IUAES, Commission on Anthropology of the Middle East Identity, Separation, and Belonging

IUAES, Commission on Anthropology of the Middle East
Identity, Separation, and Belonging

September 6-8th, 2023, I. F. E. A., Istanbul

Dear Colleagues,

The Commission of Anthropology of the Middle East will hold its annual Conference Identity, Separation and Belonging in September.

Please send the title of the paper you would like to propose to the convenor (see below), or to Farniyaz Zaker (farniyaz.zaker@googlemail.com), or Soheila Shahshahani (soheilairan@gmail.com) by June 30th. We expect to receive your abstracts (150-250 words) by July 15th. The CFPs of most of our panels have already reached us, so we ask all Convenors who have not yet sent their CFPs, to please send them immediately.

Best Regards, S.Shahshahani

The Title of our Panels are:

1.    Changing Gender Roles in the Middle East (Convenor: Soraya Tremayne) soraya.tremayne@anthro.ox.ac.uk

2.    Local Interpretations of Global Innovations (Convenor: Christian Bromberger) brombergerchristian8@gmail.com

3.    Urban Displacement: Space, Place, and Belonging in “Cities of Refuge” (Convenor: Are John Knudsen) Are.knudsen@cmi.no

4.    The Middle Eastern Diaspora in East Asia (Convenor: Sachiko Hosoya) sachikohpowell@yahoo.co.jp

5.    Remigration in the ME (Convenor: Danila Mayer)  danila.mayer@hotmail.com

6.    Women and Violence (Convenor: Esther Hertzog) bental4@gmail.com

7.    Polygamy, Religion, and Gender in Central Asia: Social and Economic Implications (Rano Turaeva) r.turaeva@gmail.com

8.    Consequences of Environmental Crises in the ME (Convenor: Sahar Faequi) s.faeghi@gmail.com

9.    Camels, Horses, and Cars: Means of Transportation or Status Symbols (Convenors: Mary Hegland & AbdolReza Hosseini)

mhegland@scu.edu,            abdr.hosseini@gmail.com

10. Religious Charisma in ME and its Diaspora (Convenors: Liza Dumovich & Gisele Fonseca Chagas)

giselechagas@id.uff.br,  lizadumovich@gmail.com

11. “The Seven Sleepers/Ashabe al Kahaf” in the Mediterranean and Silk-Road    Areas (Convenor: Anna Tozzi) anna_tozzi@hotmail.com

12. Gift-Giving (Convenor: Anne Betteridge) anneb@arizona.edu

13. Visual Anthropology in the ME (Convenor: Nacim Pak-Shirazi) Nacim.Pak-Shiraz@ed.ac.uk

14. Conditions of Exercise of Social Sciences in the ME (Convenor: Mehrdad Arabestani) m.arabestani@ut.ac.ir

15. Ethnohistory of the ME (Convenor: Fakhri Haghani) the.fakhri@gmail.com

16. Research in Progress (Convenor: Soheila Shahshahani)


Call for Abstracts

Our Commission panel entitled “Women and Violence” has been accepted for the 19th IUAES-WAU World Anthropology Congress 2023 to be held at the University of Delhi, New Delhi, India, from 14th to 20th October 2023.

The exact date of our panel will be announced later. Please send us your abstracts by July 15th

Esther Hertzog bental4@gmail.com

Soheila Shahshahani Soheilairan@gmail.com

Dear Colleagues

Please find here the Call for Panels, Round Tables, and Workshops 

for the 19th IUAES -WAU World Anthropology Congress to be held in Delhi,

India from 14 to 20 October 2023.

Kindly post it on different social networking sites for broader outreach.

Looking forward to your active participation.

All good wishes 


Best Regards,

Prof. S.M. Patnaik
1. Professor of Anthropology, University of Delhi, Delhi2. Former Vice Chancellor, Utkal University3. Former Vice Chancellor, Odisha University of Agriculture and  Technology

4. President, Indian Anthropological Association, New Delhi

5. Vice President, International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES).

6. Chair, IUAES Commission on Anthropology, Public Policy and Development Practice

7. Founder, Anthropology without Borders, Brazil (India Chapter)

Suggested Titles as of January 2023

Suggestions for Panels, 5-7th of September 2023, Istanbul

1- Local interpretations of the global innovations (Christian Bromberger)

2- Gender role reversals in the Middle East (Soraya Tremayne)

3- Impact of Media, including social media on everyday life in the ME (Roxanne Varzi)

4- Nostalgia (Azim Malikof)

5- ReMigration from different kinds of disaster situations to return to original locations and re-adaptation involved in settling back home (Danila Mayer)

6- Women and Violence (Esther Herzgog)

7- Gift-Giving (Anne Betteridge)

8- Visual Anthropology (Nacim Pak-Shirazi

9- Conditions of exercise of social sciences in the ME, (Mehrdad Arabestani)

10- Ethno-history of the Middle East (Fakhri Haghani)

11- Religious charisma in the Middle East and its diasporas: Authority, succession, and devotion (Liza Dumovich & Gisele Fonseca Chagas)

12- Religion and Business (Bozens Gierek)

13- Urban Anthropology of the ME (Are Knudsen)

14- Camels, Horses, and Cars: Means of Transportation or status symbols (Mary Hegland)

15- Research in Progress (Soheila Shahshahani)

16- Polygamy, Women, and Kinship (Rano Turaeva)


Dr. Soheila Shahshahani: soheilairan@gmail.com

Dr. Farniyaz Zaker:  farniyaz.zaker@gmail.com

I U A E S 2022 Conference


International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences

Commission on Anthropology of the Middle East

The Middle East from the Margin

7-9th of September, Hybrid Conference – Institut Francais de la’Etude Anatolien (IFEA) and Orient-Institut, Istanbul – Turkey

Chair of the Commission: Dr Soheila Shahshahani – Associate Professor of Anthropology (Shahid Beheshti University)

Executive Secretary of the Commission: Dr Farniyaz Zaker (University of Oxford)

Regional Representatives: 

Dr Soraya Tremayne: Europe

Dr  Mary Hegland: United States and Canada

Dr Paulo Pinto: South America

Dr Tomoko Yamagishi: East Asia

Deadline for submission of abstracts: 15 July 2022

Panels and Abstracts:

1-Transgression and Conformity

Convenor: Dr Soraya Tremayne (University of Oxford)

Transgression in its literal definition means the violation of the boundaries of social, moral, legal, and cultural conventions.  Moving beyond this definition and considering the abundant evidence from, inter alia, anthropological studies, a more nuanced perspective emerges showing the multifacetedness of transgression. These studies have broadened the understanding of transgression to be contextual and not limited to deviation threatening the social order. As Hastings and Magowan in Transgressive Sex: Subversion and Control in Erotic Encounters (2009) argue, in some contexts, sexual transgression in its interaction with other social institutions can become normative (p 17). Examples abound of transgression becoming a route to conformity to protect the core cultural norms. For instance, to help overcome infertility some religious leaders in the Middle Eastern countries have allowed the donation of third-party gamete by strangers to infertile couples and have thus compromised the purity of lineage in the process (Inhorn, M.C. 2006, Kahn, M.S. 2000). However, the motivation behind such transgression has been to enable the creation of happy and stable families, which is traditionally viewed as the cornerstone of society. Similarly, abundant examples of compliance exist whereby transgressors find solutions that enable them to cover their deviancy so that they could be seen to conform and fit into the cultural mould.  Such transgressions range from sexual deviancy to bypassing political oppression without confronting it (Bayat, A. 2012). Viewed from this perspective, transgression and conformity no longer act as opposites but become the other side of the same coin and, therefore, means justify the ends. 

This panel invites contributions from scholars whose studies illustrate the intricacies of the interaction between transgression and conformity. Proposals could include, but are not limited to, any of the following themes:

  • Who are the transgressors/conformists?
  • Why they transgress/conform?
  • Where does transgression or conformity begin and end?
  • What are the cultural implications of transgression or conformity for the society at large?  

Abstracts should be written in 200-500 words and submitted to soraya.tremayne@anthro.ox.ac.uk and copied to: Soheila Shahshahani: soheilairan@gmail.com and Farniyaz Zaker: farniyaz.zaker@googlemail.com

2-What Does Anthropology Have to DWith Education?

Convenor: Prof. Esther Herzog (Levinsky College Of Education)

During the last few decades the world is going through profound changes and it appears that the system of education has not followed suit. As anthropological research is based on field work and on grounded theorizing, it can offer original insights that stem from innovative critical understanding of divergent situations. This background contains challenging opportunities for us anthropologists to develop anthropological knowledge that can help facilitate a better education which would be more conscious toward topics such as ethnicity, gender, race, environment, animals. 

Far reaching changes are taking place with the globalization of the world, the ecology is rapidly changing, technological inventions gain a growing influence on human society, massive waves of immigration involve profound social and political changes in many parts of the world, Covid-19 imposes a huge challenges to human kind – to mention just some of the dramatic changes that we witness.   

Hence, the question of how does societies/states prepare the next generation to cope with these processes and changes makes the role of the education system(s) crucial. From this perspective the education system has a significant role and responsibility to provide its young students with information, practical tools as well as with social, professional and moral values.


This session will elaborate on the connections between globalized changes and the ways in which various education systems cope or can cope with them. Thus, paper proposals can relate to the following (and other) issues:

Education and ecology: Knowledge, ways and methods of incorporating ecological issues in daily teaching and training

Education and the environment: The deteriorating conditions of animals and vegetation as reflected in the education systems   

Education and gender: Issues of gender identity, gender power relations and sex education, brought up by the global feminist-gender revolution 

Education and religion/tradition: Policy dilemmas – diversity and pluralism, national and/or universal values, liberal or traditional based teaching

Education and parental involvement: Power relations between parents and school management

Abstracts should be written in 200-500 words and submitted to bental4@gmail.com and copied to: Soheila Shahshahani: soheilairan@gmail.com and Farniyaz Zaker: farniyaz.zaker@googlemail.com

3-Rituals, Training and Performance 

Convenor: Dr Ingvild Flaskerud (University of Oslo)

This panel seeks to elaborate on our understanding of religious education from a ritual perspective looking at the training in ritual performance. Ritual defines a set of actions repeated in approximately the same manner every time it is performed. The Islamic canonical prayer, salat, is a good example. Nevertheless, variations have developed between sectarian denominations resulting in multiple ritual patterns. Moreover, the ritual is personalized according to the individual’s choice of supplications, du’a. Even more so, the celebration of religious festivals, such as mauwludi and commemorative rituals, have been customized into various traditions. These ritual practices are embedded in notions of orthopraxis as well as orthodoxy and motivated by the idea that the rituals’ authority, that is, their power to perform or mediate whatever they are intended to perform or mediate, is founded on their “correct” performance. Therefore, ritual training is an important, although understudied, topic. 

This panel invites contributions from scholars with an interest how ritual is taught and transmitted through training. Transmission and training are here not understood simply as objective and reactive actions but as subjective and proactive activities that involve critical interpretive reflections by trainer and trainee. How does the training in ritual performance function as an interpretive domain? How do trainer and trainee engage with tradition, genres, conventions, and repertoires?

Proposals could include, but are not limited to, any of the following themes:

  • How is formal ritual performance taught to would-be-ritual-leaders at religious seminars, and how do the students appropriate and construct their practice?
  • How is more informal ritual leadership, like maddahi, taught or passed on within the family or local community, and how do want-to-be-maddah appropriate and construct their practice?
  • How is ritual practice conveyed to converts, and how do they appropriate and construct their practice?
  • How is ritual practice conveyed to children, and how do they appropriate and construct their practice?

Abstracts should be written in 200-500 words and submitted to ingvild.flaskerud@teologi.uio.no and copied to: Soheila Shahshahani: soheilairan@gmail.com and Farniyaz Zaker:


4-Romantic Love in the Muslim World

Conveners: Prof. Subhadra Channa (Delhi University) and Dr Anna Romanowicz (Jagiellonian University)

The idea of romantic love has been long present in Islamic tradition (such as in Arabic and Persian poetry and prose, Sufi mystical heritage), though its manifestation and its link to marriage has changed over time. It is  of scholarly interest to map how the notions and overt manifestation of love has changed and how it has impacted the popular culture of the people. 

With the understanding that love is not only a physiological reaction, but also a socio-cultural construct, changing in time, we invite papers which explore the phenomena of heterosexual and homosexual romantic love (ishq, hubbhava [lust], and muhabbat [affection]) in the Muslim world.

Importantly, we are not bound by a rigid definition of “the Muslim world”. Rather, we seek for ethnographies which explore socio-cultural context in any place in the world in which Islamic influences can be traced. That is, “the Muslim world” is seen as diachronically and synchronically constructed rather than a fixed socio-cultural and geographical formation. Consequently, as our main focus is on the Middle East, we welcome contributions which study different parts of the world, including countries and regions where Muslims are a minority.

