15 Sep 2018 - 16 Sep 2018 All day Thomas Gray Room, Pembroke College


Registration for this conference is now closed. 



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: events@crassh.cam.ac.uk


Day 1 - Saturday 15 September
10.00 - 10.30

Registration and Welcome

10.30 - 12.30

Decolonising Critique – I

Khaled Fahmy (University of Cambridge)

'The history of hisba in 19th century Egypt' 

Discussants: Iza Hussin and Samuli Schielke


Irfan Ahmad (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity)

‘”Freeing Anthropology from Critique” or Critiquing Anthropology? On Critique and Islam' 

Discussants: Nandagopal Menon and Humeira Iqtidar 


Charis Boutieri (King's College London)

'Civic Training and Affective Engagements with the Political in Post-Revolutionary Tunisia'

Discussants: Mezna Qato and Katherine Ewing 

12.30 - 13.30


[Outer Parlour, Pembroke College]

13.30 - 15.30

Imaginative Landscapes

Iza Hussin (University of Cambridge)

'Shari’a in Translation: History, Politics, Mobility'

Discussants: Khaled Fahmy and Mehmet Kurt 


Samuli Schielke (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient)

'In the Haze'

Discussants: Rebecca Skreslet Hernandez and Charis Boutieri 


Nandagopal Menon (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)

'Some notes on polemics, politics and religion'

Discussants: Layli Uddin and Humeira Iqtidar

15.30 - 16.00


16.00 - 18.00

Subaltern Dreams

Mehmet Kurt (University of Manchester)

'Imagining Ummah from Kurdistan: Discourses on Brotherhood and Alterity'

Discussants: Iza Hussin and Charis Boutieri 


Layli Uddin (British Library)

'Maulana Bhashani: The Making of a Modern King' 

Discussants: James Caron and Nandagopal Menon


James Caron (SOAS)

'The World-Beyond, and Jihad Subjectivities in Afghanistan'

Discussants: Mezna Qato and Layli Uddin 

Day 2 - Sunday 16 September
10.00 - 11.00

Coffee, Tea, Pastries, and Fruit Salad

11.00 - 13.00

Decolonizing Critique – II

Sertaç Sehlikoglu (University of Cambridge)

'”Traitor Over a Night”: On Critique and the Fragility of Privilege'

Discussants: Mezna Qato and Mehmet Kurt  


Katherine Ewing (Columbia University)

'Abjecting Tradition: A Sufi Response to the Reformist Turn in Islam' 

Discussants: Irfan Ahmad and Samuli Schielke


Humeira Iqtidar (King's College London)

'Maududi’s “Theodemocracy”: Decolonising Sovereignty, Re-inscribing the State' 

Discussants: James Caron and Irfan Ahmad

13.00 - 14.00

Lunch and Close

Speakers and Discussants

  • Irfan Ahmad, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity
  • Charis Boutieri, King's College London
  • James Caron, SOAS
  • Katherine Ewing, Columbia University
  • Khaled Fahmy, University of Cambridge
  • Iza Hussin, University of Cambridge
  • Humeira Iqtidar, King's College London
  • Mehmet Kurt, University of Manchester
  • Nandagopal Menon, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
  • Mezna Qato, University of Cambridge
  • Samuli Schielke, Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient
  • Sertaç Sehlikoglu, University of Cambridge
  • Rebecca Skreslet Hernandez, Georgetown University
  • Layli Uddin, British Library

Upcoming Events


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk