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Articles

Here you will find an overview of the journal articles and articles published in edited volumes by the research group and its members.

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2022

Tracing the Nationalisation of Millet in the Late Ottoman Period: A Conceptual History Approach

Markus Dressler

Tracing the Nationalisation of Millet in the Late Ottoman Period: A Conceptual History Approach

During its last century, the Ottoman Empire faced strong contestation of its political order, which had undergone radical changes that are generally discussed in relation to modernisation. Against this background, key social and political concepts in Ottoman Turkish shed old meanings and acquired new ones. This article examines the trajectory of the term millet in this period as a case study. Drawing on political and lexicographic texts from the Tanzimat era and afterwards, the article discusses the semantic shifts through which millet, traditionally closely related to din/religion, acquired connotations of a political community, not the least proto-national ones. This led to a polysemy that remained relatively stable until the end of the Ottoman era, when the political meaning of the term millet as “nation” gained dominance. This secularisation of the term reached its peak in the early Turkish republic, although the older, religious connotations of the term were never totally forgotten and are still evoked in conservative religious discourse.


Dressler, Markus. "Tracing the Nationalisation of Millet in the Late Ottoman Period: A Conceptual History Approach." Die Welt des Islams 62, no. 3-4 (2022): 360-88.

2022

Contesting Queer Secularity: The Spiritual and the Sexual after Secularization

Marian Burchardt

Contesting Queer Secularity: The Spiritual and the Sexual after Secularization

Queer and social science scholarship has amply demonstrated how contestations over sexual diversity in the public sphere are structured by antagonisms between heteronormative public religion and progressive politics, even as processes of secularization advance in most European societies. In this article, by contrast, I explore how the progressive decoupling of notions of national belonging from both religion and sexual identity has accompanied the proliferation of new subject positions around queer spirituality and religiosity. Engaging with theories of secularization and belonging, as well as Jasbir Puar’s notion of ‘queer secularity’, I examine emergent entanglements between queer emancipation, religion and sexual citizenship as they are taking shape through the biographical trajectories of queer subjects in Spain. The article argues that emancipation from queer secularity and access to these subject positions of queer spirituality are mediated through situated biographical trajectories. They depend on but also expedite the unmaking of antagonisms between queer secularity and heteronormative religion.


Burchardt, Marian. "Contesting Queer Secularity: The Spiritual and the Sexual after Secularization." New Diversities [Early View 2022, Part of forthcoming Special Issue ‘Theorizing Secularity, Religion and Sexuality in Postcolonial Europe’].

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2022

Becoming Secular: Biographies of Disenchantment, Generational Dynamics, and why they matter

Marian Burchardt

Becoming Secular: Biographies of Disenchantment, Generational Dynamics, and why they matter

In many Western societies, support for policies concerning the secularization of the public sphere or the state often seems to be driven by secularized majority populations considered to be largely homogeneous. In this article, by contrast, I draw on the case of the Canadian province of Quebec to show that, as a fundamental element of conflicts over secularism, secularist activism emerges from particular generational dynamics, especially those of the so-called ‘baby boomers’. My main argument is that while the baby boomers’ collective experiences have shaped their secularist outlook, there are a variety of biographical trajectories and engagements with spirituality that the public image of this generation tends to hide. The article is based on biographical and ethnographic research carried out between 2012 and 2018.


Burchardt, Marian. "Becoming Secular: Biographies of Disenchantment, Generational Dynamics, and why they matter." Social Compass 69, no. 2 (2022): 223–40.

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2022

Infrastructuring Religion: Materiality and Meaning in Ordinary Urbanism

Marian Burchardt

Infrastructuring Religion: Materiality and Meaning in Ordinary Urbanism

This article draws on the infrastructural turn in urban studies to explore the profane materialities that enable particular forms of urban religion. Assuming that cities are configurations of spaces, actors and materialities characterized by dominant modes of belonging, hegemonic definitions of public space, and hierarchical orderings of spatial uses, infrastructures are a central element of cities’ material bases. Based on ethnographic research in Cape Town, I develop the notion of “infrastructuring religion” as a new modality of the spatialization of religion. Practices of infrastructuring draw religious life into the profane realm of ordinary urbanism in which religious meanings run up against machines of bureaucratization, divergent investments in scarce space, and criminal economies. I argue that infrastructuring is an important addition to architecture and place-making as the hitherto dominant concepts for the analysis of urban religion.


Burchardt, Marian. "Infrastructuring Religion: Materiality and Meaning in Ordinary Urbanism." Space and Culture (October 2022). 

