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Saturday, March 2, 2019
FedEx Global Education Center, room 1009, UNC Chapel Hill

9:00-9:30 am – Breakfast and Registration

9:30 am-12:00 pm – Panel One: “Race, Racialization, and Minoritization”

Abstract: In October of 1856, the famed French stage magician, Jean-Eugéne Robert-Houdin, performed as the “French marabout” before an Arab and Berber audience in Algiers. Invited by the French colonial government, Robert-Houdin’s performance sought to undermine the perceived mystical, political, military, and cultural influence of the Algerian marabouts. What role did a stage magician have to play in the colonial project? Who were these Algerian marabouts to give the French colonial government such anxiety? How did presumed associations with magic, illusion, excess, and madness take on racial, gendered, and sexual connotations that inscribed the marabout as a queer and abject figure in the French colonial imagination? And, how did this abject figure come to signify and represent the Algerian Muslim population? In this paper, I argue that magic, namely rational, scientific European stage magic, was deployed by the French colonial government to humiliate, dominate, queer, and ultimately, abject, the Algerian marabout and consequently, the Algerian Muslim population. Through a close-reading of Jean-Eugéne Robert-Houdin’s memoir, Confidence d’un prestigitateur (A Conjuror’s Confession), I examine the ways in which certain types of magic stuck to and came to signify the Algerian marabout and Algerian Muslim population as nonnormative bodies, sexualities, and genders. “Magic” here was used as a means of constructing the normative Enlightened and rational European body in contradistinction to the nonnormative (deviant), irrational, Algerian marabout body. Thus, Robert-Houdin’s memoir demonstrates that not only was the marabout itself a constructed category, a project of the colonial imaginary, but also, that the (re)production of the French colonial identity required the abjection of the Algerian Muslim identity.

Bio- Brittany Landorf: My work explores the dynamic of gender in North African Sufism through historical and contemporary lenses. I am particularly interested in the discursive formation and embodied performance of modern Islamic masculinities at the nexus of revival Sufi orders, Islamist parties, state reforms, and emergent youth movements in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Prior to my doctoral work at Emory University, I received an MTS in Islamic Studies from Harvard University (2018) and a BA in International Studies, Religious Studies, and Arabic Language from Macalester College (2014). When I’m not studying, I enjoy baking bread, watching music videos, reading, and tending my plants.

Abstract: Activists from Morocco’s 2016 Rif Movement have repeatedly been categorized as potential terrorists by state actors and Western commentators in accordance with the racialized logic of the post-9/11 War on Terror. While the racialized nature of the War on Terror has been widely recognized, this paper seeks to draw attention to the older colonial legacy of racialized divide et impera that it closely resembles. In French North Africa, subjects were categorized as either assimilable “white-passing” Berbers (Amazigh), or dark-skinned, backwards Arab Muslims. Within this colonial racial logic the Amazigh were seen as more assimilable to the enlightened, progressive European modernity of the French because they were fairer-skinned and less religiously orthodox than Arabs, i.e. they were less ‘Muslim’. This logic, of course, was then used to exacerbate historical, linguistic, and cultural differences between Arabs and Amazighs for the purposes of empire. Similarly, within the logic of the War on Terror, securitization is based on the idea that religiosity and fundamentalist religious views are the primary predictors of terrorism and thus those possessing them ought to be pre-emptively surveilled and even punished. While within Western contexts, these indicators are used to isolate a racialized category of minority Muslims for surveillance, in Muslim-majority countries like Morocco, these indicators are used to cast a wide net under the guise of terrorism-prevention to justify repression of entire populations, and especially political dissenters. The Rif Movement offers a striking example of this, as decidedly pacifist protest leaders with no organized religious links were convicted on terrorist charges and imprisoned in the summer of 2017. Based on fieldwork in the region during and immediately following the Rif Movement, this papers seeks to draw out the similarities and differences between the colonial logic of divide and conquer and the War on Terror logic of securitization through the lens of the Moroccan case, thereby contributing to an understanding of the racial underpinnings of contemporary anti-terrorism frameworks and their effects on the Muslim subject.

Bio- Ahmed Mitiche: Ahmed Mitiche is pursuing his M.A. in Modern Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Michigan. He previously conducted fieldwork through a Fulbright scholarship during the 2016 Hirak al-Rif protests in Morocco. His research interests include race and racialization, political dissent and mobilization, post-colonial studies, and War on Terror politics.


