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James Schubel

In “Karbala as Sacred Space among North American Shi’a”, James Schubel describes how migrants from East Africa rely on traditional practices to preserve their cultural identities. Through establishing a “sacred center” to reenact rituals such as the battle of Karbala, Shi’a Muslims are able to claim a space that is simultaneously American and Islamic. This allows the community to remain in touch with their cultural identity as well as educate the youth about the significance of historical events such as the battle of Karbala.

I think it’s crucial for marginal communities to preserve culture in the diaspora. But I question if certain traditions such as the reenactment of rituals, become “lost in translation” in the diaspora. For example, Schubel underscores how the use of English has stirred controversy in the center. This is supposed to benefit the youth whose native language is English; however, many argue the ceremony should be presented in Urdu because it captures the emotional timbre.

I could see why this could be a concern after we watched the different portrayals of Karbala in the Middle East and in the diaspora. The performance of Karbala in the diaspora seemed to be a watered down version compared to the plays we saw in the Middle East.

I question whether there is a way to retain traditional practices in the diaspora without losing so much of its authenticity.

Boris Kochnev Memorial Seminar on Middle Eastern and Central Asian Numismatics

On Saturday, March 8, 2014, the Middle Eastern and Central Asian Program at Hofstra University will hold the Sixth Seminar on Middle Eastern and Central Asian Numismatics in Memoriam Boris Kochnev (1940-2002). If you are interested in presenting a paper, please send us the title of your talk by January 15. We are planning to form the program by February 1. By March 1 we expect brief abstracts of papers for pre-publication. The geography of presentations can range from the coasts Mediterranean Sea to the deserts of Xinjiang, while time frame is limited to pre-Modern times. Each talk will be allocated 20 minutes + 5 minutes for questions. For more information contact: During five previous seminars our participants were: Abigail Balbale (Bard Graduate Center, New York), Michael Bates (American Numismatic Society, New York), Arianna D’Ottone (La Sapienza Universita di Roma, Italy), Abdullah Ghouchani (Iran Bastan Museum, Tehran)Stefan Heidemann (Hamburg University, Germany), Judith Kolbas (Central Asian Numismatic Institute at Cambridge University, England), Konstantin Kravtsov (Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia), Dmirtry Markov (Markov Coins and Medals, New York), Aleksandr Naymark (Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York), Stuart Sears (Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts), Nicholas Sims-Williams (SOAS, London University, England), Pankaj Tandon (Boston University), Li Tiesheng (Beijing, China), Luke Treadwell (Oxford University, England), Daniel Varisco (Hofstra Unveristy) and Waleed Ziad (Yale Univeristy, New Haven, Connecticut).

New Issue: Journal of Sufi Studies

The editors are pleased to announce the publication of the new issue of the
“Journal of Sufi Studies.”

Journal of Sufi Studies 2.2 (2013)
Table of Contents


Arin Salamah-Qudsi. “Crossing the Desert: Siyāḥa and Safar as Key Concepts in Early Sufi Literature and Life.” pp. 129–147.

Ata Anzali. “The Emergence of the Ẕahabiyya in Safavid Iran.” pp. 149–175.

Kristian Petersen. “The Heart of Wang Daiyu’s Philosophy: The Seven Subtleties of Islamic Spiritual Physiology.” pp. 177–201.


Nile Green. Sufism: A Global History. Author: Alexander Knysh. pp. 203–206.

Saeko Yazaki. Islamic Mysticism and Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī: The Role of the Heart. Author: Martin Nguyen. pp. 207–209.

Jean-Jacques Thibon. L’œuvre d’Abū ‘Abd al-Raḥmān al-Sulamī (325/937-412/1021) et la formation du soufisme. Author: Jawid Mojaddedi. pp. 210–212.

Firoozeh Papan-Matin. Beyond Death: The Mystical Teachings of ʿAyn al-Quḍāt al-Hamadhānī. Author: Mohammed Rustom. pp. 213–216.

Aḥmad Ibn ʿAjība. The Book of Ascension to the Essential Truths of Sufism (Miʿrāj al-tashawwuf ilā ḥaqāʾiq al-taṣawwuf): A Lexicon of Sufic Terminology. Author: Irfan A. Omar. pp. 217–220.


