Duke-UNC Graduate Islamic & Middle East Studies Conference

Islamic banner

The annual Duke-UNC Islamic Studies graduate student conference, first held in 2004, continues to grow in topics and attendance with students from universities throughout the United States participating every year.

Each fall, a joint Duke-UNC graduate student committee determines the conference theme, panels, and keynote speaker. The organizing committee works with Duke and UNC staff to run the conference.

Past Conferences

The Nineteeth Annual Duke-UNC Middle East and Islamic Studies Graduate Student Conference (2022), “Space and Place: Religion, Politics, and Power in the Middle East” will be held online via Zoom on March 5-6, 2022. The keynote will be given by Waleed Ziad.

The Eighteenth Annual Duke-UNC Middle East and Islamic Studies Graduate Student Conference, (2021) “What Does Race Have to Do with Religion? Racialization and Worldwide Islam” will be held online via a live video broadcasting platform on Saturday and Sunday, February 20-21, 2021. This year’s panels include an exciting line up of graduate student research, artists showcasing their work, and a keynote speech by Dr. Zareena Grewal.

The Seventeenth Annual Duke-UNC Middle East and Islamic Studies Graduate Student Conference (2020), “Who Speaks for Islam?: Approaches to Authority within the Academy and Beyond,” will be held in Chapel Hill, NC on Saturday, February 29, 2020. In light of recent attempts at intimidation by the state, we are particularly interested in thinking through the politics of power. As such, we are seeking papers that interrogate questions of authority and power. As keynote speaker, Professor Kecia Ali will speak to gendered citational politics and structures of authority within the academy.  For an in-depth conference write-up, please visit here.

The Sixteenth Annual Duke-UNC Middle East and Islamic Studies Graduate Student Conference (2019) “Muslims, Motherland, and Minoritization.” The conference was held at UNC-Chapel Hill on Saturday, March 2, 2019. This conference explored how categorization by governing bodies create and influence ethno-religious identities as a component of subjecthood. Following presentations and faculty responses, participants had the opportunity to workshop their papers.

The Fifteenth Annual Duke-UNC Middle East and Islamic Studies Graduate Student Conference (2018) “Map, Territory,  and  Boundary.”  The conference was held February 9-10, 2018 at Duke University. Geography and territoriality are not only the subjects of ongoing contestation, but also compelling paradigms to engage with broader interrelated questions pertaining to the modern makeup of the Middle East. This conference sparked a discussion on the myriad of ways the themes of map, territory, and boundary open up new possibilities of insight in the contexts of the Middle East, Muslim communities, and their connected geographies.

The Fourteenth Annual Duke-UNC Graduate Islamic and Middle East Studies Graduate Student Conference (2017) “Affect in Dissent: Past and Present.” The conference took place March 4-5, 2017, at the Campus Y, UNC Chapel Hill. Muslims across the globe – from the Middle East, North America, South Asia, and beyond – have been in constant engagement with the changing material and social conditions of human experience. The conference explored the multiple ways that Muslims in various places have confronted and objected to these conditions historically and in the present. These changing conditions have been evaluated from a variety of vantage points, whether through sociological, theological, economic, historical, or artistic means.

The Thirteenth Annual Duke-UNC Graduate Islamic Studies Conference (2016) “Global Muslim Modernities & The Post-Secular.” The conference took place February 27-28, 2016, at the FedEx Global Education Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The categories and concepts of “modernity” and “secularism” have received renewed attention within academic literature on Muslim societies and Islamic studies. This conference created a forum for those exploring and developing innovative engagements with this material from an interdisciplinary perspective drawing on critical theory and global approaches.

The Twelfth Annual Duke-UNC Graduate Islamic Studies Conference (2015) “Imagining the Beautiful: Theories and Practices of Meaning in Islamicate Aesthetics.” The conference took place Saturday, March 21 – Sunday, March 22, 2015 at UNC-Chapel Hill in the FedEx Global Education Center. The conference created a forum to think through theory and method in concert with the Study of Islam broadly defined. The conference attempted to push the limits of Islamic Studies as traditionally constituted within the academy, as well as pushing the theory of limits/limits of theory that has long ignored the value of Islamicate materials.

The Eleventh Annual Duke-UNC Graduate Islamic Studies Conference (2014) “Cartographies of Islam: Creating Location and The Places Beyond Meaning.” The conference took place on February 15 and 16, 2014 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The conference examined various cartographical creations by and on Muslim populations, which render social organization and behavior meaningful through a particular understanding of geographic and cosmic space. The Call For Papers deadline was December 20, 2013.

The Tenth Annual Duke-UNC Graduate Islamic Studies Conference (2013) “(De-)Centering Islam and the Question of Authenticity,” it took place February 16-17, 2013, at Duke University. The Call For Papers deadline was December 1, 2012.

