Event — Workshop

Female Islamic Authority in Comparative Perspective: Exemplars, Institutions, Practices

Interdisciplinary workshop organised by KITLV, AMT, LUCIS, and IIAS

Workshop to be held at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, KITLV) in Leiden, 8-9 January 2015.

In cooperation with the Asian Modernities and Traditions (AMT) Research Program, the International Institute of Asian Studies (IIAS) and the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society (LUCIS)

Conveners: David Kloos (KITLV) and Mirjam Künkler (Princeton University/KITLV).

This interdisciplinary workshop looks at forms of, and changes in, female Islamic authority in comparative perspective, with particular focus on modern Asia. The significant role of women in participating in, and shaping, the scholarly tradition through the centuries is still hardly reflected in either Western scholarly or public perceptions. Nearly all classic accounts of religious authority in Islam proceed from the assumption that this authority is male. The possibility that women might exercise various aspects of religious authority is usually not discussed. Yet, when we dissect religious authority into its various manifestations (leading prayer, preaching, providing religious counselling, issuing fatwas, transmitting hadith, judging in court, shaping the Islamic scholarly tradition), nuances emerge that call the exclusively male character of religious authority in Islam into question.

In recent years, case studies of women exercising any of these roles have been published by scholars working in different fields, including history, sociology, anthropology, politics, and law. Publications have focused on such topics as female teachers, scholars, preachers and judges, women’s mosque and study groups, ritual leadership, the role of the state in shaping female religious authority, and Islamic feminism.2 What is missing is an attempt to comparatively analyse the interactive dynamics between women’s activities in institutions (mosques, courts, schools and universities, government offices and advisory bodies, etc.), and the various manifestations of female religious authority in society at large. How are the ideas and activities of female Islamic leaders embedded in local contexts? What different social, political, and legal issues do female Islamic leaders concern themselves with? How do different actors, including (male) religious leaders, agents of the state, and the majority of ‘ordinary’ or non-activist Muslims, respond to, and make use of, female leadership roles? What generalizable patterns can be discerned? And how do these patterns relate to national contexts and the importance of locality?

Draft papers will be due one month prior to the workshop and will be circulated among all paper givers and registered participants. During the workshop, we will dedicate one hour per paper to the presentation and discussion.

Publication Plans
As a result of this conference, we would like to publish selected papers in a special journal issue. The workshop also has the aim of taking stock of the research developments in the field on female religious authority in modern Asia and establishing a research network of those scholars working on the issue in diverse geographic environments and across various time frames. The network can then identify possibilities and occasions for further research collaborations and the development of larger, comparative and inter-disciplinary research projects incorporating the findings developed here.

Submission of Abstracts
Interested parties are asked to submit abstracts of around 300 words (addressing also the source material and methodology used), and biographical information of ~150 words by June 1, 2014 to Kloos@KITLV.nl and kuenkler@princeton.edu. Subsidies for travel and accommodation will be available.

We invite paper proposals that focus on female religious authority in modern Asia, particularly from the 19th to the 21st century. Please note that this conference will not deal, or at least not specifically, with the phenomenon of Islamic activism. Paper proposals on female ulama, juristic thinkers and jurists are particularly welcome.


Inline photo: http://ratihalkaafamajene.blogspot.nl/2011/12/karakteristik-majelis-taklim-pakkola.html