Actions and Detail Panel
In Search of the Umma: The Social Imaginary and its Discontents
Tue 6 December 2016, 18:00 – 19:30 GMT
The Politics and International Studies Department at SOAS, University of London invites you to a SOAS Centenary Lecture with Professor James Piscatori.
Description: Muslim societies are inexorably interconnected with cultural exchanges, intimate political interactions, and a degree of economic interdependence: ‘Islam’ has seemed naturally trans-local and pan-Islamic aspirations enduring. This lecture examines how Muslims have dealt with the idea of solidarity, even unity, as seemingly contradictory trends unfolded – as states became entrenched in the Muslim world and as broader networks have emerged. The ‘one community’ (umma wahida) referenced in the Qur’an (e.g., 5:48) has, over time, been idealised, even though its precise meaning has remained vague. While it has become a moral ‘gold standard’ by which political and religious authorities are often assessed, different answers have been proffered as to how encompassing, internally unified, and institutionalised the umma should be. A community is often thought to move ‘strangers’ to ‘friends’ through encircling networks of trust, but to move from the default position of ‘brotherhood’ to something more self-consciously integrated involves interlocking systems of meaning that are at best elusive. Yet other forms of identity — secular, national, ethnic — while persisting, can also be challenged and may have lost cultural authority. In effect, the social imaginary of Islamic community has developed as several tensions have simultaneously unfolded: authenticity/hybridity, implicitness/explicitness, detachment/attachment, and communitarianism/cosmopolitanism. This lecture seeks to shed light on an evolving normative vision and its contested place in Muslim modernities.
Professor James Piscatori is a leading scholar of political Islam, currently based at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University. He was previously Head of the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University, and prior to that, Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and of Wadham College at the University of Oxford. He has held professorial appointments in the Department of International Politics, the University of Wales, and the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University. He has also been a Research Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, and Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, New York.
Professor Piscatori’s work has centred on two themes: Islam and international relations, and Islamic political thought, particularly as it relates to democratisation in Middle Eastern societies. His area focus has been principally, but not exclusively, on the Arab states of the Gulf. Recently, he has been working on pan-Islamism and Islamic transnationalism, and specifically investigating the contemporary meaning of the ummah (community of the faith).
Professor Piscatori is the author of Islam in a World of Nation-States (1986) and co-author of Muslim Politics (1996, 2004). He is the editor of Islam in the Political Process (1983) and The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World, (2009) as well as co-editor of Muslim Travellers: Pilgrimage, Migration, and the Religious Imagination (1990). In addition to works on modern Islam, he has written on the politics and international relations of the Gulf, co-editing for example Monarchies and Nations: Globalisation and Identity in the Arab States of the Gulf (2011). He has served on several international collaborative committees such as the Committee for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies of the Social Science Research Council. He has also been co-editor of the Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics series.
The lecture will be introduced by Professor Salwa Ismail of the Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS, University of London.
This event has been organised by Dr. Reem Abou-El-Fadl, email: email@example.com and Marina English, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are my transport/parking options getting to the event?
Public transport is advised. Russell Square Station (London Underground) on the Piccadilly line is less than five minutes walk away. There are no parking facilities on campus.
Alternatively Euston (Mainline and London Underground) and Euston Square stations are also within walking distance.
Please check your travel plans in advance.
Where can I contact the organiser with any questions?
email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Does the Brunei Building have access for wheelchairs/people with mobility problems?
The Brunei Building is easily accessible to all visitors, with a ramp at the entrance, flat floors within, and a selection of lifts and accessible conveniences.