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2022

Rethinking the Interdependence of Buddhism and the State in Late Edo and Meiji Japan

Christoph Kleine

Rethinking the Interdependence of Buddhism and the State in Late Edo and Meiji Japan

This article asks how the Buddhist paradigm of the interdependence between the Buddha’s law and the ruler’s law was modified over the centuries and reinterpreted by nineteenth-century authors in the face of rapid political, social, and epistemic changes. An analysis of relevant texts reveals continuities as well as discontinuities. While the paradigm’s basic function of guaranteeing autonomy and protection to Buddhist institutions remained largely unchanged, remarkable transformations in the argumentation are evident. Despite, or because of, the precarious position of Buddhism in the early Meiji period, Buddhist authors from this era choose an apologetic strategy. With some slight differences, they emphasize almost exclusively the intramundane benefits of Buddhism and thus defend themselves against the accusation that Buddhism is solely relevant to otherworldly matters. The most radical innovation, however, is the assertion that all secular norms and rules of governance are ultimately Buddhist in origin.


Kleine, Christoph. "Rethinking the Interdependence of Buddhism and the State in Late Edo and Meiji Japan." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 49, no. 1 (2022): 89–113.

2022

Editorial: Cultures of Relationality and Solidarity in Madagascar

Peter Kneitz

Editorial: Cultures of Relationality and Solidarity in Madagascar

In 1810, on the occasion of the coronation of King Radama I (1810–28), an important gathering was held in Mahamasina Square in Antananarivo, capital of what was then the Merina kingdom in central Madagascar. ‘All the various tribes and orders of the people’, a number of old people recalled many decades later, ‘were that day ranged around the king in the pattern of the various sides, diagonals and intersections of [the game of] fanòrona’. Antananarivo is built on a mountain: the king’s palace or rova stands at its summit, and this event took place at its foot. The primary purpose of the ceremony was the glorification of the new king’s status, but the arrangement of the participants is also revealing. Local society, it seems, was imagined as functioning according to the rules and structures of fanorona, a strategic board game for two players, similar to chess. In this expressive performance, the main local groups were represented as tokens. Depending on their place in the social hierarchy, they were thus at the strategic disposal of the king in playing his royal political ‘game’, which inevitably was also a ‘game’ of power and decision-making. Hence Radama I was imagined as a ‘player’, determining and organising his reign in conformity with the structures and strategic possibilities of fanorona, as the quotation in the paragraph above implies. Moreover, the strategic premises of the game are also imagined as structuring the way in which the king relates to the wider world, offering thereby a rare snapshot of an emic theory of relationality in 19th-century Madagascar and prompting further heuristic curiosity. Is there more to discover about a specific Malagasy cultural pattern of relatedness? And, beyond the dominant focus on explicit social structures like kinship, might a deeper understanding of the rules of relatedness and of the more fluid world of daily encounters offer a fresh approach through which to re-examine the Malagasy social world? This special issue addresses these questions and invites the reader to examine the Malagasy socio-cultural world from the perspective of relationality. This differs from the more familiar study of institutionalised social structures adopted in the literature cited below. It opens a window on a heuristic exploration of Malagasy society, led by a quest for the more general patterns and rules that underpin the making and unmaking of relationships. Thus the six contributions to this issue each strive in their own way to understand the principles underlying the way people in Madagascar relate to each other. Through the lens of relationality, these contributions seek to explore, examine and understand the dynamic of Malagasy cultures in a new and meaningful perspective. The discussion below falls into four sections: an outline of the guiding questions of this special issue, a brief introduction to the state of the art on Malagasy relationality, a theoretical sketch that brings central cultural ideas such as hasina into a systemic relationship with the relationality lived in Madagascar and, lastly, a presentation of the individual contributions.


Peter Kneitz. "Editorial." Journal of Southern African Studies 48, no. 4 (2022): 625-37.

2022

From Peaceful Civil Movement to Civil War and Sectarian Polarization: A Critical Review of Kevin Mazur’s "Revolution in Syria: Identity, Networks, and Repression"

Housamedden Darwish

From Peaceful Civil Movement to Civil War and Sectarian Polarization: A Critical Review of Kevin Mazur’s

للنظام الحاكم، وأثننها، بحيث جعلها تنحصر في مطالب إثنيةٍ؟ هذا هو السؤال الرئيس الذي يحاول كيفين مازور الإجابة عنه، في كتابه الصادر حديثًا (2021)، "الثورة في سوريا: الهوية والشبكات والقمع". تهدف هذه المراجعة النقدية لكتاب مازور إلى مناقشة الإجابة التي قدمها مازور، في كتابه، للإجابة عن السؤال المذكور آنفًا، وإلى مناقشة رؤيته لما حصل، في العام الأول من الثورة السورية، عمومًا. والخطوط العريضة جدًّا التي يقدمها مازور تتمثل في الأطروحة التالية: ثمة هيمنةٌ إثنيةٌ/ علويةٌ على النظام الحصري/ الإقصائي إثنيًّا، أي النظام الذي يقصي غير العلويين عمومًا، والسنة خصوصًا؛ لكنَّ ذلك النظام (كان) يمتلك شبكةً من العلاقات مع المجتمع، تتجاوز الحدود الإثنية/ الدينية الطائفية. ويحاجج الكتاب أنه بالإضافة إلى الدور الأساسي للبنية الحصرية/ الإقصائية إثنيًّا للنظام، ثمة دورٌ مهمٌّ لهذه الشبكة في الانتفاضة السورية، عمومًا، وفي تحديد (عدم) مشاركة السوريين فيها، وفي محاولات النظام إخمادها واحتوائها، خصوصًا؛ لكنه يشدِّد على أن تلك الشبكة لم تكن، غالبًا، أداةً كافيةً لتهدئة التحديات الاحتجاجية الشعبية السلمية؛ وأنه لهذا السبب، خصوصًا أو تحديدًا، لجأ النظام إلى العنف، في مواجهة تلك التحديات الاحتجاجية، فأفضى ذلك، بالنتيجة، إلى تحول تلك التحديات السلمية "الوطنية" إلى مواجهةٍ عنيفةٍ إثنيةٍ/ طائفيةٍ. وإضافةً إلى عرض تفاصيل إجابة مازور عن السؤال المذكور، وعن الأسئلة الأساسية المتصلة به، في كتابه المكوَّن من تسعة فصولٍ يتضمن أولها "المقدمة"، ويحتوي آخرها "الخاتمة" تهدف هذه المراجعة النقدية إلى تقديم بعض الملاحظات النقدية، العامة والمكثفة، الموجَّهة إلى ما تتأسس عليه بالأطروحة الرئيسة للكتاب، عمومًا، وإلى المنظور الطائفي الذي يتبناه، خصوصًا.



Darwish, Housamedden. "From Peaceful Civil Movement to Civil War and Sectarian Polarization: A Critical Review of Kevin Mazur’s Revolution in Syria: Identity, Networks, and Repression," Rowaq Maysaloon 7-8 (2022): 425-41.

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2022

When Conspiracy Meets Faith: Making Sense of Tragic Events in Bucharest, Romania

Giuseppe Tateo

When Conspiracy Meets Faith: Making Sense of Tragic Events in Bucharest, Romania

This chapter explores the production of conspiracy theories among Orthodox Romanians starting from a specific question: in what ways are conspiracy thinking and Christian faith related? On 30 October 2015, the Bucharest nightclub Colectiv caught fire during a hard-rock concert, causing the death of 64 people and the injury of another two hundred, mostly youngsters. In the following days, inquiries were started to evaluate the responsibilities of the owners for not having respected safety measures, and of the city district administration, which, in turn, did not carry out inspections properly. Nevertheless, for some Christian-Orthodox priests and believers, the reasons behind such a tragic event resided elsewhere: it was God’s will to punish those who evoke evil by performing Satanist rock music. I shall argue that conspiracism and the Christian-Orthodox cosmologies presented in this chapter are better understood as systems of causal explanation operating through the redistribution of agency: in the attempt to make sense of tragic events, conspiracy and faith configure hierarchies of human and non-human agents. Seen in this light, they do not simply coexist but even reinforce one another as both are grounded on the idea that there is an underlying, unknown plan explaining what happens on the surface, that is, in everyday life.


Tateo, Giuseppe. "When Conspiracy Meets Faith: Making Sense of Tragic Events in Bucharest, Romania." In Religious Dimensions of Conspiracy Theories: Comparing and Connecting Old and New Trends, edited by Francesco Piraino, Marco Pasi, and Egil Asprem. London: Routledge, 2022.


2022

On the Concept of Political Islam and its Prospects in the Post-Arab Spring Era

Housamedden Darwish

On the Concept of Political Islam and its Prospects in the Post-Arab Spring Era

The paper seeks to answer the following question: What are the prospects for political Islam in the Arab and Islamicate world(s) more than ten years after the outset of the Arab Spring revolutions and uprisings? Many qualitative research techniques or tools are used in order to answer this question: conceptual analysis, textual and hermeneutical interpretation and historical description as well as analysis of some of the main events related to the Arab Spring revolutions. To this end, it examines two leading theses on political Islam. One suggests that political Islam is the fate/destiny of Arab and Islamicate societies if these societies are given the opportunity to politically express themselves and choose their political representatives. The second warns of the danger of political Islam because of its necessary conflict with the principles of democracy and (individual) human rights. More importantly, the relationship between political Islam and the “other”—represented in society and the political and religious parties, on one hand, and authority and/or the state, on the other—is also considered. The paper argues that the future of contemporary political Islam oscillates between two main poles: jihadi Islam and an Islam that seeks a civil (democratic) state. It also argues that one of the crucial factors that may determine this future “in the Arab Muslim-majority countries is the relationship with (the concepts of) the nation/civil state in general, and the actual state in which it is found, and the ruling political system of that state in particular. If this relationship is positive, it can lead to political Islam becoming part of a democratic transition or a democratic process in the nation state. On the other hand, political Islam can transform into jihadi Islam or extremist Islamism when the relationship is negative. Positivity of the relationship denotes mutual acceptance and recognition between the parties involved in, while negativity refers to mutual exclusion and hostility against/towards each other.

Housamedden Darwish. “On the Concept of Political Islam and its Prospects in the Post-Arab Spring Era.” In 'The Arab Spring' in Transition: Future and Prospects, edited by Abdelhaq Zammouri, and Moncif Slimi, 41-92. Tunisia and Bonn: Irtihal/Deutsch-Maghrebinisches Institut für Kultur und Medien, 2022.

2022

On Secularity and Secularism in the Arab and Islamicate World: Butrus al-Bustani’s ‘The Clarion of Syria’

Housamedden Darwish

On Secularity and Secularism in the Arab and Islamicate World: Butrus al-Bustani’s ‘The Clarion of Syria’

This paper aims to critically discuss the concepts of secularity and secularism, and their pioneering formulation, in the Arab-Islamicate world(s), and proposes that this took place, in Butrus al-Bustani’s The Clarion of Syria (1860–1861). It is conceptually based on the possibility and necessity of distinguishing between ‘secularity’ as an analytical concept, and ‘secularism’ as a normative and ideological concept. This distinction is based on the conceptual framework adopted and developed by the Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences ‘Multiple Secularities - Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities’ at the University of Leipzig. The paper begins by providing a conceptual analysis of secularity, secularism, and secularization, highlighting the differences between them as well as the epistemological and methodological necessities required to draw a distinction between them in modern and contemporary Arab thought. It also reflects on the linguistic and historical context, by looking at the concepts of secularity and secularism in Arab thought prior to al-Bustani’s The Clarion of Syria. The focus of the paper then turns to al-Bustani’s secularist conception of secularity, and his pioneering formulation of the two concepts of secularity and secularism in The Clarion of Syria. A conclusion is drawn at the end of this paper.


Darwish, Housamedden. “On Secularity and Secularism in the Arab and Islamicate World: Butrus al-Bustani’s ‘The Clarion of Syria’.” In Sharia, Secularism, and the State Towards New Horizons, 92-110. Kuwait: Nohoud Center for Studies and Research, 2022.


2022

Of Marriage, Divorce and Criminalisation: Reflections on the Triple Talaq Judgement in India

Anindita Chakrabarti, K. C. Mujeebu Rahman, and Suchandra Ghosh

Of Marriage, Divorce and Criminalisation: Reflections on the Triple Talaq Judgement in India

In India, where religion-specific laws govern issues of marriage, divorce, maintenance, adoption and inheritance, the family laws of Muslims – the largest religious minority – have been a thorny issue in the post-independence period. In recent years, the major intervention in Muslim personal law reform came in the form of the invalidation of instant divorce or triple talaq by the Supreme Court of India. Subsequently, a law was passed that criminalised it. By delving into a close examination of recent judicial activism and by drawing on our ethnographic work with Muslim women in India, we show that it is only by refocussing the debate from judicial discourse to legal practice that the trope of Muslim women’s victimhood and the tired debates about religious freedom versus citizenship rights can be questioned and bypassed.


Chakrabarti, Anindita, K. C. Mujeebu Rahman, and Suchandra Ghosh. "Of Marriage, Divorce and Criminalisation: Reflections on the Triple Talaq Judgement in India." Journal of Legal Anthropology 6, no. 1 (2022): 24-48.

