Workshop: "Religion as a Changing Category of Muslim Practice"

Armando Salvatore from McGill will be giving a keynote lecture, along with a multi-disciplinary line-up of scholars discussing the meaning and utility of the category “religion” (and its opposite, “secular”) in Muslim practice past and present. This is the first gathering (in real life) of the research network “Categories of Religion and the Secular in Islam” (CRSI), and is co-sponsored by BRAIS and Pembroke College, Oxford.

Convenors: Alex Henley ( and Nabeelah Jaffer (
Registration (free of charge) by 2nd May:

8.30-9.00 Registration, tea/coffee and pastries

9.00-9.50 Opening remarks from Armando Salvatore (Religious Studies, McGill University)
Unraveling the conundrum of religion in the study of Islam: Between Theology, Religious Studies and Social Theory.

10.00-11.15 Panel 1: Classical discourses in modern perspective
Bashir Saade (Religion and Politics, University of Stirling)
A few thoughts on the relation between dīn and milla: Implications on the modern ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ imagination.
Tayseer Abu Odeh (Comparative Literature, Arab Open University)
The secular-religious dichotomy in Islam: Avicenna and al-Razi’s counterpoint and the paradox of Theology (kalām).

11.30-12.45 Panel 2: Discourses of religion in modern history
Ayse Polat (Sociology, Istanbul Medeniyet University)
Mapping out late Ottoman terms for religion and irreligion.
Brannon Ingram (Religious Studies, Northwestern University)
Islamism’s dīn: Boundaries of ‘religion’ in Mawdudi and his successors.

12.45-14.00 Lunch in Pembroke dining hall

14.00-15.15 Panel 3: Demarcating religion in modern states
Alex Henley (Theology and Religion, University of Oxford)
Religion as a category of institutional practice in Middle Eastern states. Besnik Sinani (Grad School of Muslim Cultures and Societies, Freie Universität Berlin)
Entertainment projects as markers of religious reform: The shift in scope and sphere of religion in Saudi Arabia.

15.30-17.15 Panel 4: Ethnographies of religion in Muslim practice
Emanuelle Degli Esposti (Centre of Islamic Studies, University of Cambridge)
Charity as ritual: Religion, identity, and the unsettling of secular humanitarianism in Shi‘a Islam.
Liza Franke (Anthropology, Georg-August University Göttingen)
Searching for individual (non-)religious identities in Alexandria.
Giorgia Baldi (Law, University of Sussex)
Re-thinking Islam and Islamism: Hamas women between religion, secularism and neo-liberalism.