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[liberationtech] CfP: Being Muslim in the Age of Facebook, Twitter & YouTube (Symposium Leuven, April 18-19 2013)

Yosem Companys companys at
Sun Jan 27 19:59:35 PST 2013

From: Katrien Pype <Katrien.Pype at>

“Being a Muslim in the Age of Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.
Anthropological Reflections on Media and Religion in Bamako, Cairo and
Symposium, April 18-19th, 2013, KU Leuven

Kelly Askew (UMichigan)
Charles Hirschkind (UCBerkeley)
Dorothea Schulz (University of Cologne)

September 2012, Youtube postings of the film “Innocence of Muslims” sparked
manifestations of
indignation all over the world, many African cities included. While at
times, the demonstrations were peaceful, Reuters mentioned that Shi'ite
Muslims in the Nigerian town of Katsina burned U.S., French and Israeli
flags, and a religious leader called for protests to continue until the
makers of the film and cartoons are punished. The Islamic Movement in
Nigeria organized a protest march in Kano, northern Nigeria, in which
thousands marched peacefully. On 21 September 2012, thousands of Muslims
rallied through the roads after Friday prayers in Dar es Salaam where
different speeches, which condemned the film, were provided. Men, women
children and even elders, together made a peaceful march. Elsewhere, like
in Cairo, riots occurred and people were killed. The reactions did not only
reflect a concern about respect for Islam communities. Rather, the protests
themselves became moments in which local state actions gained meaning as
well. Authorities in Cairo, for example, are said to have ordered the
arrest of seven US-based Egyptian Coptic Christians for their alleged
involvement in the anti-Islam video. In Bamako, on the other hand, protests
were scheduled to take place in front of the American Embassy, but in the
end were canceled. According to rumors, protesters feared that violent
interventions by the national army would offer the government the occasion
to mobilize respect for and support of “the US”.

These events trigger questions concerning the imagination of the West; the
representation of Islam; and the dialectics between politics and social
media. We want to invite three prominent anthropologists who have done
extensive fieldwork on media and popular forms of mobilization in three
different African countries where Islam is important: Egypt, Mali and

During a roundtable session, the scholars will address the two following

1. “What does it mean to be a Muslim in the global media age?” How do media
media practice and media use influence piety, faith and the public
manifestation of one’s religious identity?

2. And, how do the public manifestations (sometimes violent, sometimes
peaceful) by Islam
believers and triggered by media influence their daily interactions with
other religious
practitioners? How are these mobilizations inscribed within local
conversations with Christian
communities and other religious groups? And, how  are these also
transformed by inter-religious

3. What kinds of moral communities are being created throughout the media?
To which extent do
new media provide a platform for shaping pious self-understandings and can
religious groups draw on these new technologies to establish and create new
collectivities or counter-publics?

>From Representation to Mobilization

Anthropologists are turning more and more to the significance of social
media. In particular, compelling research deals with how new media
platforms impact lifestyles, construct “imagined communities” or ethical
communities, and shape agency, fantasies and expectations.

Influential scholars that have set the theoretical background for an
anthropology of social media are
Benedict Anderson and Arjun Appadurai. In Imagined Communities (1983),
Anderson analysed how the formation of nations depend to a high degree on
innovations in communication technologies, in particular the print press.
By reading journal articles that discuss issues of “common interest”,
“national publics” came into being. Newspapers were written in a language
its readers shared, and enabled the emergence of a national consciousness.

Apart from the formation of national groups, media of all kinds are
fundamental in the creation and
consolidation of religious groups and the mobilization of transcendental
powers as well (Meyer and
Moors 2006). Challenging for students of contemporary society is that
innovations in communication technologies such as radio, television and,
especially social media, give rise to various kinds of new communities and
publics, new forms of attachment and belonging, and novel ways of
experimenting with collective and private identities. In particular, social
media bring to the fore the participatory element of “the public”. Writing
comments on e-platforms, sharing images and photo-shopping them, blogging
or updating one’s online status are practices that bring out the agency of
members of these new publics, and that can induce mass actions.

