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CMS Seminars and Events, Spring 2019


CMS Seminars and Events, Spring 2019

 Eric Tagliacozzo

Director, CMS Program


SPRING 2019:


“Islamic Connections Between India and China During the Song and Yuan Periods”

Tansen Sen, Professor of History, Director, Center for Global Asia, NYU/Shanghai


Thursday, January 31, 4:30pm

Morrill Hall, room 404


Tenth and eleventh centuries witnessed a precipitous surge in maritime commercial links between the coastal regions of India and China. The networks of Muslim merchants were intimately involved in these commercial activities. These traders also participated in the diplomatic exchanges, often representing Indian polities at the Song court in China. The role of Muslim traders and court officials in such exchanges expanded over the next two-three centuries. This presentation focuses on three episodes to demonstrate the important role of Muslim traders, officials, and preachers in linking India and China between the tenth and fourteenth centuries. The first focuses on the role of Muslim traders in the commercial and diplomatic exchanges between the Chola court in southern India and Song China. The episode deals with the defection of a Muslim official from the Ma’bar polity to Yuan China. The third examines the writings of Ibn Battuta on the Islamic connections between the Delhi Sultanate and the southern coastal region of Yuan China.           


“Humanism in Ruins: Entangled Legacies of the Greek-Turkish Population Exchange”

Asli Igsiz, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern, And Islamic Studies, New York University


Thursday, February 7, 4:30pm

Morrill Hall, room 404

*  Co-sponsored with the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Initiative


The 1923 religious minority exchange between Greece and Turkey set a legal precedent in the international arena. Informed by the principle of segregation, the principal legacy of the exchange is arguably its contribution to the institutionalization of the management of difference (religious, racial, ethnic, etc) via forced migration. This talk takes the Greek-Turkish exchange as a prism to address liberal cultural politics and eugenicist demographics developed to manage difference in Turkey and beyond (such as the Middle East and Europe) since the end of the Second World War. Through this prism, it raises questions about the political present.



"Fears and Conflict over Islamic Human Rights: A Clash of Cultures or a Clash with a Construct?"

Mohamed A. 'Arafa, Assistant Professor of Law, Alexandria University Faculty of Law (Egypt)


Thursday, February 21st, 4:30 pm

Morrill Hall, room 404


What constitutes human rights? Can we come to a common understanding of these freedoms and thereby guarantee that these are entirely granted to every member of society? These questions have been the subject of historic universal documents such as the Magna Carta, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, the American Bill of Rights and the Geneva Convention. What is often ignored, however, is that these queries have also been addressed by numerous religious traditions. The Islamic model of human rights in particular is striking in its rigor, its image and its relevance to modern times. The distinguishing feature of human privileges in Islam is that they are the natural outcome of an extensive practice of faith, deeds and social behavior that Muslims believe are divinely authorized.



“Unique or Universal?: The Ottoman Quest for Economic Modernization”

Munis Seven Agir, Middle East Technical University (Ankara), Assistant Professor

Economics Department


Thursday, March 7, 4:30pm

Morrill Hall room 404


Late nineteenth century Ottoman economic thought has been generally categorized as either nationalist or liberal, obscuring both the variety within each strand and parallels between them. Emulating 'more developed states' as a catch-up strategy was a common theme among various Ottoman reformers, embracing different models, including France, Germany, Japan, and Russia. These ideas reflected not only different presumptions as to the degree of 'uniqueness' of the Ottoman case, but also how these writers understood the relationship between economic structure and moral culture, with precursors to modern debates on institutional endogeneity. 





"How the Slaves Freed Themselves: The Khivan Slave Uprising and the Myth of Russian Abolitionism in Central Asia"

Jeffrey Eden, Assistant Professor of History, St. Mary’s College of Maryland


Thursday, March 21, 4:30pm

Morrill Hall, room 404


Consensus among historians has long held that the Russian Empire's conquest of Central Asia in the 1860s-1870s ended the region's slave trade and liberated its slaves. This presentation challenges that consensus through two case studies. The first case study shows how, on the eve of Russia's conquest of the capital city of Khiva in 1873, the city's slaves fomented the largest slave uprising in the region's history--an uprising that prompted the abolition of slavery across Central Asia. The second case study reveals the surprising fate of former slaves who escaped their Central Asian owners, fled to the Russian border, and sought protection from the allegedly "abolitionist" Tsar. 