We are especially interested in empirically grounded papers on:

– Differences and similarities between notions and practices of romantic love within the Muslim world and its comparison to other religions and regions.

– Public (local & global) policies which shape and are being shaped by the notions and practices of romantic love.

– Representations of romantic love in media, cinema, popular literature, poems and other cultural products.

– Everyday practices and narratives of romantic love, including matchmaking.

– Impact which romantic love has on family structures (including marriages and divorces) and on gender dynamics within and outside of the family,

– The bearing of romantic love on reproductive practices and choices.

Abstracts should be written in 200-500 words and submitted to anna.romanowicz@uj.edu.pl copied to: Soheila Shahshahani : soheilairan@gmail.com and Farniyaz Zaker: farniyaz.zaker@googlemail.com

5-Sports in the Middle East 

Convenor: Prof. Christian Bromberger (University of Provence)

Sports, understood in their double dimension of practice and spectacle, are privileged observatories of the real and imaginary functioning of societies. We can read, through their magnifying mirror, the construction and representation of genders (through the sexual distribution and discrimination of practices), local, regional, national antagonisms (through the militant fervor aroused by the spectacle of competitions), how societies manage and tolerate the violence of confrontations between athletes and the unbridling of collective emotions (among supporters), the canons of beauty and bodily propriety (through the history of sportswear, the morphological types of stars of the stadium, educational standards (through the place and functions attributed to physical activities, including, in the past,  preparation for war), social stratification (through the breakdown, even discrimination of practices according to backgrounds and origins), the forms of sociability (which are woven on the pitches or in the bleachers), the dramatization of the social hierarchy (which is displayed within the enclosure of the arena), the expressions of power (through the evergetism of the powerful), the cardinal values ​​that shape societies ( the spirit of competition, the cult of performance, cunning, skill, strength, etc.), regional differentiations (through the types of practices anchored here or there), the evolution of measurement techniques – spatial and temporal – consubstantial with the development of sport, architectural forms, finally, to complete this inventory, the ritual dimensions of sports events. The history of sports in different national contexts will be also appreciated.

Abstracts should be written in 200-500 words and submitted to brombergerchristian8@gmail.com  and copied to: Soheila Shahshahani: soheilairan@gmail.com and Farniyaz Zaker: farniyaz.zaker@googlemail.com

6-Outstanding Women who played an Important Role in Political Events in the Middle East

Convenor: Prof. Christian Bromberger (University of Provence)

The role of women in revolutionary movements is often underestimated. However, in the 19th and 20th centuries, women played an important role in revolutions and social movements in Europe and particularly in Russia. What about the Middle East? We will focus on the place of women, from the Middle East or elsewhere, in these movements.

Abstracts should be written in 200-500 words and submitted to brombergerchristian8@gmail.com and copied to: Soheila Shahshahani : soheilairan@gmail.com and Farniyaz Zaker: farniyaz.zaker@googlemail.com

7-Challenges Facing Middle Eastern Youth

Convenor: Prof. Mary Elaine Hegland (Santa Clara University)

The Middle East and North Africa are currently in crisis mode. Challenges facing MENA populations have been increasing in the last few decades and all the more so in recent years. Conditions are impinging on middle and lower class individuals of all ages, but the older generations have more often become settled in their lives, be those as they may. Younger generations, many of whom have not yet found their places in society, are often facing greater challenges.

Much of the difficulties experienced by people in these regions come from outside forces—other nations and political leaders have interfered in ways that exacerbate conditions. For example, American support for Iraq during the Iran/Iraq promoted the length and harmfulness of these 8 years of death and destruction. The senseless war directed by the Americans against Iraq post 9/ll brought chaos to the region and encouraged the growth of ISIS and other problematic groups.

American-led sanctions against Iran have added to internal corruption and ineptitude bringing a high rate of inflation, joblessness, increasing poverty, and hopelessness. American support for Israel has enabled their taking over of more Palestinian land areas and violence and discrimination against Palestinians. Incursions into Afghanistan have in the end left that country with desperate poverty, hunger and a destroyed economy in the hands of the Taliban. Some of the difficulties of the youth have been caused also by internal conflicts, policies and developments, such as corruption, favoritism, incompetence, and repressiveness, resulting in economic challenges and political problems such as crack-downs on protests.  

