Islam and the Politics of Everyday Life in the Middle East - SIMS55

7.5 credits, Autumn 2020

This course aims to move beyond over-simplified and dichotomous approaches to the complex set of phenomena we refer to as ‘Islam’. It explores the complexity of the social processes defining, constructing and traversing Islamic discourse and Muslim practice.


Course content

Based on joint readings, discussions and presentations of recent academic research, this course theoretically and empirically explores the impact of Islamic discourse and Muslim practice in contemporary Middle Eastern societies, from social, political and cultural perspectives. Two main questions underpin the readings, discussions and assignments:

  • How do Islamic concepts, practices, norms and ideals (and debates thereupon) interrelate with broader socio-economic and political-strategic trajectories in the Middle Eastern region?

  • What are the power effects of Islamic/Muslim discourse and practice (or the critique thereof), from individual, social, political, cultural, consumerist and strategic perspectives?

The course is organised in four thematic sections, to the following effect:

  1. Theorising religion, power and representation in the Middle East.
    Here the course addresses some essential theoretical perspectives for the study of religious discourse and practice in the Middle East. Central are anthropological and political scientific perspectives on religious discourse, power and representation.

  2. Imagining religious order(s) and communities.
    Here, the course turns to empirical perspectives on the role of religious discourse and practice in Middle Eastern societies – while keeping the theoretical engines running. The section starts by revisiting the complex relation of ‘religion’ and ‘politics’ in empirical detail and how it currently plays out in various national settings.

  3. Religious consumption, affect, embodiment and visual (re)presentation.
    Going beyond dichotomies such as sacred/secular, public/private and government/civil society, the third section explores realities outside of ‘traditional’ political institutions, contributing to the ‘fuzziness’ of religious discourse and practice and its relation to power and politics.

  4. Individual specialisation, presentation & opposition.
    The last two weeks of the course are devoted to an individual essay-project, where the student focuses on a topic of choice relating to Islam in the current Middle East and discusses it in relation to one or several theoretical perspectives covered during the course. Individual essays are presented during a final seminar, where the student also offers oral feedback on another student’s essay.

Online course platform

This course uses Canvas as the online course platform. Here you will be able to access literature, assignments, announcements, and schedule, as well as participate in discussions and communicate with teachers. 

Course Coordinator

Torsten Janson

Torsten Janson
Senior Lecturer, Center for Middle Eastern Studies

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