04.12.2019 Islamic Studies Spring School in Catania, 2nd - 8th of March 2020

European Network for Islamic Studies (ENIS) organizes Spring School in Catania (Sicily) on "Contesting authority: knowledge, power and expressions of selfhood" together with the Innovative Training Network “Mediating Islam in the Digital Age” (MIDA)

Photograph: Elissa Jobson

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The Innovative Training Network “Mediating Islam in the Digital Age” (MIDA) and the
European Network for Islamic Studies (ENIS) organise the

MIDA/ENIS Spring School 2020, Catania, Italy

Contesting authority: knowledge, power and expressions of selfhood

Date: Monday 2nd - 8th of March 2020
Catania, Sicily
Università degli Studi di Catania, Palazzo Pedagaggi, Via Vittorio Emanuele II 49, 95131
Catania, Sicily (Italy)
Application deadline:
Wednesday, 25th of December 2019

Theme: Contesting authority: knowledge, power and expressions of selfhood

The ENIS Spring School 2020 addresses two closely interrelated aspects of Islam in the digital age.
Firstly, how (past and contemporary) technological revolutions have informed the performance of
selfhood (including gender), the modes of engagement with society, and the political consequences
of shifting boundaries between public and private spheres. Secondly, it addresses the construction
and transformation of religious authority and religious knowledge production, and concomitant
questions of legitimacy, power and discipline, under changing circumstances.

Presently there is a mushrooming of YouTube channels presenting testimonials and life accounts,
face book pages providing space for minority groups (e.g. homosexuals or ex-Muslims) that
publicise previous hidden aspects of identity, as well as blogs and homemade videos
communicating everyday life events or short clips showing artistic performance in an affordable
non-celebrity style sharing them with a wide audience. Quite often they contain an (implicit)
political statement about the societies in which the expressions are uttered, not only in the
message but also in the mere fact of the utterance.

Photograph: Elissa Jobson

(Young) people in the Muslim world, like elsewhere, share more and more aspects of self, including
more intimate and previously hidden ones, or experiences with ‘illegality’. These new digital forms
of self-expression also entail a claim to space for individualised selfhood. Out of sight of different
regimes of surveillance, forms of marginality, secret lives and intimate experiences take on a more
public form. With that it questions dominant forms of authority, whether parental, communal,
religious or political. The Muslim / Arab world is usually characterised as stressing communal or
relational forms of identities and putting less emphasis on individualised selfhood in comparison to
the West. The Arab Uprisings first seemed to overturn some deeply rooted forms of authority, including with respect to political power, but now long-established authoritarian forms of power with their different nuances appear to be square back. Yet several observers notice a ‘silent revolution’ taking place on an individual level, asserting individual selfhood and rights. Do these
new forms of self-narratives and artistic performances offer us insight into the development of new
forms of selfhood? What are the most important characteristics and expressive forms of these new
forms of selfhood? What are the potential political consequences of new forms of selfunderstanding and expression?

Issues of selfhood and artistic performance are closely linked to questions of legitimacy, power and
discipline. Muslims have held varying, sometimes conflicting, views on the extent to which
knowledge and authority are exclusive of a single figure, a masculine ‘professional’ group, or
distributed in society, how knowledge should be transmitted and controlled, and the literary forms
that it should take, and how it should be reproduced.

The widely held assumption that in the pre-digital era Islamic reasoning was a collective matter of
established scholars and theology-centred argumentation lacks historical pedigree. The individual
as a political subject emerged centuries before the dawn of digital technology. This also questions
the assumption that religious authority was uncontested, only to be challenged very recently by the
same technological innovations. Questioning ‘established’ religious authorities and addressing new
audiences is as old as Islam. The invention of paper, the rise of literacy and the emergence of
‘calligraphic states’, and not least the spread of print technology have had profound influence on
authority and knowledge production, but also generated new expressions of selfhood. Digitisation
has intensified this process in an unprecedented way, resulting in the rise of new intellectuals, the
feminisation of contestation, the ‘democratisation’ of knowledge production, the emergence of new
audiences and discursive communities, the relocation, subjectivation, and fragmentation of
authority, but also in new forms of community building, online and offline. Finally, digitisation also
prompted ‘established’ religious authorities to reflect upon these newly arising challenges and how
to effectively cope with them.

The organisers of the MIDA/ENIS Springschool 2020 invite researchers to reflect on these issues
from the perspective of their own research and present their work. In order to enhance historical
comparison and analytical depth, we very explicitly call not only on researchers working on
contemporary issues, but also those who deal with Islam in the past.

Requirements for applications
PhD candidate students and advanced MA students, whose research focuses on this topic without
limitation to Islamic societies or Islam, are invited to apply for participation.

Please note:
Candidates enrolled at French and Spanish universities are invited to apply at IISMM
Candidates enrolled in Italian universities are invited to apply at SeSaMO melfa@unict.it
Candidates enrolled in Dutch universities are invited to apply at NISIS nisis@uu.nl
Candidates enrolled in German universities are invited to apply at the CNMS maike.neufend@unimarburg.de

Candidates enrolled in other universities than the ones mentioned are requested to apply at one of
the four institutions only.

It is mandatory to specify in the application: Application Springschool 2020
Successful applicants may receive some funding from the Selection Committee.

Scientific Committee
Prof. Pascal Buresi (CNRS, EHESS-IISMM)
Prof. Albrecht Fuess (CNMS/University of Marburg)
Maike Neufend (CNMS/University of Marburg)
Dr. Jens Heibach (German Institute of Global and Areas Studies, and Marburg University)
Prof. Christian Lange (Director NISIS)
Dr. Pénélope Larzillière (IRD)
Prof. Daniela Melfa (SeSaMO president, University of Catania)
Prof. Karin van Nieuwkerk (Radboud University Nijmegen)
Prof. Thijl Sunier (Stichting VU)
Prof. Gerard Wiegers (UvA)

Applications must include the following:
- a CV
- a motivation letter
- a one-page description of your PhD or MA project
- a title and an abstract* of 300 words (max.) of your presentation (15 minutes) to be given at the spring school
- a short biography* of 50 words (max. in the third person)

Please note the following:

Successful applicants must arrange their own visa (if applicable), transport and accommodation
(except for the participants through IISMM, whose transport and accommodation will be taken care

About MIDA

The MIDA-project rests on the premise that technological innovations today and in the past have
had a tremendous and unprecedented influence on Islam: on the modes of expression and
communication of religious messages and traditions, and on the modes of engagement with society,
and ultimately also on religious doctrines. In short, they have unleashed forces that have ultimately
changed the face of religion This holds true as much for contemporary digitisation as for previous
technological transformations. Instead of singling out one specific technological landmark as
unique, subsequent innovations and transformations must be brought together into one analytical

About ENIS

ENIS (European Network for Islamic Studies) stems from the collaboration of various European
academic institutions: NISIS (the Netherlands Interuniversity School for Islamic Studies), IISMM
(l’Institut d’études de l’Islam et des sociétés du monde musulman), CSIC (Consejo superior de
investigaciones científicas), Philipps-University of Marburg, and SeSaMO (Società Italiana di Studi
sul Medio Oriente).

*If your application is successful these will be used in the digital program booklet