18 December 2009

CFP: Sainthood in Fragile States

A seminar of the Danish Research School of Regional Studies and the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies of the University of Copenhagen, taking place at the Danish Institute in Damascus, Syria,
12-15 April 2010


Call for papers: "Sainthood in Fragile States"

This seminar discusses the creation, adaptation, or denunciations of claims to sainthood in local, regional, and national discourses in the Middle East, including political theologies.

Within recent decades the question of sainthood, in various meanings of the term, has emerged as a powerful theme in negotiating identities. The legitimacy of sainthood is increasingly contested, yet often nation states make use of claims to holiness as consolidating figures, while simultaneously maintaining an ambivalent position toward the legitimacy of individual claims to sainthood. From Christians performing miracles, to Islamic denunciation of saint pilgrimages, to insistence on venerating local saints, to national discourse rooted in venerated figures, sainthood "matters" in that it is not clearly discernable to all parties what makes the specific saint exceptional or to what degree sainthood is embodied.

Recognition of sainthood relies on a complex negotiation of the relationship between the visible, the forces of the unseen, authority, and creation of alternative realities. The qualities of sainthood can thus best be conceptualized as both pertaining to existential and structural dimensions, as fragile states, where mixed motivations emphasize the possibilities and dangers in the life of the individual as well as the nation.

This seminar aims at discussing how such relationships and claims are accepted, contested, or existing in parallel, and thereby has a bearing on social and political life in the Middle East.

The organizers hereby aim to challenge the way both politics and theologies are being conceptualized for contemporary Middle East, in that modernity and religious awakening both make way for disenchantment and re-enchantment. These can be seen as coterminous or opening zones of indeterminacy in which many aspects take place at the same time, with varying social outcome.

Questions that could be addressed: What makes a saint, or what qualities of sainthood apply across social, political, and religious contexts? How is "sainthood" used in negotiating identities at various levels of society? How is evidence of efficacy negotiated? What evidence is applied to substantiate relationships between the seen and the unseen, or revelation and concealment? How is the relationship between politics and theology, the "political theologies", negotiated around figures of sainthood or sanctity?

Abstracts (approx. 300 words) are to be submitted to Andreas Bandak (University of Copenhagen): bandak@hum.ku.dk

Deadline: 12 January 2010

Participants will arrange for their own transportation. The seminar will pay for visa, accommodation, and food, from the evening of the 12th to the evening of the 15th.

Form: The seminar will bring together senior and upcoming Danish and international scholars for a joint investigation of issues of sainthood in contemporary Middle East. Perspectives from all disciplines are encouraged. Keynote speakers will give 45-minute presentations, and PhD students are invited to give 30-minute presentations. All papers are followed by joint discussion. The organizers' aim is to publish the proceedings from the seminar.

Keynotes: Lisa Wedeen (Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science, University of Chicago) and Glenn Bowman (Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Department of Anthropology, University of Kent)

Organizers: Andreas Bandak (PhD Fellow, Centre for Comparative Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen) and Mikkel Bille (Assistant Professor, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen)

See also suggested readings at the above web link.

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