Youth may suffer from lack of financial security; susceptivity to violence, discrimination, unemployment, lack of possibility to attain educational aims, barriers to attaining marriage, fear of having children due to concerns about their future; problems in trying to migrate to better attain their goals; inability to find means of recreation and entertainment; political repression; lack of ability for self-expression. Some youth are homeless or in situations of abuse and exploitation. Some youth of course leave their home areas, crossing borders legally or illegally, or find themselves in exile or in refugee camps, facing an uncertain future. And now covid19 exacerbates their difficulties even more.

Youth may also face difficulties due to conflicts and cultural clashes: conflicts between their family/relatives culture and their age group culture; between religious culture and more modern, sectarian expectations; between following traditional paths such as marriage and closeness to family versus becoming more independent and self-sufficient; between staying in their home environments versus attempting to migrate elsewhere. Many young people are stuck between traditional expectations and first and foremost loyalty and obedience to family versus more modern and global expectations of becoming more individuated and self-sufficient. Developments in the near past have raised expectations among the youth; current inability to attain those expectations have caused frustration, sometimes pushing youth toward such negatives as drugs, alcohol, aimlessness, excessive emphasis on pleasure and entertainment, promiscuity, or hopelessness.  

For this panel, we invite paper proposals/abstracts dealing with various kinds of challenges facing young people, sources of those problems, various initiatives young people take on to try to deal with some of their difficulties (such as family support, interaction with other young people, parties, social media and internet, activism, etc.), interventions for assistance to them, and ideas and insights about situations of the youth—these precious resources upon whose shoulders the responsibilities for building their future societies rest. Please send your abstract of between 250-300 words and a short bio to:

Abstracts should be written in 200-500 words and submitted to MHegland@scu.edu and copied to: Soheila Shahshahani: soheilairan@gmail.com and Farniyaz Zaker: farniyaz.zaker@googlemail.com

8-Ethnohistory of the Middle East

Convenor: Dr Fakhri Haghani (Rutgers School of Art and Sciences) 

Ahistorical History 

Writing history is about telling stories which are made up of testimonies, archival research, audio and visual representations and much more. In other words, how the stories have been told, presented, and witnessed take a primary role. Another factor that plays an important part in the make-up and narration of these stories in shaping the writing of the history are the way the audience’s reaction to, participation in, and reflection on these stories are imagined.  While, in general, stories have been trusted in writing or presenting the history of the Middle East, numerous examples have pointed out ahistoricizing history of the region. Stories about national struggles for independence, territorial sovereignty, religious diversity, pre-modern nomadic lives or civilizations, women’s status and gender practices, social establishments, natural, environmental, and economic resources, costumes and traditions including food, handcrafts, and architecture, etc. have been subject of dispute and contestation from different point of views, both regional and global. In this panel we address questions such as how have stories been able to ahistoricize history of the region? What particular characteristics about telling stories have contributed to this process? Why, when and how? How have historians, anthropologists, ethno-historians, etc. approached these questions while using archival research and collecting oral accounts in their field works? How did the historians approach the role that the audience plays in the way these histories are written? While contributions from scholars in the field on these topics and questions are welcomed, proposals are not limited in exploring other topics and questions. 

Abstracts should be written in 200-500 words and submitted to the.fakhrih@gmail.com and copied to: Soheila Shahshahani: soheilairan@gmail.com and Farniyaz Zaker: farniyaz.zaker@googlemail.com

9-Research in Progress

Convenor: Dr Soheila Shahshahani (Shahid Beheshti University)

Abstracts should be written in 200-500 words and submitted to Soheila Shahshahani: soheilairan@gmail.com and Farniyaz Zaker: farniyaz.zaker@googlemail.com

10-Caring for Humans and Other Creatures in the Middle East  

Convenor: Prof. Nefissa Naguib (University of Oslo)

Affective human sentiments are fragile and pervasive, and yet they have the possibility to assist scholars in developing tools for histories and social analysis of caregiving, revealing some of the most basic ways that human societies sort out life and relationships of humans and other creatures. We know about long-term daily charitable giving, rescue, protection, shelter and plain gestures of kindness that are essential aspects of daily life in the Middle East. This panel invites colleagues to think again about human involvement with other humans, and between humans, animals, plants, and others in the region. The ambition is to contribute to a renewed theory of human involvement with other humans, and between humans and non-humans in the region that builds on actualities of loss and recuperation, and on human agency as a basis for people’s quest for lives together. The human potential is vital in understanding the histories of what humans are to other humans, and what humans are to other creatures, and how care operates on multiple levels in the Middle East. 

