instead of History Books? Potentials of Digital Humanities Databases in Historical Research on the MENA Region and Ottoman World

Organized by Johann Büssow (Ruhr-University Bochum), Michaela Hoffmann-Ruf (Orient Digital, Berlin), Markus Koller and Vivian Strotmann (Ruhr-University Bochum),

The Digital Humanities (DH) are in vogue and there are high expectations regarding their innovative power. DH Centres have been established at many universities in Germany and across the globe. Meanwhile, digitization reshapes research and teaching in the Humanities more generally. Both trends raise a number of questions. For example, will online databases become accepted as types of publications that complement or even replace monographs? Can digital techniques lead us to genuinely new insights, or are they simply useful ‘add ons’ to the humanities scholar’s toolbox?

This panel discusses these and related questions with a specific focus. We invite historians of the MENA region and the Ottoman world (including Ottoman Europe) who work with/on databases.

Databases are a type of computational technology that can be applied profitably at a mid-range level between the two extremes of ‘close reading’ of individual sources and ‘big data’, i.e. the quantitative analysis of large datasets. One characteristic that makes them attractive to historians is that they provide capabilities to correlate/interrelate heterogeneous sources. They help to process large quantities of data (e.g. bibliographical and biographical information) and reveal hitherto unnoticed connections. They can also be used fruitfully to analyse the spatial dimension of historical processes. The relevant methods are commonly grouped together under the umbrella term of historical GIS (Geographical Information Systems).

We suggest that the contributors present their ongoing database projects in two stages. First, a description of the underlying research question, the database’s genesis, its content and functions, and its basic technical data, illustrated with about four slides.  . In the second stage, a reflection on the following questions: Did the database help to generate genuinely new insights? What features are particularly useful and are there also drawbacks in the current technical solution? Is the database a scholarly publication of its own?

3) Authoritarianisms in Search of Consolidation and Challenges to the Liberal Order: Remilitarisations, Dynamics of Adaptations and Political Phobias

Organized by Maria Gloria Polimeno (University of Exeter),

Authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa have displayed over the past decades a remarkable ability to adapt to new circumstances to avoid themselves being overthrown (Albrecht 2020; Schlumberger 2007). The 2011 uprisings represented a rupture from the historical continuum, having some protests “succeeded” in overthrowing diktats with the goals of rewriting the social contract (Gause 2011; Hudson 2011). However, staged coups between 2013 and 2016 introduced new practices of authoritarian resistance when compared to survival strategies employed in the late 1980s and early 2000s. In Turkey, after 2016, the AKP muted the power of the military, ensuring a programme where those sympathetic to the AKP were in control. Egypt under al-Sisi escalated the role of the army, instead. In both cases, but also beyond the mentioned examples, despite apparent similarities, the process of remilitarisation on the one hand and mutiny on the other obeyed different logics and inner dynamics aimed at providing the foundations for power and authority. Similarly, the different role played by the armed forces interrogates the nature of political systems. The routinizing of human rights violations and the targeting of individuals have also entered a phase of escalation. These practices extended to the international and regional academia and started raising serious questions about the challenges posed to intellectual freedom, next to ethical questions that interrogate the future of ”safe research” in the MENA region. The constructions of political phobias have become the “new way of ruling”. This modus operandi, however, interrogates the level of stability and consolidation of post-2014 regimes; despite most of them receive full economic international support. The panel welcomes papers that theoretically and empirically engage with the debate introduced above. Papers touching the issue of safe research in the MENA are welcome.

4) Methodological Approaches to the Study of Muslim Traditions

Organized by Ana Davitashvili (Bamberg University),

The authenticity of Muslim traditions and the reliability of their ascription to authorities of the first and second centuries of Islam have been highly controversial topics among Western scholars since at least the early twentieth century. While some sceptics neglect the authenticity of Muslim traditions, some other experts of early Islam have developed methodological tools, such as isnād-cum-matn analysis, that prove their authenticity. In some instances, depending on the amount of reports, we can sometimes even find out who put the tradition into circulation. Most recently, A. Görke suggests another approach for dating the traditions: to concentrate the study on minor authorities and thereby reduce the risk of wrong ascriptions (Görke, 2019). Furthermore, Görke and P. Pavlovitch share the view that single strands have to be assessed with skepticism, although Pavlovitch states that this may sometimes be mitigated by means of matn-analysis (Pavlovitch, 2010). On the contrary, Behnam Sadeghi maintains that single strands are a reliable source of information (Sadeghi, 2008). To date a tradition, Sadeghi and N. Haider correlate geographic affiliations of the transmitters with the content of a tradition in the so-called “Travel Tradition Test” (Sadeghi, 2008; Haider, 2013).