The Ninth Annual Duke-UNC Graduate Islamic Studies Conference (2012): “Making Sense of Islam: Sensuality and Affect in the Muslim Humanities” marked a turn from a bounded study of the “Islamic sciences” to a more capacious engagement with Muslim articulations of the human experience in its multiple dimensions. This engagement with human experience both incorporates and moves beyond the intellectual to include the body, affect, sensation, and arts as sites of understanding, generating an interdisciplinary conversation about how diverse Muslim traditions—ritual, ceremonial, artistic, literary, philosophical, and legal—participate in and invoke the sensate and the affective.

The Eighth Annual Duke-UNC Graduate Islamic Studies Conference (2011) – “How Ideas Win: Formations of Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy In Muslim Practice and Thought” was aimed at generating interdisciplinary discussion around the formation and function of orthodox and heterodox views and practices across Islamicate history. The conference considered orthodoxy not in terms of an essential and unified core, but as an emergent and contested category. By looking at how this category comes into being and shifts across time and place, they seek to understand the function of power and agency as key elements in the formation, evolution, and dissolution of orthodoxies.

The Seventh Annual Duke-UNC Graduate Islamic Studies Conference (2010) – “No!”: Subjectivity and Agency in Muslim Rights/Rites of Negation” welcomed diverse approaches to examine negation, agency, and the subject in the study of classical, medieval, and contemporary Islamicate contexts. Of particular interest were interdisciplinary approaches to this theme with regards to Muslim political theologies, Islamic textual canons, and Muslim minorities, including those of gender, sexuality, race, and class.

The Sixth Annual Duke-UNC Graduate Islamic Studies Conference (2009) – The theme of our conference, “Negotiating Multiple Islams,” is aimed specifically at generating discussion on how scholars that speak of Islam in its different contexts and its lived aspects respond to the issues that accompany such an approach. Some of the questions we seek to address are: How are competing forces of heterogeneity and homogeneity reconciled in the context of a global Islam? And methodologically, what impact does an emphasis on lived aspects of Islam have on the interpretation of historical sources?

The Fifth Annual Duke-UNC Graduate Islamic Studies Conference (2008) – “Embodying Islam: Religious Practice and Muslim Constructions of Self” aims to discuss embodiment in conjunction with the study of Islamicate texts and contexts. Embodiment has played a pivotal role throughout the history of Islam and Muslim societies. Islamic discourses not only shape how Muslims perform Islam, but also structure practices and rituals. In many instances, such a religious enterprise not only shapes the understanding of the body and subject-formation, but also of agency and autonomy.

The Fourth Annual Duke-UNC Graduate Islamic Studies Conference (2007) – This year’s conference, “Islam and the Challenge of Pluralism: Muslim Encounters with the Other,” will address ways in which Muslim communities have dealt with non-Muslim and minority Muslim groups in social spaces, cultural and artistic constructions, and intellectual discourses. The guest speakers for this year’s conference include Hasan Hanafi, Professor of Philosophy at Cairo University, Maulana Waris Mazhari from Dar ul-Uloom Deoband, and Kevin Reinhart, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Dartmouth College.

The Third Annual Duke-UNC Graduate Islamic Studies Conference (2006) – “Translating Islam.” In recent years there has been a growing interest in the question of translation across the humanities and in the social sciences. The linguistic and cultural turn that has shaped the modern formation of interpretive studies currently pushes toward further engagement with issues of translation, namely how concepts, ideas and practices are related to a more complex substrate in culture. In a more radical way, the theoretical frameworks derived from post-structuralism and post-colonial studies equate the ideal of translatability with that of universality. The aim of this conference is to explore ways in which the issue of translation figures in theories, methodologies, ethnographic and historiographic dimensions of the study of Islam and Muslim societies.

The Second Annual Duke-UNC Graduate Islamic Studies Conference (2005) – “Mapping Muslim Ethics” on Islamic Studies was organized by the Programs in Islamic Studies at Duke University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill on February 4-5, 2005. The most pressing questions in the study of Islam and Muslim societies are ethical in nature. Questions such as the validity of suicide/martyr bombings, interest-based banking, questions of governance, gender and bioethics are widely discussed among Muslims and non-Muslims. Though such debates often occur in a legalistic idiom, these dilemmas have far-reaching implications on the attitudes and worldviews of Muslims.

The First Annual Duke-UNC Graduate Islamic Studies Conference (2004) on Islamic Studies was organized by the Programs in Islamic Studies at Duke University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill on March 26-27, 2004. This two-day international conference explored topics around the broadly conceived theme of “New Directions in the Study of Islam and Culture.” This conference gathered together researchers from a wide spectrum of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences who are engaged in the study of Islam.