Muslim Worlds Network (MWN)
The Muslim Worlds Network aims to promote international collaboration and scholarly exchange around the contribution that the anthropology of Islam and Muslim life can offer to the discipline by foregrounding non-Western ontologies and epistemologies. It intends to serve as a forum for exploring how embracing these worlds can generate new theoretical and methodological insights within anthropology and beyond.
While the study of Islam has been relatively marginal within the discipline for a long time, it has gained prominence in the last two decades, triggering important debates in the study of ethics, religion, and its ostensible opposite, the secular. However, we still observe the existence of a glaring gap between the study of Islam, as well as other religious worlds, and new debates within anthropology. Whereas the ontological turn has paved the way for the discipline to engage more thoughtfully with non-Western ontologies, religious traditions with a strong theological background have been only tangential in this debate so far. On the other hand, the subfield of the anthropology of religion has only recently begun to integrate insights from other religions beyond Christianity. Accordingly, the network calls for engaging both ethnographically and theoretically with Islam, Muslim life, but also other non-Western worlds, to make them speak more loudly to the discipline’s main concerns.
The network intends to de-center the study of Islam first on a geographical level, from a traditional focus on Arabic/Middle Eastern societies and Muslim presence in Europe/the West to other regions that have been traditionally seen as more peripheral, such as Central Asia, Turkey and the Balkans, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Russia, and China. The idea of Muslim worlds serves to conceptualize this broader topographic space as being constituted by the transregional connections spanning it.
On an epistemological level, de-centering means going beyond the study of Islam through the prism of the social to take it as an intellectual tradition with its distinct trajectory. This last goal responds to recent calls for an ontologically-oriented and decolonial anthropology inviting us to approach non-Western modes of knowing not simply as ethnographic data but also as genuine forces that can contribute to enhancing the discipline both theoretically and conceptually.
Given its particular position vis-à-vis Western thought – with which it shares the same foundations in Greek philosophy – Islam offers primary insights to critically re-examine key assumptions that have defined Western epistemology regarding, for example, the relationship between science and religion, the place of theology and mysticism in science, the scope of human knowledge, and the range of modes of inquiry. At the same time, as witnessed by current social and political debates taking place in Europe around Muslim presence in the public space, Islam provides a unique standpoint from which to examine the place of religion within Western societies and, more generally, within secular modernity.
The network is open not only to anthropologists of Islam and Muslim life both in Europe and other regions of the world, but also to all researchers, students, or people interested in religion, the secular, and the exploration of non-Western ontologies, epistemologies, and philosophies, in dialogue with the anthropology of Islam and the secular.
During the EASA 2022 meeting, before this network was established, the convenors organized a panel titled “Divine presence, Islam and the anthropology of religion: New horizons of knowing and being”. The Muslim Worlds Network aims to convene at least one panel focused on Muslims Worlds and non-Western ontologies during each biannual EASA conference.
It also aims to organize an online bimonthly seminar series featuring talks by network members and invited speakers around a topic selected by the network members and one online workshop each year that there is no EASA conference.
The network also wishes to generate regular communication and discussion among its members through its mailing list and related Facebook group. To join our network please subscribe to our mailing list and/or our Facebook page.
Fabio Vicini, University of Verona; e-mail: fabio.vicini(at)univr.it
Lili Di Puppo, University of Rijeka: lilidipuppo(at)gmail.com