27 Jun 2024 9:30 - 17:00 S1, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DP



  • Madiha Noman (University of Cambridge)
  • Abdul Sabur Kidwai (King’s College, London)

Keynote speaker

AbdoolKarim Vakil (Lecturer, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures/Department of History King’s College London)


In ‘What is Islam’, Shahab Ahmed challenges the impact of colonial epistemologies, contending that they reshaped Islam into a rigid structure defined by religious laws and a simplistic dichotomy of what’s allowed and what’s forbidden. Drawing inspiration from Ahmed’s notion that the idea of Islam existed as an involvement with quotidian before modern times, we aim to consider the word ‘Muslim’ as an adjective. Muslim-ness thus becomes a dynamic and malleable mode of existence, at times having high visibility and being confrontational, while at other times, being determined by its absence. Its multifaceted manifestations and the varied perspectives through which it is observed render it as having multiple and often contested meanings. Our focus shifts towards exploring the diverse expressions of Muslimness, looking beyond the doxa of Islam. We see Muslimness as an embodied, lived experience, a guiding inquiry that extends into various realms – from art and architecture to politics to the digital landscape. Thus, this interdisciplinary conference, entitled ‘Seeing Muslimness’, seeks to explore the ‘presence’ of Muslimness in (extra)ordinary life. It brings together practitioners and academics from a variety of disciplines, mirroring the range of activities in which the experience of ‘being Muslim’ has a bearing on its existence.

The event aims to facilitate dialogue between academic and non-academic audiences, focusing on the historical and contemporary shaping of Muslimness.

Work cited: Ahmed, Shahab. What Is Islam?: The Importance of Being Islamic / Shahab Ahmed. 2016. Print.

If you have specific accessibility needs for this event please get in touch. We will do our best to accommodate any requests.

Supported by:

CRASSH grey logo


9:30 - 9:55


9:55 - 10:00


10:00 - 11:15

Panel 1: Muslim epistemologies and experiences

Part A Epistemologies

  • Adam DeSchriver (Yale University)
    ‘”Muslimness” before the Prophet: reading the Sīra-Maghāzī and Akhbār literature for pre-Islamic Monotheism and elements of “Muslimness”‘
  • Lewis Ebert (University of Oxford)
    ‘Responding to the apocalypse: finding Islam in secular experience’

Part B Experiences

  • Kuldip Kaur Singh (University of Oxford)
    ‘Muslimness and the Jade industry in Republican China: a historical investigation and literary re-imagination’
  • Danish Khan (University of Oxford)
    ‘The Muslim ‘outsider’: identity negotiation and risk management in colonial India’
11:15 - 11:30


11:30 - 12:30

Panel 2: Regulating Muslimness

  • Fatima Rajina (Stephen Lawrence Research Centre, De Montfort University)
    ‘British Muslim men, clothing choices and stigma’
  • Manjari Thakur (University of Cambridge)
    ‘Beef lynching: the life of rumours and disciplining the Muslim personhood’
  • Zehra Kazmi (University of St Andrews)
    ‘Muslim gothic: partition and gendered hauntings in South Asia’
12:30 - 13:30


13:30 - 14:15

Muslimness in everyday life: personal and communal experiences
By Poet and Author Amal Al-Jubour

14:15 - 15:30

PANEL 3: Muslim c0rporeality and contexts

  • Farhan Ali (SOAS, University of London)
    ‘Shifting places, or how bodies expand the boundaries of Bhittai’s shrine’
  • Sarah Al Saeid (University of Oxford)
    ‘Interpreting pain through muslimness: perspectives from refugee settings in Turkey’
  • Sarah Kaleem (University of Chicago)
    ‘Liminality: a catalyst for Jinn to disrupt time and kinship dynamics in Islamic ethnographical contexts’
  • Sumit Kumar (Shiv Nadar University)
    ‘Enactment of Muslim Banaras through a ‘silent crowd’
15:30 - 15:45


15:45 - 17:00

Keynote address by Abdoolkarim Vakil
‘Un/Seeing Muslimness: invisibility, visibility, hypervisibility’

Call for papers

Seeing Muslimness: a graduate interdisciplinary conference

Seeing, whether through the lens of perception or representation, plays a pivotal role in shaping our understanding of the world and of those who inhabit it. Within this web of visual perception, knowledge construction, and power dynamics, we take ‘Muslimness’ as a focal point at which various modes of seeing converge, intersect, and often clash. This inquiry encompasses a study of ‘Muslimness’ as expressed in literature, film, culture, architecture, food, animal studies, fashion, and more broadly, as ‘presence’ in physical digital and spectral forms. The act of seeing goes beyond mere observation; it influences our perception, understanding, and further representation of Muslimness. These modes of seeing, whether they be oppressive, digital, communal, individual, self-perpetuating, or self-fulfilling, create discursive notions of authenticity, representation, and self-fashioning within Muslim communities. We seek to explore the multifaceted dimensions of seeing, presenting, and representing Muslimness and its profound impact on being. Building on scholarship that considers Muslimness as a plural and heterogenous social category, we aim to query what epistemological hierarchies determine how Muslimness is seen, shown and performed. What are the affective responses to Muslimness, and how do they manifest? In other words, what does Muslimness do, and what does seeing Muslimness do.

We invite scholars, researchers, and practitioners from across disciplines and genres to unpack these complex ways of seeing Muslimness and question its forms, formations and transformations. We welcome interdisciplinary perspectives from scholars engaged in fields such as cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, media & film studies, digital humanities, literature, and architecture. Potential paper topics include but are not limited to:

  1. Gaze, surveillance, and stereotyping
  2. Ideas of ‘Muslimness’ in animals, the supernatural, and the extra-human
  3. Digital/Physical Visual symbols in local, vernacular and global contexts
  4. Built and Digital Infrastructures
  5. Muslimness in Everyday Life: personal and communal experiences.
  6. Cross-border and cross-cultural Muslimness: Diasporic and migrational perspectives
  7. Politics of unseeing, exclusion, and erasure
  8. Politics of secularization
  9. Violence (material and non-material)
  10. Digital Activism
  11. The Spectacle and the Narrative in art, media and popular culture
  12. Muslimness in/as Environmentalism
  13. Humanist and Posthumanist Perspectives

Please submit an abstract, not exceeding 300 words, along with a brief biography.

  • Deadline for submissions: 30 April 2024
  • Notification for final acceptance: May 15 2024

Please note that this is an in-person conference. Participants will be required to be present in Cambridge on the date of the conference. We would not be able to provide travel or accommodation bursaries for the participants.

Please direct all queries to seeing.muslimness@gmail.com

Speaker biographies

AbdoolKarim Vakil is lecturer in History and Portuguese studies in the departments of History and of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at King’s College London. He is a member of the editorial board of ReOrient: Journal of Critical Muslim Studies, and of the board of IISRA, International Islamophobia Studies Research Association. AbdoolKarim is a past chair of the Muslim Council of Britain’s Research and Documentation Committee, and former academic advisor to the Muslim Community of Lisbon, Portugal. His publications include the co-edited and co-authored volumes Thinking Through Islamophobia: Global Perspectives (2010), Moçambique: Memória Falada do Islão e da Guerra (2011), Al-Andalus in Motion: Travelling Concepts and Cross-Cultural Contexts (2021); and most recently, the chapters ‘The Grammar of Islamophobia’ (2023), ‘Critical Muslim Studies and the Remaking of the (Ancient) World’ (2024), and ‘Is This The Age of Islamophobia?’ (in press), all with S. Sayyid.

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