A biannual journal published by Brill, the Journal of Sufi Studies furnishes an international scholarly forum for research on Sufism. Taking an expansive view of the subject, the journal brings together all disciplinary perspectives. It publishes peer-reviewed articles and book reviews on the historical, cultural, social, philosophical, political, anthropological, literary, artistic and other aspects of Sufism in all times and places. By promoting an understanding of the richly variegated Sufi tradition in both thought and practice and in its cultural and social contexts, the Journal of Sufi Studies makes a distinctive contribution to current scholarship on Sufism and its integration into the broader field of Islamic studies. The journal accepts submissions in English, French and German. Submission guidelines and procedures may be found at General queries may be addressed to the Executive Editor, Erik S. Ohlander, at ohlandee at

Please note that Brill has made free access to the online edition of the “Journal of Sufi Studies” available to individual scholars through the end of 2014. Individuals may activate this access by creating an individual user account at and entering the access token JSS4U in the “add content” field on the “my account” page.

Journal of Sufi Studies

A Lecture with Ozgen Felek: “Imperial Men – Manhood and Masculinity in Early Modern Ottoman Empire”

WHO: Ozgen Felek
WHERE: The Graduate Center, CUNY
WHEN: Thursday, December 5, 2013 6:30-8:00 PM Room 9207

What do we know about the past is mostly the world of men. What does manhood and masculinity mean to Muslims? How is Islamic masculinity formalized across historical periods and specific place? Dr. Felek focuses on the pre-modern constructions of manhood and masculinity in the early-modern Ottoman Empire. She argues that at the court of Sultan Murad III (r. 1574-1595), masculinity was not always tied to sexuality and relations between men and women. Rather, manhood and masculinity interacted with piety as a device to legitimize power and sovereignty in relations between the sultans and their subjects.

More details…

CfP: Cartographies of Islam: Creating Location and The Places Beyond Meaning (Deadline: December, 20)

Cartographies of Islam: Creating Location and The Places Beyond Meaning
11th Annual Duke-UNC Islamic Studies Graduate Student Conference University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, February 15 & 16, 2014

“So space acquires emotional and even rational sense by a kind of poetic process, whereby the vacant and anonymous reaches of distance are converted into meaning for us here.”
— Edward Said

The Duke-UNC Islamic Studies Graduate Student Organizing Committee is pleased to accept abstracts for our eleventh annual conference on the “Cartographies of Islam.” From this theme, we hope to examine various cartographical creations by and on Muslim populations, which render social organization and behavior meaningful through a particular understanding of geographic and cosmic space. In relation to meaningful work on Muslim networks of influence and exchange, we are particularly interested in the role of social-spatial orders to situate thought and experience. From the celestial to the political, maps provide orientation but also limits. As such, we take a corollary interest in the peripheral to explore marked boundaries in Islamic thought and Muslim societies as sites that bear both division and powerful forms of alterity.

We invite papers from a range of disciplines (anthropology, art and art history, design, geography, history, law, literature, music, philosophy, political science, religious studies, and sociology) that examine such questions within historical and contemporary Islamicate contexts.

Possible themes for papers include but are not limited to:

· Pre-Islamic figurations of space at work in Muslim majority contexts
· The Differing Wilayat of Sufis and Sultans
· Lost-Found Muslims in the Wilderness of the West
· Technology in the creation of digital sacred space
· Spatiality and Islamic Theological Authority
· Urban planning and architecture in Muslim imperial cities
· Arabic/Arab/Arabia as orientation point and the persistence of an Islamic homeland(s)
· Poetry, Music, and other Artforms as cosmological roadmaps to the divine
· Muslim theological perspectives on the environment

As a hallmark of the Duke-UNC Islamic Studies Conference, we will provide opportunity for interactive, deliberative, and interdisciplinary engagement with scholarly work in progress by gathering in an intimate workshop format. We expect that those invited to present papers will remain present for the duration of the two-day conference in order to engage the other participants in a true exchange of ideas. Lunch and refreshments will be provided on both days, and a formal dinner will be held on Saturday night.

Limited financial assistance to cover travel expenses will be offered to those who demonstrate financial need.

Proposal Submission Requirements: Please submit at minimum a 500-word abstract accompanied by a working bibliography and CV to by December 20, 2013. In addition, fill out this brief biographical form at the time of your conference submission. Submissions that include a written paper are highly preferred. Ph.D. students in advanced stages of research and dissertation writing are especially encouraged to apply.