Abstracts should be written in 200-500 words and submitted: nefissa.naguib@sai.uio.no and and copied to: Soheila Shahshahani: soheilairan@gmail.com and Farniyaz Zaker: farniyaz.zaker@googlemail.com

11-Made in Japan: How Japanese Goods Introduced Modernity into Iran

 Convenor: Prof. Tomoko Yamagishi (Meiji University)

It is largely accepted that Iranian people have enjoyed “made in Japan” consumer products, but their details are not very clear.  The aim of our study is to 

1.  To make a thick description of Japanese exports of consumer goods to Iran based on statistics, stories of those who worked in that productive and business fields, and the ways those goods were introduced

2.  To consider the significance and roles of those consumer goods in Iran;  those goods might have played an important role in making the habit of “modern city-life” of Iranians, as the period of the dramatic increase in city-dwelling middle class in Iran and the dramatic increase in Japanese  export coincide, i.e. 1960s-1970s;  and those products might have contributed to the image of Japan as an industrialized country.

3.  To reconsider the complex relationship between Iran and Japan; the increased use of consumer goods were largely thought a part of “Westernisation,”  though a considerable part of those goods did not come from the West, and since the establishment of the Islamic Regime in Iran Japanese government has maintained a good relationship with Iran culturally and politically as an “Asian” country, while the economic relation of the petroleum-exporting country and her buyer has been thought as the very basic.

Our team consists of Prof. A. Tsubakihara, associate professor affiliated to Ryukoku University, Prof. Y. Yoshida, associate professor affiliated to Setouchi College, and Prof. T. Yamagishi, professor affiliated to Meiji University.

Yoshida is planning to review the statistical data related to the import of Japanese goods in Iran/ the export of Japanese products to Iran, Tsubakihara is to read her paper focused on the dinner set of Japanese porcelain with blooming roses painted on them reflecting her interviews with Japanese porcelain companies and trade brokerage; and Yamagishi is to give a brief overview of the magazine advertisements of Japanese goods carried on Iranian periodicals.

Abstracts should be written in 200-500 words and submitted go.tomyam.go@gmail.com and and copied to: Soheila Shahshahani: soheilairan@gmail.com and Farniyaz Zaker: farniyaz.zaker@googlemail.com

12-Religion in Popular Culture

Convenor: Dr hab. Bożena Gierek (Jagiellonian University) 

Religion has always been a core, an essence of human life. Understood by Émile Durkheim (1912) as a system of connected beliefs and practices related to sacred things, which are distinguished and forbidden, religion: binds all believers in one moral community; expresses a collective ideal; and is a stimulus to an action. Rudolf Otto (1917) also considered numinosum (sacred) to be an essence of religion. For the both authors sacred was experienced; it was something without which religion would not be religion. Moreover, Otto distinguished the following elements of numinosumtremendummajestasmysteriumfascinas and power, through which sacred can be described and revealed to the man.

In the past, not only in the traditional societies, there was no division for sacrum and profanum because every day of human life was permeated with sacrum. So called “religious” was “an integral part of the total ongoing way of life” (Winston L. King, 1987).

Nowadays, there are societies in which there is no place for sacrum, nothing is sacred because the contemporary man has desacralised his world and accepted secular reality, although, according to Mircea Eliade (1957), there is no “perfectly secular existence”. According to Eliade sacrum and profanum are two ways of “being-in-the world”, “two existential situations formed by the man in the course of his history”. Therefore, the way and the form homo religiosus experiences the world differ from the experiencing by the man devoid of religious feelings, living in the desacralised world, and yet still “brimming over with religious values”.

There are also various ways of expressing what is experienced or observed. One of them is myth considered by Gerardus van der Leeuw (1956) as a primordial source of religion. The man has tried to capture numinosum, using any possible means available to him/her, in: architecture, sculpture, picture, song, formula, music, deco art, film, just to name a few of them. The intangible of numinosum must result in symbolism in the art, whether it belongs to popular culture or not.

