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CFP: “Sectarianism in Islam and Muslim Communities”

CALL FOR PAPERS: 44th Annual Conference of the North American Association of Islamic and Muslim Studies (NAAIMS)
“Sectarianism in Islam and Muslim Communities”

Brown University, Providence, RI Saturday, September 19, 2015
Deadlines: Abstracts: May 15, 2015 Final Papers: August 31, 2015

Sectarian difference and conflict has been part of Islamic history from early times, beginning in a tangible, if not fully established, way during the First Civil War in the mid-1st/7th century. By the late 3rd/9th century, Islamic heresiographers began to document a wide variety of real or reified sectarian identities within the Islamic community. This sectarian history has always been tempered, however, by a well-established Islamic principle that allowed for a certain degree of theological and legal pluralism within the Muslim community, and the fairly widespread acceptance of the idea that the unity of the Muslim ummah was best achieved through the tolerance of a certain degree of diversity. Indeed, some might argue that “sects” and “sectarianism,” as they are understood in a Christian context, do not actually exist in the Islamic world, given that the unifying fundamentals of Islam – its scripture, its central beliefs and practices – are essentially the same across all interpretations of Islam, and communal boundaries have historically been more porous and informal between, for example, Sunnis and Shi`is than between certain Christian sects and denominations.

Nonetheless, conflict has waxed and waned between Sunnis and Shi`is, and among Shi`i groups, and there have been varying degrees of intolerance for smaller sectarian groups in the Islamic world. Today, sectarian intolerance and violence, particularly between Sunnis and Twelver Shi`is seems to be growing increasingly acute, not only in the Middle East, but also in South and Southeast Asia as well. This conference aims to explore the conceptual and religious significance of such sectarian divisions in Islam, as well as the practical and material manifestations of those divisions in Muslim communities both historically and in the contemporary world. The conference aims to examine the issue both in the context of Muslim majority countries, and among minority Muslim communities in North American and Europe. It seeks to investigate not only the religious and historical origins and bases for sectarian
differences in the Islamic world, but also the social, political, and economic conditions that generate, exacerbate, or ameliorate sectarian tensions.

We invite a diverse range of papers from professors and advanced Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences.

Abstracts (250 words) are due by May 15, 2015:

Abstracts ONLY from professors and advanced Ph.D. candidates will be considered. Abstracts will be evaluated according to the following categories: originality of theme, clear data and methodology, clarity and relevance of the proposal to the conference theme, and contribution to the conference theme. Final papers must be submitted by August 31, 2015.

Program panelists are required to preregister and pay non-refundable conference fees by June 29, 2015.

Program Chair: Professor Beshara Doumani, Brown University, Providence, RI
Send abstracts and final papers to Layla Sein, Director of Academic
Affairs, at