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11.08.2018 11:38 Alter: 98 days

The "Ethical" and the "Everyday"

Call for Papers

Theme: The "Ethical" and the "Everyday"
Subtitle: Interrogating analytical turns for/in the study of Islam
and Muslims in Europe
Type: International Workshop
Institution: Centre of Islamic Studies and Woolf Institute, University of Cambridge
Location: Cambridge (United Kingdom)
Date: 29.–30.11.2018
Deadline: 31.8.2018

For quite some time now, the analytics of a 'cultural turn' have been
informing the study of Islam and Muslims. Enhanced through Clifford
Geertz's seminal work on Balinese and Moroccan cultures, Talal Asad
was among the first to point out the assumptive (Weberian and
Durkheimian) dichotomies that Geertz based his analysis of religion
on; leading him “into making ill-founded assertions about motives,
meanings, and effects relating to ‘religion.’” (Asad 2009 [1986]:18).
In consequence, this critique led Asad to conceptualize Islam as a
discursive tradition, allowing scholars of Islam and Muslims to
“understand the historical conditions that enable the production and
maintenance of specific discursive traditions, or their
transformation and the efforts of practitioners to achieve
coherence.” (Asad 2009 [1986]:23). This framework, then, resulted in
an “ethical turn” (Agrama 2010; Fassin 2014, 429–435), particularly
within the disciplines of anthropology as well as Islamic studies
(Katz 2015, 3–4), displacing the focus from the cultural meaning to
the ethical self-identification of Muslims (Mahmood 2005, Abu
Lughod1998, Hirschkind 2006). In addition to the focus on the
ethical, new avenues of enquiry have turned toward “everyday” Islam
and its “ordinary” practices by Muslims. The work of Samuli Schielke
(2009, 2012, 2015) has been considered important in this regard,
introducing yet another turn. Scholars working on Islam and Muslims,
however, have argued that the opposition between the “ethical” and
the “everyday” have produced a whole set of dichotomies that
pathologize Muslims as pious/exceptional/revivalist vs.
ordinary/real/imitator (Fadil and Fernando 2015). At stake, as the
ongoing debate suggests, are central questions concerning Muslims and
freedom, agency, subjectivity, virtue, embodiment, selfhood, and

Against this backdrop, this workshop seeks to provide a forum for
critically engaging with the analytics of the “ethical” and the
“everyday” in the study of Islam and Muslims in Europe. Accompanied
by Mayanthi Fernando (University of California, Santa Cruz) and
Samuli Schielke (ZMO, Berlin) as keynote speakers, the workshop will
have three interrelated aims: Firstly, to bring into conversation and
rigorously interrogate two key analytical turns in the study of Islam
and Muslims: the “ethical turn” and the turn toward “the everyday”.
By doing so, secondly, to make transparent their modes of enquiry as
well as the analytical purchase they suggest and might hold. And,
finally, to apply these turns, in a more systematic way, to the study
of Islam and Muslims in Europe. The workshop is particularly
interested in scrutinizing, and discussing the analytical value and
implications of both these turns. What is, we ask, the analytical
purchase of these turns within the study of Islam and Muslims in
Europe? What, furthermore, might escape our attention while
preferring one turn among the other? What happens in the “process of
inquiry” while ascribing analytical weight to one rather than the
other? In short, what value do these turns hold, offer, suggest, and
toward what analytical consequences? And, finally, how are and can
both be thought and utilized in a productive and forward-looking way
for future research?


While we are happy to include paper presentations which rigorously
address theoretical discussions as well as analytical and
methodological reflections on the “ethical” and “everyday”, we
encourage panellists to particularly pay attention to the study of
Islam and Muslims in Europe from within the “ethical” and “everyday”
turn – without necessarily assuming a clear-cut dichotomy between
both. In doing so, papers should be both ethnographically based on
European context, and illustrative analytically or methodologically
of one or both of the two turns. Papers invested in the “ontological
turn” by a reference to the “ethical” or the “everyday” are also
welcome. Also, we invite submissions to take into consideration the
complexities of positionality and representation, particularly within
the larger political economy of knowledge production vis-à-vis Islam
and Muslims.

Name, Institution/affiliation, short-biography, contact details must
be submitted along with abstracts (300-500 words). All abstracts
should be sent by August 31st to Amin El-Yousfı ( and
Zubair Ahmad ( Applicants will be notified
by September 9th about the outcome of their submission.

Successful applicants will each have 30 minutes of presentation time,
plus Q&A. The format will involve sending the workshop paper
(2500-3000 words) to the relevant discussant two weeks ahead of the
workshop (15th November). Following the workshop, participants will
be invited to submit developed papers for a special issue of a
leading journal.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers

Mayanthi Fernando
University of California, Santa Cruz

Samuli Schielke
Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin


Zubair Ahmad
Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies, Freie
Universität Berlin

Amin El-Yousfi
Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge & Woolf Cambridge

Conference website: