BLACK MUSLIM ATLANTIC SYMPOSIUM
Thursday and Friday, January 30-31, 2020
Rubenstein “The Ruby” Arts Center
2020 Campus Drive
This symposium was envisioned and organized with Imam Abdul Hafeez Waheed to honor the Black Muslim community in North Carolina and beyond, its culture, literature, history, and legacy from slavery until the present. Black Muslim Atlantic pays tribute to the work and writings of Omar ibn Sayyid through a pioneering project by Professors Carl Ernst and Mbaye Lo to translate his writings and create a digital archive. The symposium showcases the work of these professors and their students from their course “Arabic and the Writings of Enslaved Muslims.” The term Black Muslim Atlantic was coined by Margari Aziza, the co-founder and program director of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, as “an endeavor of transnationalism through literature, intellectual exchange, visual and performance art.” This work expands Paul Gilroy’s understanding of the Black Atlantic toward acknowledging the powerful role played by Islam in forging cultural and political solidarities across the global south.
Scholarship that followed Gilroy’s text, by seminal thinkers like Sylviane Diouf, focused on the role of enslaved Muslims in sustaining the roots and routes severed by the middle passage and by brutal suppression. Yet as so many acknowledge, black Muslim cultural forms continued and continue to flourish, even under condition of duress—musical, poetic, linguistic, literary, artistic, and religious. Although popular perception sees music and poetry as outside Islamic orthodoxy, these forms have long functioned in intimate relation to the Islamic tradition. This symposium explores its more recent instantiations as reflective of that longer history of Islamic civilization, as much a renewing and reviving it for contemporary contexts.
This symposium focuses on these cultural forms as a way of fore-fronting the powerful role played by Islam and Muslims in a shared culture of the black Atlantic. Islam so often occupies a marginal position in the study of the black Atlantic, just as the study of the black intellectual tradition occupies a marginal position in Islamic studies. This symposium focuses on the intersection of these shared cultural traditions, bringing its rich history and thriving present into detailed focus. The symposium is in memoriam of C. Eric Lincoln, professor of Religious Studies at Duke—whose work on both black Muslims and race and religion helped pioneer the field and raise more nuanced consciousness about these subjects. This symposium explores how far the field has come from this earlier moment.
The project is jointly sponsored by Duke Islamic Studies Center, African and African American Studies, Asian and Middle East Studies, Forum for Scholars and Publics, Religious Studies, the Franklin Humanities Institute, the Trent Foundation, and by the After Malcolm Project at the Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University.