Islam: History, arts and anthropology
Coordinators: Rachida CHIH & Frédéric HITZEL
Thirty years ago, two prominent members of our laboratory, Alexandre Popovic and Gilles Veinstein, published the book Les Ordres mystiques dans l'Islam. Cheminements et situations actuelles (Paris, Ehess, 1986) (Mystical orders in Islam, pathways and current conditions). This was the first work born from a vast interdisciplinary study of peripheral Islam.
This initiative helped to enlarge the scope of studies on Islam in France, hitherto focused on the Arab world and Iran, and to decompartmentalize areas of study. “Decompartmentalization and multidisciplinarity” have since become the CETOBaC’s two key strengths in the study of Islam.
A wide range of research is carried out in our center, involving a variety of disciplines such as history, anthropology, political science and the arts, in order to work towards an understanding of a historicized Islam.
Our crosscutting issues are fed by the individual research of members of the center on Islam in the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia — a rapidly expanding field — but also in the Middle East and in Anatolia from the 15th century to today.
The center explores new themes while maintaining Sufism studies as a major area of focus, with pioneering studies on Sufism having resulted in a considerable number of reference books on Sufi brotherhoods, sainthood, spiritual guidance and the place of the holy book in Islam (for the purpose of a comparison with Christianity).
Studies on Islam in the CETOBaC continue to gather individual research on precise geographical areas around crosscutting and trans-disciplinary themes. They seek to respond to questions of our time in order to meet the need for legitimate knowledge on the diversity of institutions, currents, practices and discourses relating to Islam today, all while being studied in their historical depth.
The 2019-2023 period will see the implementation of three collective projects:
1. The Franco-German program Prophet (‘The Presence and Eschatological Role of the Prophet Muhammad between Individual and Collective Experience’), coordinated by Rachida Chih and Stefan Reichmuth (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)
2. The release of the first volumes of Encyclopaedia of Islamic Mysticism (Brill), co-directed by Alexandre Papas, and a new collection of manuals on Sufism
3. The consolidation of the collection of books on Islam and the Muslim worlds launched in 2017 by Stéphane Dudoignon and published by Seuil, with the support of the Iismm (Institute for the study of Islam and Muslim societies).
A major feature of the work led by researchers at the CETOBaC is the great variety of scales of observation and analysis:
- Localized studies on Albania (Gianfranco Bria), Greece (Alexandre Papas) and Turkey (Nathalie Clayer, Dilek Sarmis);
- Research focused on a whole continent: the Mobile Muslims / Invisible Muslims project (coordinated by Cecilie Endresen, Université d’Oslo), on religious change among Muslims and people of Muslim cultural background;
- Collaborative and international projects (‘A golden red legend’) launched by Stéphane Dudoignon, focusing on the culture of Islamic sainthood in the USSR and in people’s democracies;
- A midpoint between the local and the global: among the most salient case studies include the transnational networks of Islamic schools in the Balkans (Gianfranco Bria) and the ethics of a ‘bourgeois Islam’ in Central Asia (Aurélie Biard).
- Comparative approaches:
- Stéphane Dudoignon’s research on ‘village Islamism’ concerning the forms of the politization of rural Islam in Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus since the 1970’s;
- Marc Toutant’s study of stories of the prophet Muhammad using both Timmurid and Ottoman sources;
- A historical anthropology of holy places of Islam, conducted by Alexandre Papas with cases set in Greece, Anatolia and northern India.
Besides perspectives on the sociological, political and religious dimensions of Islam, the members of the CETOBaC also pursue research on its artistic dimension, on the construction of knowledge and its material culture. We not only approach Turkish, Arabic and Persian languagesfrom a purely linguistic point of view, but also from its social and/or literary, and even political, angles.
Cinema and photography(Cloé Drieu, Ece Zerman, Catherine Pinguet) are for instance particular areas of study within the CETOBaC, as are music (Jérôme Cler, Nicolas Elias, Arianne Zevaco) and the performing arts (Frédéric Hitzel).
Regarding material culture, Maxime Durocher has added an architectural dimension. He studies the zaviye-s within the history of Turkish art from the Seljuks to the Ottomans, in a book which is currently being prepared by Irvin Cemil Schick. Some works focus on the transversal axis of war, but an increasing amount deals with Orientalism, in both its pictorial and scholarly sense, and more generally the construction of knowledge.
Among numerous projects we highlight three:
1. La danse sur le volcan: Istanbul, 1918-1923, Une capitale sous occupation, (The dance over the volcano: Istanbul 1918-1923, an occupied capital city), a collective book on the Allied occupation of Istanbul following World War 1;
2. Augustin Jomier and Emmanuel Suzrek’s investigations on the personal archives of the Orientalists René Basset (1855-1924) and Jean Deny (1879-1963);
3. Research on Soviet Orientalism by Stéphane Dudoignon.
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