Connaught Summer Institute on Islamic Studies
The Study of Islam in Competing Publics
The University of Toronto – May 25-June 3, 2014
Call for Fellows 2014
Program Description, Summer 2014
The University of Toronto’s 2014 Connaught Summer Institute on Islamic Studies invites applications from pre-dissertation PhD students for the second innovative, intensive 8-day seminar on Islamic studies and research design, to be held from May 25-June 3, 2014. Using the City of Toronto as the backdrop to our inquiry, the 2014 Connaught Summer Institute on Islamic Studies will address the implication of competing publics for the study of Islam. “Islam” does not exist in a vacuum. A context always accompanies the use of the labels “Islam”, “Islamic”, or “Muslim” in the academy, government, civil society and elsewhere.
Accounting for that context and recognizing its effect and implications for advanced research in Islamic studies are the aims of the 2014 Summer Institute.
For example, Canada’s political landscape gives shape to the discourse of Islam across the country. If we use the metaphor of a “container” to flesh out what we mean by “public”, we can understand that Canada’s history and current socio-political climate give shape to the “container” within which debates (academic and otherwise) on Islam occur. Shifting the container-i.e. shifting the public-arguably shifts the imagined possibilities for any study of Islam. As an example, the discourse on gender and sexuality in Canada makes possible certain research questions in Islamic studies at the university (e.g. the implication of gay marriage on the creation of religious spaces for LGBT
Muslims) that might not even be possible or imaginable in places like Somalia, Malaysia, and Pakistan.
The focus on publics is designed to help graduate fellows grapple with how their research projects also are embedded in a public, to account for the effect of that public on their research, without at the same time seeking some illusory possibility of achieving a research standpoint outside of all such publics.
Centering attention on competing publics is particularly appropriate in this historical moment in Islamic studies, given the crises and conflicts around the world that invoke in some way or another questions about Islam. The military ousting of Mohammad Morsi in Egypt raises fundamental questions about how that particular public imagines “Islam”
and the “Islamic”, and what that imagined reality implies for the study of Islam in Egyptian institutions of higher education. Alternatively, Quebec’s recent effort to regulate whether government officials can wear religious symbols reflects a different public in which Islam and the Muslim subject are imagined in light of a distinct history and nationalist movement, and with potential implications for the study of Islam in universities in that province and in Canada more broadly.
Indonesia is yet a different public, in which a federal government that represents a majority Muslim population must contend with a religiously diverse nation, vigilante and, in some cases, governmental persecution of Muslim minorities (i.e. the Ahmadi Muslim Community), and an autonomous region, Aceh, that seeks to implement a more extensive and rigorous form of Sharia than the federal government would permit within its jurisdiction. What this context implies for the study of Islam (and the possibility of what Islam can be and mean) in Indonesian institutions is, by virtue of the public context, going to be different than other examples.
Toronto is home to a wide range of communities, all of which co-exist in an expansive, but nonetheless defined geographic space. Among those communities is a vibrant, diverse, and at times even fractious, Muslim population. Home to Sunnis, Ismaili Shi’a, Twelver Shi’a, and Ahmadis, Toronto hosts immigrants from South Asia, the Arab World, West India, China, and Africa. In addition, the city is home to an active LGBT Muslim community. Toronto provides a field for inquiry that will provoke fundamental discussions among the participants about research subjectsin Islamic studies and the researcher’s relationship to those subjects.
The Institute utilizes a distinct pedagogy to reorient the researcher’s subjectivity. The pedagogy involves: site visits to different Muslim communities in the Greater Toronto Area; formal classroom engagement on research method and design; and structured small-group discussions about epistemic questions that, once clarified, help to create the conditions for more effective and innovative research. Attention to how knowledge is embedded, reasoned, and affective will enhance reflections upon research subjects in Islamic and Muslim studies. In particular, the Institute will help participants reflect upon the research endeavor as being indelibly marked by claims of difference, inclusion, exclusion and belonging.
To foster an intensive research seminar, the number of fellows in each year’s Summer Institute is small, diverse, and reflects a diverse range of perspectives and interests. As such, the application process is an open, international competitive process. Successful applicants will have their travel and accommodation costs fully covered. Applicants must be pre-dissertation graduate students enrolled in a PhD (or equivalent) academic program, and focused on the study of Islam. Applicants from all fields of Islamic studies are encouraged to apply.
Pending final approval of funding, applicants will be notified of final selection process within two weeks of the application deadline.
Application deadline: January 7, 2014 15, 2013