You are here

CMSP Fall 2016 Events

Sea Mosque

Comparative Muslim Societies Program events are free and open to the public. All members of the campus and community are welcome to attend. Please join us.


Thursday, September 1, 2016 - 4:30pm, American Studies Department, 404 Morrill Hall

Karen Ruffle (University of Toronto) - "Savoring Karbala: Sensory Aesthetics in Muharram Material and Ritual Practice in Hyderabad"

This presentation will examine the ways that the five senses were engaged in the propagation of Shiʿism by the Qutb Shahi sultans of Hyderabad in the seventeenth century as described in Nizam al-Din Ahmad ibn ʿAbdallah Saʿidi Shirazi’s Hadiqat al-salatin (ca. 1643). Hadiqat al-salatin is one of the only descriptions of Muharram that we have from the Qutb Shahi dynasty, and this text simultaneously narrates a litany of deprivations of sensual pleasures and an account of sensorial excess. One felt and experienced Muharram with all five senses. What were these sensations and how might we make historical sense of the complex interweaving of both Islamic-Shiʿi and Indic sensoria by the Qutb Shahi sultans in Muharram ritual and material practice? This presentation will focus on the sensorial experiences of the taste, smell and touch of earth in Muharram ritual in Hadiqat al-salatin.


Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 4:30pm, American Studies Department, 404 Morrill Hall

Angela Andersen (MIT) - "Resisting “Mosque Culture:” The Continuity of Alevi Places of Worship in Anatolia"

The Alevi communities of what is now Turkey have resisted the restrictions of Sunni rulers and clergy, and the assertion that Aleviism should be assimilated or condemned, since the early Ottoman period. I will discuss the cemevi (the Alevi architecture of ceremonial assembly) and how it is emblematic of both the variety amongst Islamic sites of worship, and of Alevi efforts to maintain and seek recognition for their traditions and teachings.


Monday, September 19, 2016 - 4:30pm, 165 McGraw Hall

Matthew Erie (Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Studies, Oriental Institute, University of Oxford) - "China and Islam: The Prophet, the Party, and Law"

China and Islam: The Prophet, the Party, and Law examines the intersection of two critical issues of the contemporary world: Islamic revival and an assertive China, questioning the assumption that Islamic law is incompatible with state law. It finds that both Hui and the Party-State invoke, interpret, and make arguments based on Islamic law, a minjian (unofficial) law in China, to pursue their respective visions of 'the good'. Based on fieldwork in Linxia, 'China's Little Mecca', this study follows Hui clerics, youthful translators on the 'New Silk Road', female educators who reform traditional madrasas, and Party cadres as they reconcile Islamic and socialist laws in the course of the everyday. The first study of Islamic law in China and one of the first ethnographic accounts of law in postsocialist China, China and Islam unsettles unidimensional perceptions of extremist Islam and authoritarian China through Hui minjian practices of law.

This lecture is co-sponsored by Comparative Muslim Societies Program and the Department of Anthropology.


Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 4:30pm, American Studies Department, 404 Morrill Hall

Ian Coller (UC Irvine) - "The Rights of Muslims: Islam in the French Revolution of 1789"

On 24 December, 1789, the French National Assembly awarded full civil rights to Muslims and other non-Catholics, with the exception of Jews. It was a moment that transformed a society in which Catholic Christianity had been the only legal religion for more than a century. But if Muslims had rights as citizens, did they have rights as Muslims? The debates over the place of religion in the Declaration of Rights did not offer any clear answer. These struggles over religion and rights in 1789 have echoes in France and the world today.


Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 4:30pm, American Studies Department, 404 Morrill Hall 

Lorelle Semley (College of the Holy Cross) - "Porto-Novo to Paris: Rethinking Islam under France’s African Colonial Empire"

During the early twentieth century, French colonial administrators infamously developed the idea of Islam noir or the image of an “impure” but also less “dangerous” Islam in West Africa. Naomi Davidson has argued that during the same period in France itself, policymakers developed the concept of an Islam français that created an embodied “Muslimness” that functioned in practice almost as a racial identity. Rather than focus on how the French imagined West and North African Muslims in the colonies and in the metropole, this presentation explores how Africans participated in the reformulation of Islam in relation to as well as in spite of French colonial policies. Using, as a starting point, crises during the 1910s and 1920s around the diverse and defiant Muslim population in Porto-Novo, Benin (ex-Dahomey), this presentation will suggest ways to rethink North African activism in interwar Paris especially in French- language newspapers. Rather than a “black” or “French” Islam only dictated by French authorities, historical dynamics in Porto-Novo and Paris may suggest how Islam also was being redefined from the inside out with Muslims themselves re-imagining how they could be African and/or Muslim and/or French in a changing world.


Thursday, October 27, 2016 - 3pm to 4pm, Olin Archives Curatorial Space, Basement 2 Level, Olin Library

Ali Houissa (Cornell University) - Rare Islamic Books in the Olin Library Collection

This seminar will be led by Ali Houissa, Curator of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies in Olin Library, who will be hosting a group to come and see precious objects in the library's collection about Islam.  We have many world-class books, some of them centuries old, which show the history and evolution of Islam over a long period, and across many cultures.  This is a wonderful opportunity to see some of the treasures of Cornell’s collection that are rarely seen, and which span centuries of time and thousands of miles of geography in Islamic lands from Morocco to Indonesia.


Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 4:30pm, American Studies Department, 404 Morrill Hall 

Megan Thomas (UC Santa Cruz) - "The Sultanate of Sulu in the Late Eighteenth Century"

In the late eighteenth century, the Sultanate of Sulu was a significant node in trade networks that stretched around the world.  Its Muslim ruler became an object of Spanish attention, alternatively feted and imprisoned, proclaimed convert or traitor; meanwhile, the British courted the Sultanate in hopes of establishing a base for free trade.  This paper looks particularly at controversies that arose around different treaties made (or attempted) between the Sultanate of Sulu and European powers (British and Spanish) in the late eighteenth century, and the reasons for this period of particularly intense and conflicted diplomacy and trade. 


Thursday, December 1, 2016 - 4:30pm, American Studies Department, 404 Morrill Hall 

Youshaa Patel (Lafayette College) - "'The Devil’s Lair': Najm al-Dīn al-Ghazzī’s (D. 1651) Fatwa on Coffeehouse"

Early modern Syrian Sufi-jurist and litterateur, Najm al-Dīn al-Ghazzī (d. 1651) spent nearly forty years writing and editing his magnum opus – a treatise cum encyclopedia on mimesis.  In this presentation, I emplace his magisterial treatise within a broader late sixteenth/early seventeenth century Ottoman historical landscape.  Besides a currency inflation catastrophe, population swells, and peasant lawlessness, new forms of pleasure produced new forms of sociability that disrupted established social distinctions and hierarchies.  Responding to this new cultural development, Ghazzī penned a fatwa, in the form of a short poem, on drinking coffee.