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International Workshop "Muslim Minorities and Questions of Secularity in China and Beyond"

Leipzig University, 9-10 June 2023

Workshop Programme


Yee Lak Elliot Lee
(Institute for the Study of Religions, Leipzig University)

Markus Dressler
(Institute for the Study of Religions/Modern Turkish Studies, Leipzig University)

Hubert Seiwert
(Centre for Advanced Studies “Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities”, Leipzig University)

James D. Frankel
(Cultural and Religious Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong)

This interdisciplinary workshop investigates the role of secularity – that is, conceptual distinctions and institutional differentiations between “religion” and its others – in the formation and normalization of Muslim minorities, with a focus on China. Recent developments in China give a strong impression of Muslim minorities being subjugated under a state-led secularist regime. Therein, Muslims are discursively disciplined by means of semantically overlapping binaries, such as religion/secular, legal/illicit, good/bad, local/foreign, and modern/traditional. While this scenario puts emphasis on the agency of the state, our workshop aims at exploring the roles of various actors (including but not limited to Muslims and state authorities) in resisting, appropriating, altering, and reproducing such binaries to sustain or upset established religious and secular fields. Whereas the Chinese state justifies its approach to regulating Islam by mimicking practices of other countries from which it seeks endorsement, Muslims respond to the secularist regime by drawing on symbolic and material resources from their transregional networks. These actors’ manoeuvres point to continuities with and breakaways from longer historical dynamics, as Muslims settled and displaced in and out of China in past exchanges and conquests along the overland and maritime “silk roads”, through post-Cold War dynamics of globalization and reterritorialization.