Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society
Travelling Islam: The Circulation of Ideas in Islamic Africa
This programme starts from the idea that cultural discourse is one of the main engines of intellectual history and the history of ideas.
By following examples of Muslim discourse that have travelled across Islamic Africa, in different languages, scripts, and registers of expression, through different social environments and periods, we can deepen our understanding of the shaping of Islam in and through various African milieus. Bringing together perspectives of literature studies, history, and anthropology, this workshop aims to study circulating Islamic texts and discourses, not as monolithic and fixed archives but rather within a framework of ongoing translocal negotiation, and hence, creation, circulation, transformation, and re-appropriation.
The major questions on which we intend to focus are clustered around the interplay between cultural discourses, mobility, and intellectual history. We would like to look at a number of texts and their adaptations (e.g. Umm al-barahīn, Qiṣaṣ al-anbīya’, Qaṣīdat al-burda) to start investigating:
- by which type of individuals or networks (professional, family, trade, religious, such as sufi brotherhoods) they were promoted;
- through which media (i.e. manuscript, print, radio) they started circulating;
- how shared stories and themes (i.e. the Qiṣaṣ al-anbīya’) have been adapted to new cultural environments, into new languages and genres;
- how they have shaped intellectual discourses in multi-lingual regions of sub-Saharan Africa.
Furthermore, we would like to look at:
- how people’s mobility has influenced ideas (e.g. with regard to social practices like burial, divorce, the idea of the “other”, and of authority) in the localities of arrival as well as back home.
In 2020, a two-day workshop will be held at Leiden University on the circulation of texts, ideas and people in Islamic Africa with the objective to develop further synergies on this important theme (such as a book-project or larger research proposal). Dr Fallou Ngom, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the African Studies Centre at Boston University, will give the keynote lecture. The workshop will be organized in collaboration with the African Studies Centre Leiden and the Collaborative Research Group ‘Africa in the World - Rethinking Africa’s Global Connections’.