Religion constantly changes its form; it is constantly reformanda, although it has been already reformata, as noticed by van der Leeuw. So do change the forms of its expression. It seems that because of the progress of techno-civilisation and dissemination of mass culture, nowadays, popular culture has the widest audience in the world. Without going into the detailed discussion on the different definitions of popular culture (see John Storey 1997, 2018), for this panel’s purpose I use the term popular culture to mean the culture that is widely available, accessible. Are there any consequences of this in relation to religion? The answer to this question can be given by discussing the following issues:

  • Means of expression of religion engaged in popular culture.
  • Exact or distorted depiction of the religion in popular culture. Respect or disrespect.
  • Does presenting religion in popular culture evoke emotions, both individual and collective? Why?
  • The way the sacred is displayed in popular culture.
  • The way the values of a certain religion are displayed in popular culture.
  • Ideology and politics behind displaying religion in popular culture.
  • Religious values and individual desires reflected in popular culture.
  • Does popular culture influence people’s religiosity?
  • Is there any task for popular culture in relation to religion?

The authors of the proposals for this panel are invited to discuss the above issues, but are not limited to them.

Abstracts should be written in 200-500 words and submitted bozenkag@yahoo.co.uk and bozena.gierek@uj.edu.pl and copied to: Soheila Shahshahani: soheilairan@gmail.com and Farniyaz Zaker: farniyaz.zaker@googlemail.com

13- Contemporary and Emergent “Non-Governmental” Formations for “Social Good” in the Middle East: NGO, CBO, CSR, App, Co-Op, and Others.

Convenor: Dr Nahal Naficy (Allameh Tabataba’i University)

This panel seeks to contribute to our understanding of the politics and poetics of contemporary and emergent “non-governmental” formations for “doing good” in the region.  “Non-governmental” is put in quotation marks here to suggest that the link to government or the role of the government in the formation and function of these so-called non-governmental entities, whether civil society organizations, businesses, tech initiatives, or whatever else, is itself in need of critical exploration.  “Social good” is also put in quotation marks to state and stress the obvious; that not all groups involved agree on what is good and what is good for the society, and there are in fact conflicts, of opinions as well as of interests, which present themselves at different junctures.  The panel invites ethnographic and historical engagements with any kinds of non-governmental (or not directly and obviously governmental) entities and initiatives for social good (however they claim it) that have emerged in the past few decades in different national and transnational settings in the Middle East.  These could include, but are not limited to, civil society and community-based organizations and initiatives, activities undertaken as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), applications and other technical tools designed for humanitarian/charity/voluntary/collective work, neighborhood and other co-operatives, and other formations that might have evolved from or merged with other existing and more traditional ones or might be just emerging.  

Possible questions to address include:

  • How are “doing good” and “doing well” held in tension, juxtaposed, or reconciled in these endeavors?  What do the practitioners themselves say, and how are they viewed by their critics?
  • What about “structural change” and “charity”?  
  • How do political debates and power dynamics figure in these endeavors (even, and perhaps specially, when the practitioners emphasize the “non-political” nature of their work)?
  • How do the practitioners narrate their collective identity and history in a larger social, cultural, economic, and political context?
  • What role have national governments and international organizations played in the formation and function of these entities?   What discourses, what funds, what other forms of promotion or hindrance are we talking about?
  • How are these formations nested within particular local dynamics and global trends?
  • ……….. 

Abstracts should be written in 200-500 words and submitted nahalnaficy1400@gmail.com  and copied to: Soheila Shahshahani: soheilairan@gmail.com and Farniyaz Zaker: farniyaz.zaker@googlemail.com

14-Religious Charisma in the Middle East and North Africa and its Diasporas: Authority,Succession and Devotion

Convenors: Dr Liza Dumovich (Centre for Middle East Studies (NEOM/UFF) and Dr Gisele Fonseca Chagas (Centre for Middle East Studies (NEOM/UFF) – Universidade Federal Fluminense (PPGA/UFF)

Max Weber (1978[1921], 215-242) defines “charisma” as a certain personal quality that is considered extraordinary or supernatural by others, an exemplary or even God-gifted power which gives the individual concerned a “leader” status. On the one hand, the legitimacy of a charismatic authority stems from free recognition on the part of those under the authority, that is, followers or disciples. More importantly, the latter must believe it is their duty to recognize the genuineness of the authority and devote themselves to the leader. On the other hand, the reason for this legitimacy rests on evidence of “divine grace”, which must reflect the sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of the leader and the normative patterns, as well as the order, prescribed by him/her. Such evidence may even be expressed in the personal successes and prosperity of followers/disciples. In other words, the recognition of the leader’s charismatic authority requires proofs of his charismatic qualification. If the leader is unsuccessful or uncapable to prove his extraordinary powers for long or, more importantly, if his leadership fails to benefit his followers, his charismatic authority may vanish away. Also, in accordance with Weber, as charismatic authority and the social relations involved are strictly personal and emotionally charged, charismatic community faces the “problem of succession” with the disappearance of the leader. According to Weber’s model, charismatic authority would be the direct antithesis of both rational/bureaucratic and traditional authorities, thus, alien to everyday routine structures. In order to guarantee the survival of the community, charismatic authority would have a tendency to “routinization” and would eventually become either traditionalized or rationalized, or a combination of both. In turn, charismatic community, which would be an organized group based solely on an emotional form of communal relationship, lacking hierarchy, a system of formal rules, and rationality, would eventually disappear as such as it would “routinize” into an institution. 

However, Eisenstadt (1968) suggests that “charisma” and “organized routine” should not be taken as opposed realities, for they intertwine in concrete situations. Moreover, contrary to Weber’s claims, ethnographies have shown that charismatic authority, as well as charismatic relations, endure as ordinary phenomena in many social and religious contexts (Lindholm 1993; Pinto 2016). Charismatic domination and bureaucratic domination may coexist in different levels and with more or less intensity in a variety of institutions, whether religious, secular or state-like institutions (Shils 1965). Furthermore, ethnographies conducted in religious contexts in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as its diasporas, have encountered different configurations of charismatic communities, movements, and relations, which produce diverse forms of emotional manifestation and religious experience (Chagas 2011; Dumovich 2018; Pinto 2016). 

We invite papers with ethnographic approaches to charismatic authority and/or community in religious contexts in the MENA and its diasporic communities that refine our understanding of the variety of forms of religious commitment and belonging, as well as emotional attachment to a religious leader, community or movement, in order to establish a productive dialogue between the various perspectives and ethnographic contexts.

Abstracts should be written in 200-500 words and submitted lizadumovich@gmail.com and giselechagas@id.uff.br and copied to: Soheila Shahshahani: soheilairan@gmail.com and Farniyaz Zaker: farniyaz.zaker@googlemail.com

15-[Political] Subjectivity and Desire in the Middle East

Dr Mehrdad Arabestani (University of Tehran) 

Middle Eastern people have long been involved in social and political turmoil; and ethnic and religious clashes that represent the opposing aspirations and desires in the region. The struggles are inconclusive and endless, and each gives way to another, with no resolution in prospect. The dichotomies such as “tradition-modernity,” “religious-secular,” and “power-resistance” are the usual conceptual devices that are applied to make sense of these precarious and factionalized conditions. However, despite the explanatory merits of these concepts, they can conceal the significant direct dimension of subjectivity and its deep embeddedness in power relations. [Political] subjectivity includes the perceptions and desires that motivate the subject. At the same time, socio-political and cultural formations are the foundational grounds that shape subjectivity. Therefore, an anthropological inquiry into [political] subjectivity requires a back and forth movement between the subjects’ inner states- the perceptions and desires- and their surrounding discourses.

The socio-cultural formations and power relations present the subject with a lack that shapes the subject’s desire, which animates the acting subjects. Desires can be found in the subject’s conscious identification with specific values and ideals (Ego ideals) such as security, wealth, dignity, honor, prestige, pride, freedom, piety, independence, and democracy. These declared desires are “legitimate” and socially approved ideals that the subject is identified with them. Another less declared, or even subconscious, desires are those at the imaginary register (Ideal Ego) that could be manifested in arts, music, poetry, bodily expressions, aspirations, ambitions, daydreams, and fantasies. Fantasies are imaginary pictures that absorb the subject and are the ultimate subconscious object of desire.

The contributors of this panel would include the presentations that approach their topic through the formation of subjectivity, desire, conscious and subconscious identification, and how they affect and make sense of the subjects’ behavior. The subjects’ interpretation of their situation and what motivates them is the groundwork for analysis. Whether it is about a political movement, a religious practice, feminist activism, youth culture, lifestyle, migration, nationalism, mass psychiatric disorder, or any other topic, the line of inquiry revolves around the enigmatic question of “What do they [really] want?.”

Abstracts should be written in 200-500 words and submitted m.arabestani@ut.ac.ir

and copied to: Soheila Shahshahani: soheilairan@gmail.com  and Farniyaz Zaker: farniyaz.zaker@googlemail.com