Upcoming Conference: Arabs, mawlâs and dhimmis, December 11-12, 2013

Arabs, mawlâs and dhimmis: Scribal practices and the social construction of knowledge in Late Antiquity and Medieval Islam

WHO: Convened by Hugh Kennedy and Myriam Wissa; Organised by Myriam Wissa
WHEN: 11 and 12 December 2013
WHERE: the Warburg Institute, London

In the past few years criticisms have been levelled at the restriction of high-ranking or low-ranking “scribe”, secretary, copyist or calligrapher to produce or reproduce texts. Thus, recent studies have focused on evidence of scribal activity in the writing and transmission of knowledge in tangible media, more significantly manuscripts. There is a great merit in these claims but there are some difficulties. Neither the Late Antique nor the medieval Islamic worlds should be considered homogeneous. They consisted of a diverse set of cultures, religions and societies where Arabs, mawlâ(non-Arab Muslim converts) and dhimmis co-existed. There may be similarities in concept but there are likely to be differences in practices due to regional traditions. Trade connections and exchange also created fluidity in the construction of knowledge. When knowledge and writing are juxtaposed from across the Empire, they suggest very different directions for research in specific time and space. In addition one can identify linguistic, political, administrative, legal, historical and geographic categories of knowledge whose potential is triggered by certain needs and values. In the majority of cases, the craft of writing was merely used as a state-sponsored tool of control. The contact between different social and cultural groups resulting in the transmission of ideas leads one to a number of questions that might be asked. Was knowledge constructed only via patrons, via makers or via both patrons and makers? Was it constructed through social pressure? To what extent was the process of transmission via writing a representation of available knowledge? How does this knowledge appear in the terminology and tone of writing? Positing these questions in the context of Late Antiquity and Medieval Islam from al-Andalus through North Africa, Egypt, and Syria to Iraq, Persia and Bactria as far afield as Turfan and Ethiopia, the workshop will address linguistic (lexical and grammatical), political, rhetoric, legal and religious classes of knowledge. By focusing on the relationships between the processes of composing, copying, transcoding, archiving, the “construction of meaning” and the transmission and reception of scribal lore within the core of society, it offers a different perspective on the treatment of scribal practices.  This workshop is organised by Myriam Wissa in the context of her Leverhulme funded research project “Bridging Religious Difference in a Multicultural Eastern Mediterranean Society: Communities of Artisans and their Commercial Networks in Egypt from Justinian to the ‘Abbasids (6th-10th centuries)” undertaken in co-operation with Hugh Kennedy. The project seeks to study various trades. “Arabs, mawlâs and dhimmis. Scribal practices and the social construction of knowledge in Late Antiquity and Medieval Islam” will bring together scholars of Late Antique, early and medieval Islamic history and linguistics. Arabists as well as an Egyptologist, a Hittitologist, a Second Temple’s Jewish historian and a Byzantinist are concerned with defining more clearly how written knowledge was constructed and accessed within elite (al-khāssa) and non-elite (al-‘Amma) communities and how scribal practices converged from al-Andalus to Khurasan.

The program of the conference can be found on the Warburg Institute website.

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Fall 2013 Near Eastern Studies Graduate Student Colloquium

Saturday, November 9th, 2013, 10 am-3 pm

1022 Thayer Academic Building

Osterman Commons, 1st floor Institute for the Humanities

10.00 Coffee

10:30 Tayfun Bilgin (Ancient Civilizations and Biblical Studies)

Kantuzzili, the Murderer and Begetter of Hittite Kings

11.00 Gina Konstantopoulos (Ancient Civilizations and Biblical Studies)

Elsewhere is a Negative Mirror: Aratta as a Constructed Landscape in Sumerian Literary Texts

11:30 Rodney Caruthers (Ancient Civilizations and Biblical Studies)

Azazel: Literary Traditions & Iconography

Noon Lunch (provided)

1.00 Neville McFerrin (Interdisciplinary Program in Classical Art and Archaeology)

He Should Have Put a Ring on It: Self-Presentation, Power, and Personal Adornment on Palmyrene Funerary Busts

1:30 Ali Hussain (Arabic, Armenian, Persian, Turkish, and Islamic Studies)

Hospitality as Knowledge Production: the Mysticism of Ibn Arabi as a Case Study

2.00 Aiyub Palmer (Arabic, Armenian, Persian, Turkish, and Islamic Studies)

 A New Epistemology of Sainthood; Wisdom in the Theosophy of al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi

2:30 Paul Love (Arabic, Armenian, Persian, Turkish, and Islamic Studies)

 A Long, Centuries-Old Murmuring: Medieval Islamic Manuscripts & Their Modern Material Histories

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