Monday, 20 April 2009

Conference: Britain & the Muslim World - edited highlights

Just back from the University of Exeter conference 'Britain & the Muslim World'. Something of a packed programme. I heard several useful papers, primarily from an historical perspective (check the link for details). Here are some edited highlights:

The conference included a screening of Sufi Soul, which is now on DVD (could do with a soundtrack CD).

There was a paper by Gerard Wiegers on Syed Mutawalli ad-Darsh's 'fatwas' from Q-News, some of which can be found online. It was somewhat nostalgic to think of those columns and their impact again.

Sophie Gilliat-Ray talked about her research on ulama in the UK, which links into her forthcoming book - there were also some good photos, I think some of them will turn up in the book.

Paul Auchterlonie updated on the DigiIslam project and related activities in HE. Read the report, if you haven't already.

Humayun Ansari gave a useful overview on 'Rethinking 'Orientalism'. I heard a number of papers on travellers and critical historical events, notably Nabil Matar's paper on Abu Mahilli and John Harrison.

There was a interesting paper and photos on 'Liberating Muslim Women', by Nadje Al-Ali (linked to her (and Nicola Pratt's) book What Kind of Liberation? : Women and the Occupation of Iraq).

There was a detailed paper focused on east London Muslims ('Faith, Class, Identity') by Rehana Ahmed - this is based on the OU/Oxford/Kings AHRC project Making Britain, which included important archive material.

Also a paper on 'Muslims in the media ghetto' by Amina Yaqin, which provided a welcome critical perspective on some of the BBC's output on Radio 4 (need to hear the programmes again now).

Inevitably at times there were several parallel sessions - which meant I missed a lot of potentially good material, even when running between sessions - but it was interesting to see the ways in which the emphasis was on diverse academic approaches to the study of Islam and Muslims in the UK and elsewhere.