The Creation of Shi’a Identity: Religion, History, and Community from the 16th to the 21st century (by invitation only)
This workshop seeks to bring a more diachronic approach to the emergence and transformation of Shi’a Islam across time and space. There is growing scholarly interest in Shi’a Islam, partly as a result of the contemporary politicisation of Shi’a sectarian identity in the Middle East, but also due to a growing consensus regarding the heterogeneity and specificity of different Islamic histories, communities, and practices. We build on and diversify current scholarship on Shi’ism, in particular, by studying the uses of history, politics and religious authority and how these shaped local and transregional Shi’i identities from the early modern to the modern period (16th-21st centuries). Our explorations are guided by the following heuristic questions:
- How has Shi’a Islam evolved and transformed as a result of patterns of migration and knowledge transfer, both historically and contemporaneously?
- To what extent do local contexts shape what it means to be Shi’a at any given historical moment? In particular, what is the role of space and place in shaping religious experiences?
- How have experiences of majoritarian or minority contexts influenced Shi’a thought and practice across time?
- What has been the impact of the politics of difference, such as local or global sectarian politics on Shi’a identity, both now and in the past?
- How do minority contexts shape forms of local and transregional community building across different periods?
Contributions to the workshop bring together a range of themes across place, space, time, minority experience, and difference to offer a more nuanced picture of Shi’a Islam as a mode of belonging and an ongoing process of community formation both past and present. They thereby open up conversations between academic disciplines, including history, religious studies, sociology, and urban studies, to engage with both indigenous and migrant Shi’a traditions from across Africa, Asia and Europe.
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