Abstract: Islam and the American South are often cast as oppositional figures. In spite of this, there is today a growing community of white, southern converts to Islam, and this paper will address their attempts to reckon with their identity as Southerners and Muslims. The recent PBS short film Redneck Muslim and Imam Shane Atkinson’s Facebook community “The Southern Hospitality Islamic Center” both serve to evidence the negotiated construction of a Muslim present by those who maintain connections to a decidedly “un-Muslim” past, as discussed by Zareena Grewal in Islam is a Foreign Country. Additionally, Juliette Galonnier’s discussion of white Muslims’ “non-normativity” can be addressed from a different angle in a study of white Southern converts; in a Muslim community that identifies with a cultural heritage that is so distinctly white, can white Muslims really be considered non-normative on the basis of the ways they are perceived by others? The Black Muslims who discuss the topic of “redneck Muslims” with Imam Atkinson in the PBS short film Redneck Muslim make clear that white Muslims are in fact racially perceived first and foremost as white. This paper argues that white non-normativity is based rather on the generative prospects of new relationships predicated on the disruption of the “white habitus,” here taken from Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, by the formation of relationships between white and non-white Muslims that do not center or prioritize whiteness.

Bio- Zachary Faircloth: I am currently a graduate student at the University of Florida in the Religion Department, focusing on the intersections of Islam and critical race in the US with a particular eye on whiteness within Muslim communities in the South.

Abstract: This paper is part of a larger project that uses using popularly published state-sanctioned texts to trace the route intended for the integration of Turkic-muslim minority women into the Chinese nation during the formative years of the People’s Republic of China.  Official texts, such as anthologies of ethnic minorities published by state working groups, provide only the vision for ideal relations with ethnic minorities. Articles from the popular press – texts based off of individual encounters with actual persons and first-hand observations – are spaces where the ideal is grafted onto the actual and authors struggle to make their observations conform to state standards. This struggle fuse the actual and ideal is a site of narrative fissure that allows careful readers insight into how policies were actually intended to play out in practice.  This study uses an interview with a female Uyghur performer published in the Chinese-language periodical People’s Music comparatively with newspaper articles and official discourse to examine the relationship between performance, subjugation, ethnic citizenship, and participation in state-led development for Uyghur women in the early PRC.

Bio- Arianne Ekinci: Arianne Ekinci is a history PhD student who, prior to commencing graduate studies at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, spent 7 years living, working and studying in China, Central Asia and Turkey where she developed an interest in ethnic and regional identities in the context of nationbuilding, citizenship and national development.  Arianne has recently completed her Master’s Thesis, entitled Legible Citizens: Writing Uyghur Women into the Chinese Nation, and is currently exploring comparative experiences of Uyghur citizenship and early PRC development of policies towards minorities in relation to international discussions of state sovereignty and benevolent development.

           Respondent: Cemil Aydin, UNC Chapel Hill

12:00-1:00 p.m. – Lunch

1:00-3:30 p.m. – Panel Two: “National Boundaries and Identity”

Abstract: Drawing on fieldwork in “Islamic Education” classrooms in Indonesian public high schools, I argue that these mandatory classes for Muslim students serve as a major forum for constructing and delineating the identity category of “Muslim” among new generations of Indonesians. Standardized curricula and popular teaching practice give students answers to questions like “what makes someone a Muslim?” and “who counts as one?” This process of identity construction takes place through two mutually constitutive processes of internal homogenization and external exclusion—the umma is simultaneously bound together and fenced-off. In this paper, I first show how these classes contribute to the increasing alienation of groups deemed to fall outside the umma, such as the ShiꜤa, Ahmadiyya, and Hizbut Tahrir. Second, I show how state-run Islamic education has facilitated a unification between the two major “Sunni” groups in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, which had previously experienced more polemical relations.

Bio- Sawyer Martin French: After completing a B.A. in Middle East Studies at George Washington University, Sawyer conducted research on Islamic education in Indonesian public high schools in central Java over a period of 10 months. Sawyer is currently an M.A. student in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago and hopes to pursue a PhD in Islamic studies or anthropology.

Abstract: This paper aims to show how orthodoxy of Islam is inimical towards what some consider as heterodoxy in Indonesia. In doing so, it explains how religious and political authorities construct their discourse to determine what is theologically valid and what is not. This article demonstrates how the government institution and the religious establishment collaborated in establishing and strengthening the privilege of the orthodoxy and discriminating towards the minority groups. It then explains two entangled aspects that constructed Islamic orthodoxy in Indonesia: firstly, legal devices such as the Blasphemy Law and the article about human right in the country’s constitution; secondly, the ambiguous position of Majelis Ulama Indonesia (the Council of Indonesia Muslim Scholars) in the state and its conservative mindset. The article takes the case of Millah Ibrahim, a religious group which combine the teachings of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, in Indonesia, as the specific example of how those two factors intermingled and caused discrimination against a religious minority group.

Bio- Muhamad Rofiq Muzakkir: Muhamad Rofiq Muzakkir is a Fulbrighter and second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Religious Studies at the Arizona State University. He pursued his bachelor degree on Shariah Islamiyyah at Al-Azhar Universtiy in Cairo and his master from Universitas Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta Indonesia on Middle Eastern Studies. His research interest includes the classical-medieval Islamic political thought, the modern political discourse of Indonesian and Egyptian ulama and the Arab Spring.