“Historical Legacies of Islam in Africa”

Melina Platas, Assistant Professor, Political Science Department, NYU/Abu Dhabi


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Location B-14 White Hall

* Co-sponsored with Government


The process of colonialism coincided with a dramatic reversal of fortune for Africa’s Muslim populations. In the 1500s, Africa’s political landscape was dominated strong, centralized Islamic states. These states maintained internal stability, regulated commerce, and promoted education. Levels of literacy were relatively high among Muslims and the expertise of Muslim bureaucrats was sought out by non-Muslim kingdoms. In contemporary Africa, these relationships are reversed. What explains the reversal of fortune seen among Africa’s Muslim populations? In this paper, we compile a new dataset on pre-colonial kingdoms in Africa and combine this with Murdock’s Ethnologue to examine the long-term effects of exposure to pre-colonial Islamic kingdoms on development outcomes including education, health, and night lights. We find that educational attainment and night light density are lower and infant mortality higher in ethnic groups with homelands in pre-colonial Islamic kingdoms compared to those groups with homelands within stateless areas or pagan kingdoms. We further investigate a set of mechanisms linking Islamic kingdoms to development outcomes in the contemporary period, and find evidence that lower missionary investment in Islamic kingdoms had a long-term effect on development.



“Beyond Debt: Islamic Experiments in Global Finance”

Daromir Rudnyckyj, Associate Professor, Anthropology Department

University of Victoria (Canada)


Thursday, April 25, 4:30pm

Morrill Hall room 404


Recent economic crises have made the centrality of debt, and the instability it creates, increasingly apparent. This realization has led to cries for change—yet there is little popular awareness of possible alternatives.  This talk, based on a book of the same title, describes efforts to create a transnational economy free of debt. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Malaysia, the talk illustrates how the state, led by the central bank, seeks to make the country’s capital Kuala Lumpur “the New York of the Muslim world”—the central node of global financial activity conducted in accordance with Islam. The talk will illustrate how Islamic financial experts have undertaken ambitious experiments to create more stable economies and stronger social solidarities by facilitating risk- and profit-sharing, enhanced entrepreneurial skills, and more collaborative economic action. Building on scholarship that reveals the impact of financial devices on human activity, the talk describes how Islamic finance is deployed to fashion subjects who are at once more pious Muslims and more ambitious entrepreneurs. In so doing, the talk shows how experts seek to create a new “geo-economics” centered in Southeast Asia—a global Islamic alternative to the conventional financial network centered on New York, London, and Tokyo. A groundbreaking analysis of a timely subject, Beyond Debt tells the captivating story of efforts to re-center international finance in an emergent Islamic global city and, ultimately, to challenge the very foundations of conventional finance.




“Policing the Virtuous: Music and Militias in Post-Gaddafi Libya”

Leila Tayeb, Stanford H. Taylor Postdoc in Music and Islam in the Contemporary World, Cornell University, Music Department, Cornell University


Thursday, May 2, 4:30pm

Morrill Hall room 404


In the years since 2011, political instability and shifts in militia governance have meant that musicians living and working in Libya encounter policing structures of varied forms in their daily lives. With no prevailing legal regime active in the country, those performing policing functions have frequently drawn on Islamic moral discourses to justify arrests, detentions, checkpoint stops, and other actions. This presentation takes a performance studies approach to instances of quotidian policing of music and their subversions in post-Gaddafi Libya in which actors make reference to religiosity or assumedly shared notions of virtue related to Islam. In so doing, I offer a critique of reigning frameworks which address the intersections of “music and Islam” while suggesting interdisciplinary methods through which the quotidian complexities of these intersections might be more substantively addressed. Weaving performance ethnography with a framework drawn from Islamic studies and performance studies, I illustrate how instances of quotidian policing are scenarios of social drama which both produce and are formulated through competing conceptualizations of Islam and of music, leveraging broad claims which then prescribe or predict possible action within the scenario.