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2022

On the Relationship between Culture/Religion and Politics: A Critique of the Culturalist Approach to Islam

Housamedden Darwish

On the Relationship between Culture/Religion and Politics: A Critique of the Culturalist Approach to Islam

The chapter aims to outline the main characteristics of the culturalist approach to Islam as an ideal type and critically analyze these characteristics. The culturalist approach views (Islamicate) culture, which is mainly reduced to its religious content or dimension, as the underlying cause behind the domination or hegemony of autocracy or political despotism in the Arab and Islamicate worlds. This approach is mainly discussed with reference to the situation in Arab and Islamicate countries, in particular Syria over the past five decades. According to culturalism, ‘Islam is the problem’ due to its intrinsic incompatibility or conflict with (political) modernity: democracy, secularity and human rights. While seeing Islam as the problem appears contradictory to the view of Islam as the solution, both are based on the same culturalist understandings, formed in: (1) a reductionist view (reducing culture to religion); (2) a flexible view; (3) an essentialist and non- or anti-historical view; (4) a dogmatic or non-hermeneutical view; (5) a mechanical and anti-dialectical view (culture affects and produces politics, not vice versa); (6) an immoral view; (7) a political position. In critically analyzing these characteristics of the culturalist approach, the chapter also considers its ethical and political dimensions or implications.


Darwish, Housamedden. "On the Relationship between Culture/Religion and Politics: A Critique of the Culturalist Approach to Islam.” In New Methods in the Study of Islam, ed. Abbas Aghdassi, and Aaron W. Hughes (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2022).

2022

Negotiating Modernity by Concepts of Relatedness: Towards the Construction of Malagasy Solidarity (Fihavanana Gasy)

Peter Kneitz

Among the most explicit ideas and norms of desired, pro-social behaviours in modern Malagasy society is the rhetoric around, and longing for, ‘fihavanana’, a term that can be roughly translated as ‘solidarity’. It features therefore as a very prominent aspect of relationality in Madagascar, serving as a means of control and of conflict resolution and also as a guarantee of peace. Yet there is another, very different, dimension to fihavanana that is waiting to be uncovered, which this article aims to highlight. It is in fact a battle term, coined to negotiate issues of modernity and identity. My analysis will show that the concept of ‘Malagasy solidarity’ (‘fihavanana gasy’) has its roots not in problems of violence or war but in the experience of deep social rupture produced by confrontation with European concepts of enlightenment, rationality, Christianity and secularity during the 19th century. Fears of a consequent threat to authentic Malagasy culture led, from the first half of the 20th century onwards, to the development of a new, powerful discourse on the need to recover true Malagasy values, and ‘solidarity’ was among the most prominent of those selected. This ongoing discourse and the trend towards the institutionalisation of a concept of relatedness like Malagasy solidarity should thus be understood and reframed within an identitarian logic.


Kneitz, Peter. "Negotiating Modernity by Concepts of Relatedness: Towards the Construction of Malagasy Solidarity (Fihavanana Gasy)" Journal of Southern African Studies online (2022): 1-19.

2022

Islamwissenschaft an den Grenzen von Wissenschaft, Religion und Politik: Eine feldanalytische Perspektive

Monika Wohlrab-Sahr and Sana Chavoshian

Islamwissenschaft an den Grenzen von Wissenschaft, Religion und Politik: Eine feldanalytische Perspektive

Our intention in this article is twofold: first, in a historical approach and with reference to Bourdieu's field analysis, we reconstruct the autonomisation of Islamic Studies as a scientific field with its own doxa, and the challenges posed by social sciences, cultural studies, and – more recently – Islamic theology as subjects of the extended field of Islamic studies. Dynamics, demarcations and intrusions come into view. In the course of the analysis, cursory comparisons are made with the USA and France, where these challenges are accentuated and answered differently. In a second step, the positioning of academics in this field is reconstructed on the basis of open expert interviews. In this process, the attitudes to secularity – i.e. to the question of the boundaries of Islam and the demarcations of Islamic Studies as science – function as a lens through which these positionings become recognisable. Fundamental forms of determining the relationship between Islam and the West or Western modernity reverberate in the positions.


Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika, and Sana Chavoshian. "Islamwissenschaft an den Grenzen von Wissenschaft, Religion und Politik: Eine feldanalytische Perspektive." In "Islam in Europa: Institutionalisierung und Konflikt," ed. Monika Wohlrab-Sahr and Levent Tenzcan, special issue, Soziale Welt 25 (2022): 409–44

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