But what are the tools we use to find out where and when a Muslim tradition emerges? To what extent can we prove the authenticity of Muslim traditions? Can we rely on single strands? Is it possible to trace a tradition back to the authority who brought it into circulation?

This open panel aims to answer these questions and discuss recent methodological approaches. It welcomes all scholars who work on various topics of Muslim traditions and use different methodological tools to unearth authentic traditions of the first and second centuries of Islam.

5) The Qurʾān and its Cultural and Religious Context in Late Antiquity

Organized by Ana Davitashvili (Bamberg University),

The Qurʾān was revealed to a pagan Arab community in the period known as Late Antiquity. A cursory reading of the Qurʾān shows that it has a relationship with earlier cultural and religious traditions: the Bible, pre-Islamic Arabic poetry, and, more broadly, the culture of Late Antiquity. Analyzing the Qurʾān in light of this background elucidates its place within its cultural, political, social, and religious environment and leads to a better comprehension of the Muslim holy book itself.

Following in the footsteps of A. Neuwirth, N. Sinai, H. Zellentin, and G. S. Reynolds, this panel suggests a “contextual” reading of the Qurʾān. It is interested in proposals focused on the relationship between the Qurʾān and earlier pagan Arab, Christian, and Jewish traditions that illuminate the context in which Islam emerged.

6) New Perspectives on Sufism, Modern Sunni Reform Thinking and Activism

Organized by Sebastian Elsässer (University of Kiel), and Stephan Kokew (University of Münster),

The relationship between Sufism and modern Sunni reform thinking, as well as socio-political activism, have become a focus of attention in Islamic studies. Recent research points out that Sufi ethics and culture played an important – but often unacknowledged – role for many protagonists of Islamic reform in the 19th and early 20th century. For example, at the beginning of the 20th century the Syrian scholar Jamāl ad-Dīn al-Qāsimī (1866-1914) used al-Ghazālī’s (d. 1111) Sufi ideas to create a new ‘school of the salaf’ (al-madhhab as-salaf). Later, the Egyptian Ḥasan al-Bannā (1906-1949) combined organizational and ritual patterns from the Sufi heritage with ideas from the scouts’ movement and militaristic nationalism to create a new type of Islamic community (ǧamāʿa), the Muslim Brotherhood. Transformed patterns of Sufi thought and practice also played a major role in the cemaat (Islamic communities) that emerged in the Turkish Republic (i.e. the Nurcu/Gülen and the Süleymancı movements), and in new religious communities in Syria and the Arab East, such as the all-female Qubaysīyāt movement.

The panel intends to compare and to discuss the understanding of Sufism across different trends of Islamic reform in different regions of the Muslim world. Contributions should analyse and explain how the respective authors or groups understand Sufism and how they justify their recourse to the Sufi heritage. We welcome contributions which focus on the role which Sufism (ideas, principles) plays in the thought of modern Sunni reform thinking (since 1840), as well as contributions which discuss the pre-modern origins for the connection between Sufism and reform.

7) Palestine in Post- and Decolonial Contexts

Organized by Detlev Quintern (Working Group Palestine Studies),

Achille Mbembe's studies including Necro-politics (2019) [Politiques de l'inimitié, (Paris 2013)], contextualize the Israeli-Arab conflict in a universal and global historical-philosophical context. Post- and decolonial approaches of different disciplines, discuss the "Palestine Question" beyond Eurocentric, inter-state or regional-local narrowings in perspectives of a re-reading of the "Long 19th and, as Okwui Enwezor (artistic director for Documenta 11 in 2001) called it, "short 20th century" (The Short Century). The 20th century is short because, against the backdrop of the many successes of anti-imperialist liberation struggles in Asia, Africa and the Americas in the second half of the 20th century, its first half often goes back in history far beyond the 19th century: the beginning of white supremacy over almost the entire globe. The Palestinian liberation struggle, whose umbrella organization is the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), also took place within the framework of the non-alignment movement (Bandung 1955) and the tri-continental solidarity (Havana 1966). The poet Erich Fried (1921-1988) in his poetry collection “Höre, Israel!” ("Listen, Israel!") (1974), the poet Erich Fried (1921-1988) poetically interwove the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the long history of resistance against colonialism and imperialism.

The panel invites participants to contribute to the de-colonization of the “Palestine Question”. Contributions from poetry, literature, art, film and music are also welcome.