Appadurai’s elaboration  (1990) on the mediascape draws our attention to
the trajectories of print and electronic media. These travel along fluid
and irregular “global cultural flows”, which cross local and global
boundaries, and produce new realities. Probably best known about the
contemporary Muslim mediascape, because of the widespread media coverage,
are the Mohammed cartoons published in Danish newspapers and, recently, the
anti-Islam film produced in the US. These images, originating in Western
“Christian” societies but immediately dialoguing with Islam leaders and
practices of faith mobilize feelings of anger, frustration, hatred and
disgust; they inspire violent confrontations and peaceful dialogues; they
force Muslims and non-Muslims to reflect about the worlds they inhabit, and
to take position. These forms of mobilization may be new; yet, they also
stand in local histories of community formation, public dialogue and
registers of faith expression. We are inviting three high-profile
anthropologists who work on African urban spaces and who address the
interaction between Islam and media or popular culture and political
mobilization in societies where Islam reigns hegemonic. They will situate
local engagements with global images and address political mobilization,
connectivity in local, transnational and global networks, and social and
religious subjectivities within local communicative spaces.

Invited speakers:

• Prof. Dr. Kelly Askew, associate Professor at the University of Michigan

Kelly Askew has pursued extensive fieldwork in East Africa along the
Swahili Coast of Tanzania
and Kenya on topics relating to music and politics, media, performance,
nationalism, socialism,
and postsocialism. In addition to academic work, she is actively involved
in film and television
production, having worked in various capacities on two feature films and a
number of
documentary films. Her publications include two edited volumes,  African
Postsocialisms (coedited with M. Anne Pitcher, Edinburgh University Press,
2006) and The Anthropology of Media:
A Reader (co-edited with Richard R. Wilk, Blackwell Publishers, 2002),
articles on topics ranging
from nationalism to gender relations to Hollywood film production, and a
book on music and
politics in Tanzania entitled  Performing the Nation: Swahili Music and
Cultural Production in
Tanzania (University of Chicago Press, 2002).

• Prof. Dr. Charles Hirschkind, associate professor at the University of
California, Berkeley

Charles Hirschkind’s research interests concern religious practice, media
technologies, and
emergent forms of political community in the Middle East, North America,
and Europe. Taking
contemporary developments within the traditions of Islam as his primary
focus, he has explored
how various religious practices and institutions have been revised and
renewed both by modern
norms of social and political life, and by the styles of consumption and
culture linked to global
mass media practices. His first book,  The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette
Sermons and Islamic
Counterpublics (Columbia 2006), explores how a popular Islamic media
form-the cassette
sermon-has profoundly transformed the political geography of the Middle
East over the last three
decades. Also see his article“New Media and Political Dissent in Egypt,”
de Dialectologia y Tradiciones Populares 65, 1 (2010): 137-153, in which he
situates the Tahrir
manifestations within a longer history of political mobilization and
transformations in the Cairene
public sphere.

• Prof. Dr. Dorothea Schulz, professor at the University of Cologne

Dorothea Schulz’ research, publications, and teaching are centered on the
anthropology of
religion, political anthropology, Islam in Africa, gender studies, media
studies, and public
culture. She has extensive field research experience in West Africa,
particularly in urban and
rural Mali and has recently embarked on a new research project in Eastern
Uganda that deals
with Muslim politics of education as well as with intra-Muslim debate over
burial rituals and
proper religious practice. Her new book Muslims and New Media in West
Africa: Pathways to
God (Indiana University Press, 2011) analyzes Muslim revivalist groups in
Mali that draw
inspiration from transnational trends of Muslim moral reform and promote a
relatively new
conception of publicly enacted religiosity (significantly displayed in
feminized signs of piety).

Call for Papers

Interested participants are invited to submit a short abstract of their
work (maximum 250 words) and write a short resume about themselves and the
reason why they want to participate to this workshop.

They should also indicate how their work connects with any of the invited
speakers. Nine applicants will be selected to present their ongoing work in
PhD seminars, while another selection of the applicants will be invited to
participate to the discussions and the conference at Leuven.

Applications should not exceed 1000 words and should be sent to
Leuvenconference2013 at by February 1st, 2012. Acceptances will be
notified by the end of February.

Organising commitee:

Katrien Pype (IARA – KU Leuven)
Nadia Fadil (IMMRC – KU Leuven)
Jori De Coster (IMMRC – KU Leuven)

Sponsored by IARA (, IMMRC ( & Gülen Chair for
Studies (KU Leuven)
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