Imaginative Landscapes of Islamist Politics: Aspirations, Dreams, and Critique

15 September 2018 - 16 September 2018

Thomas Gray Room, Pembroke College

If you would like to attend this conference, please email the lead convenor, Dr. Sertaç Sehlikoglu (, with a summary of your research interests by Friday 3 August. You will be informed shortly after this date if a space is available.

Places are limited and a registration fee of £60/£30 (full price / student or unwaged) will be payable. Partial subsidy of the registration fee may be possible depending on individual circumstances. 



Sertaç Sehlikoglu (University of Cambridge)

Ayse Polat (University of Cambridge)

Mahvish Ahmad (University of Cambridge)



Confronted by the rise of the ‘new right’ and the advent of ‘post-truth,’ existing scholarship on the global and transnational right calls for a departure from rationalist, essentialist, and structural-functionalist analyses. At this critical juncture, such theories fail to account for how so many people either do not acknowledge, or even resist, ‘facts.’ This tendency to disregard, disbelieve, or deny socially and scientifically instituted ‘facts,’ and establish alternate truths and new realities, demand a turn towards the psychoanalytic and the affective. Such a turn clears the scholarly terrain, making it possible to attend to myriad ‘irrational’ forces in politics e.g. emotional attachments to charismatic leaders, pre-colonial nostalgia, and impossible aspirations.

Yet, this turn – towards emotions like desire, hope, nostalgia, and aspiration – has yet to take effect in the scholarly work on Islamist thought and practice. This is in part because existing scholarship has had to address widespread charges of ‘the irrational Muslim’ in historical and contemporary debates. To do so, it has drawn on postcolonial and poststructuralist theory, that centers select political and intellectual concerns, particularly through critiques of liberalism and secularism. This both forecloses other, non-western lineages of critique of Islamist politics from non-western - particularly Muslim - societies, and fine-grained investigations into subjective, emotive, and imaginative forces. We seek to offer a fresh perspective that does not reproduce the irrationalist tropes existing critical scholarship has counteracted, yet is able to move beyond the Eurocentric preoccupation with liberalism and secularism, and provide a sound theoretical ground on which to delineate the ways Islamist movements forge imaginative landscapes. Through this intervention, we hope to expand the analytical and critical analyses of Islamist movements.

In this vein, this conference will investigate the imaginative landscapes of Islamist politics, through a focus on aspirations, dreams, and critique articulated within trans-regional or national Islamist political milieus. It will look at figures as diverse as the Erdogan-led AKP government and the Gülenists in Turkey, Sunni-majoritarian parties like Jama'at-e-Islami or Jama'at-ud-Da'wa in Pakistan, ISIS in Syria, Hezbollah and Amel in Lebanon, Ennahda movements in Tunisia, Hizb-ut-Tahrir in Europe, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the broader Levant, Wahhabi enclaves in the Gulf, and Salafi parties across the broader Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.




Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) and Pembroke College.​


Administrative assistance: