Islam in Francophone Culture – PG Study Day

Jamal Bahmad, one of our PhD students, recently organised a Postgraduate Study Day at Stirling, examining the location of Islam in Francophone Cultures from a range of different perspectives. Here’s his report on the day’s events:

SFPS Postgraduate Study Day

Allah n’est pas obligé: The Location of Islam in Francophone Cultures”

University of Stirling (20 June 2013)

The 2013 postgraduate study day of the Society for Francophone Postcolonial Studies took place at the University of Stirling on 20 June 2013. The event was co-sponsored by the host institution. Doctoral and postdoctoral researchers from four continents came together to debate the location of Islam in Francophone cultures. The choice of theme was motivated by the insufficient amount of scholarship on Islam in Francophone postcolonial studies. Rigorous scholarship on the location of Islam in the French-speaking world, past and present, is susceptible of yielding novel ways of seeing in Francophone postcolonial cultural studies. The study day was also motivated by the belief that young researchers in the field are best positioned and stand to gain a great deal from paying critical attention to Francophone Islam in an increasingly interconnected world.

Divided into three panels, a publishing workshop and a keynote address, the study day examined the history and current trends in the cultural representations of Islam around the Francophone world. Under the heading ‘Screening Islam’, the first panel addressed the location of this faith system as an everyday practice and political ideology in the production and reception of North African cinema. In her paper, Dr. Stefanie Van de Peer (University of St Andrews) explored the politics of laïcité in the often controversial reception of Nadia El Fani’s documentary films. The next speaker, Rym Ouartsi (King’s College London), presented a critical account of the polemical reception of Laila Marrakchi’s Marock (2005) in her native Morocco. The feature film was panned by the Islamists and defended by the secular forces in a polarised public sphere. Finally, Jamal Bahmad (University of Stirling) provided a contrapuntal analysis of Islam in Marock. Through a close reading of the structuring absence of the urban poor in this accented autoethnography of Casablanca’s French-speaking upper class, he unveiled the spectral role of radical Islam in subverting Marrakchi’s project of granting postcolonial agency to her suburban characters.

The second panel looked at Islam in Francophone Europe through two papers by Amina Easat-Daas (Aston University) and Dr. Chloé Gill-Khan (University of South Australia). The first speaker examined some methodological questions in her current research project on political participation amongst second-generation Muslim women in France and Francophone Belgium. Gill-Khan’s paper explored how Islam has emerged as a critical paradigm in the literary and cinematic articulations of North African identities in France since the 1980s.

The last panel comprised three papers with a shared focus on Western literary and historical representations of Islam and the Muslim world since the eighteenth century. In the first paper, Mauro Di Lullo (University of Stirling) looked at violence and terror in Jean Genet’s encounter with the Muslim world. The next speaker, Kirsty Bennett (University of Sussex), examined Isabelle Eberhardt’s invention of her Islamic identity in opposition to French colonial power in Algeria. Lastly, Karima Lahrach-Maynard (New York University) delivered a comparative reading of the representations of Islam in France during the crusades of Saint Louis and the Egypt Expedition of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Professor David Murphy (University of Stirling) led a publishing workshop with a focus on the implications of recent developments in academic publishing for young researchers in Francophone postcolonial studies. He offered practical advice to an audience of postgraduate and early-career researchers on how to survive and prosper in a rapidly changing job environment. Getting published enough in the right places at the right time are essential survival skills to find a (stable) job and get established as an academic.

The study day concluded with a keynote address by Dr. Phil Dine (National University of Ireland, Galway). It was a very incisive and original survey of the place of Islam in the evolution of colonial and postcolonial discourses and societies in North Africa and metropolitan France. He spoke to key historical periods and seminal colonial and postcolonial texts across a variety of genres and fields. Dr. Dine considered their accumulative contribution to shaping North African subjectivity in its diversity and worldliness from pre-colonial times to the ‘Arab Spring’ protests.

Jamal Bahmad (University of Stirling)

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