Cadbury Conference 2016 Bodies of Text: Learning to be Muslim in West Africa

The Department of African Studies and Anthropology at the University of Birmingham invites applications to contribute to the 2016 Cadbury Conference on ‘Bodies of Text: Learning to be Muslim in West Africa’.

The programme is supported by the Cadbury Fund held at the Department of African Studies and Anthropology and the European Research Council (Starting Researcher Grant No 283466, Knowing each other: everyday religious encounters, social identities and tolerance in southwest Nigeria). It is organised by the University of Birmingham in collaboration with the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and Northwestern University Consortium for African Studies.

Call for papers

Organised by the Department of African Studies and Anthropology, the 2016 Cadbury programme explores the practices, disciplines and debates through which West Africans learn to be Muslims. Focusing on the elaborate and complex systems of Islamic learning that have emerged in the region, we ask how knowledge about being Muslim is passed on and acquired through the circulation of ideas and texts, and through physical, emotional and social forms of discipline. In the often multi-religious and multi-ethnic societies of West Africa, how does one learn to be Muslim and differentiate oneself from non-Muslim others? And how does one develop a particular Islamic identity amongst many ways of being Muslim?

We would welcome contributions which explore in particular the following topics:

Text and the body: The circulation of ideas about being Muslim occurs through bodies of text but also through the body itself. How do the ritual and repetitive uses of an individual’s human body contribute to the establishment of Muslim identity? How do men and women learn to be Muslim through the physical disciplines of particular religious practices but also through daily labour, recreation, dress and bodily comportment? What insights can be gained by thinking about these kinds of physical practices as a part of the circulation of what it means to be Muslim?

Teaching and learning processes, technologies, and relations: How are texts and bodily practices that inform religious learning produced? How are they circulated and received by different groups? In what ways do texts and practices of Islamic education support particular (political, economic or intellectual) interests and ambitions? How, if at all, do they enable the reproduction of particular social formations? How, if at all, do they bring about social change and introduce new ways of being Muslim? Who is recognised as an appropriate teacher in different contexts? How does the relationship between teacher and learner influence the learning process?

Power/Knowledge: In what ways are different forms of learning associated with different epistemologies and Islamic traditions? How can we study the genealogies of particular discourses of Islamic identity and of religious education? Do different forms of knowledge and learning technologies reflect differences between men and women, as well as persons of different ages, generations, and status groups? How do structural forms of knowledge production and individual choice influence the ways in which people learn to be Muslim in different African contexts and at different moments? How are such differences embodied?

Hierarchies: How, if at all, do social hierarchies structure the production of, and access to, religious education? Religious education has the potential to either entrench or undermine social hierarchies: what determines its role in shaping, changing, or maintaining inequalities? In what ways is social difference expressed (or challenged) through textual debates and bodily practices?

Denials and refusals: And finally, how does the refusal to know or learn certain things, to engage in specific routines of learning, or to learn from particular people relate to different Muslim identities or forms of self-assertion? In what ways is resistance to knowledge associated with the body and physical practices?

Please send your title and abstract (250-500 words) by email to ALL THREE recipients by 15th February 2016:

The Cadbury Conference will be held at the Department of African Studies and Anthropology, University of Birmingham on 30 June and 1 July 2016. The conference will begin at 10am on the 30th of June and close at 5pm on the 1st July 2016.

Travel expenses and accommodation for the duration of the conference will be provided to those presenting at the conference by the organisers.