Abstract: Since the high-profile murder of the Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer, a religio-political movement has emerged which is most closely associated to Barelvi branch of Islamic Sufi practices. Established as a political party and deciding to contest general election in 2018, this new-born religio-political party stood as the third biggest party in the Punjab in terms of popular votes. Registered as Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), analysis of this religio-political force offers insight into contemporary religious discourse in Pakistan. The tools of engagement and the structure of organizing is particularly modern and the employment of the prevalent anti-minorities narrative combined with the narrative of protection of Prophet’s dignity stand as new discursive tools for reconstructing a community imagined to exist. I argue this case study is an example of a local movement that demonstrates masculinity, using narratives of protection, which helps them assert political power in the relevant patriarchal society. Employment of state-nationalist symbols even when confronting state institutions, also offers understanding of political realities in military-dominated Pakistan.

Bio- Sajjad Hussain: Sajjad Hussain is a Rotary Peace Fellow pursuing a Master’s in Global Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Sajjad was born in Quetta, Balochistan, the southwestern province of Pakistan which borders Afghanistan and Iran. As a graduate of the University of Engineering & Technology Lahore, with a degree in Electrical Engineering, the situation in Balochistan motivated him to study Peace and Conflict Resolution (PCS) at the National Defence University, Islamabad. His online and offline activism has been acknowledged by civil society organizations in Pakistan and abroad. Since April 2013, he is proudly associated with Alif Ailaan, a campaign for education reforms in Pakistan. Sajjad is also a member of the Swedish Institute (SI) alumni of its Young Connectors of Future (YCF), a leadership program for emerging leaders from South Asia. Through the knowledge and skills gained at UNC, he wants to join the cohort of moderators and global activists who are facilitating socio-political conversations between communities and societies often described as ‘incompatible’.

Abstract: This paper will examine the interaction of Emirati nationals, foreigners, and state authorities in the interlaced and bounded environments created by free zones (FZs) in Dubai. I will argue that FZs emerged in Dubai in the 1980s to preserve an operating space for the historically important foreign merchant class, which was originally composed of Shias from Persia and both Muslim and non-Muslims from Southeast Asia. Thus, the emergence of modern free zones represented a historical continuity, on the one hand, and a rupture with cultural identity on the other hand. Simultaneously reflecting economic opportunities and social challenges, foreign residents have proven influential actors in the development Dubai. However, their ever-increasing presence represents an ideological threat to the traditional, Islamic character of Dubai and the greater UAE. Following the rapid proliferation of FZs in the early 2000s and consequent influx of foreigners, Dubai’s rulers have had to balance the economic benefits derived from foreigners with growing religious, social and cultural concerns of the local population.

Most scholarly works on FZs ignore their religious and social impact and instead focus on the economic, political and commercial effects of these spheres (Hakimian, 2011; Keshavarzian, 2010; Looney, 2005; Stephenson, 2014). This paper will draw on ten months of master’s and PhD research conducted in the GCC over from June of 2014 through September of 2016 as well as multiple professionally-oriented trips to the region as part of human capital consulting engagements. The analysis will also pave the way for comparative studies of other GCC territories and countries with differing free zone dynamics and population demographics.

BioRobert Mogielnicki: Robert Mogielnicki is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. He is also a Senior Analyst with The Siwa Group and a researcher at Magdalen College, University of Oxford, where he specializes in the political economy of the Middle East and North Africa. From 2013-2017, he worked as Head of PR & Marketing at Oxford Strategic Consulting, a UK-GCC consultancy that focuses on human capital development. Prior to his consulting career, he served as a journalist covering political and economic developments in post-revolutionary Egypt and Tunisia. His work and commentary on the region have appeared in Forbes Middle East, Al Jazeera’s Inside Story, Al Jazeera English, MEED, the Middle East Institute, Al Bawaba, The National (UAE), Gulf Daily News, Tunisia Live, Egypt Oil and Gas Magazine, and Egypt Daily News. Mr. Mogielnicki’s PhD dissertation at the University of Oxford’s Magdalen College examined the political economy of free zones in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. His research relied upon extensive fieldwork conducted in the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait, where he interviewed senior government officials, ruling family members, private-sector actors, local journalists, and foreign diplomats. He earned his MA in Modern Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Oxford’s St Antony’s College and completed a master’s thesis on labor policy formulation and implementation in the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. He received his BA from Georgetown University as a double major in Arabic and Government, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.

           Respondents: Anna Bigelow, North Carolina State University

3:30-4:00 – Concluding Remarks by Juliane Hammer, UNC Chapel Hill

4:00-4:30 – Reception