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Visualizing the Muslim Gandhi

by Kelley Reardon

As part of the Wednesdays at the Center series, the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies welcomed Tim Dobe, Th.D. and Sumathi Ramaswamy, Ph.D. for a conversation on “Visualizing the Muslim Gandhi.”

 

The John Hope Franklin Center, Duke India Initiative, and Duke Islamic Center hosted the event, which discussed the connection of Gandhi to Islamic culture. Dr. Dobe is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Grinnell College and a current visiting fellow at the Duke Islamic Studies Center. Dr. Ramaswamy is a James B. Duke Professor of History and International Comparative Studies at Duke, Co-Director of Duke’s India Initiative, and President of the American Institute of Indian Studies.

 

 

Dr. Dobe discussed how there is often a focus on Gandhi’s Hinduism and western influence, but less attention on his ties to Muslim culture. In his earlier years, Gandhi was often depicted in art as “a man of the people,” and he was known to put immense effort into dressing appropriately to fit in with his surroundings. For instance, there are images of Gandhi in a suit while he was training to be a lawyer, and images of him in traditional Indian dress when he returned to India.

 

Furthermore, Dr. Dobe shared many works of Khwaja Hsan Nizami, who studied Gandhi and is known for his literary pieces. Nizami even predicted that Gandhi’s legacy would extent to the year 2050, when there would be a landscape of ethics and non-violence and nearly all Muslims would be vegetarian.

 

Dr. Ramaswamy shared artistic depictions of Gandhi later in life, when he would go without clothes and present himself nothing but a loin cloth. Artists depict this stage of Gandhi’s life in different ways—for instance, the modern Indian painter Maqbool Fida Husain did not shy away from painting Gandhi’s unclothed body. Meanwhile, Sayed Haidar Raza, who was also a modern Indian painter, rarely showed Gandhi in his paintings. Yet Raza’s work is still a reflection of his perspective on Gandhi.

 

As Ramaswamy explained, “there is no single way in which Muslim artists respond to Gandhi’s barely clothed body.” There was also the potential that artists were worried about allowing their faith to stand in the way of their art. However, the limitations that faith may have had on an artist’s work can be difficult to determine.

Duke hosts “Dimensions of the Middle East”

Summer Institute provides professional development for 6-12 grade educators.

by Catherine Angst

The Duke Islamic Studies Center and the Duke University Middle East Studies Center in partnership with the Qatar Foundation International (QFI) hosted forty 6-12 grade educators for a five-day summer institute from June 24-29, 2018.

“This institute will completely shift your perspective,” said Jennifer McKinney, a high school history teacher from Fort Smith, Arkansas, “It’s one of those life-changing institutes.”

Professor lectures classroom

Professor Erdağ Göknar, Ph.D. lectures on teaching the Ottoman Empire.

Throughout the week teachers engaged with university experts on a variety of topics to expand their understanding of the cultures, histories, and geopolitics of the Middle East. Lecture titles included:

  • “Religious Diversity of the Middle East” with Professor Carl Ernst, Ph.D.
  • “Women and Leadership in the Arab World” with Professor Nadia Yaqub, Ph.D
  • “Contemporary Turkey from Ataürk to the AKP” with Professor Erdağ Göknar, Ph.D.
  • “An End – Or A Beginning?: The Arab Uprisings of 2011 as History” with Professor James Gelvin, Ph.D.

“We have designed the institute’s program of study around common themes in state curricula, as well as frequently asked questions about the region,” said Emma Harver, a partner on the program from the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies. Beyond lectures, the educators participated in specialty breakout sessions, curriculum building workshops, and a panel discussion on Islamophobia with local Muslim community members.

Institute participants partook in several extracurricular cultural experiences. Teachers donned their chef hats and prepared a Middle Eastern feast as part of a cooking enrichment class. They also toured the Islamic Center of Raleigh’s school and observed prayer.

Chopping

Preparing the chicken tagine.

“One of the biggest things I’ll bring back to my classroom is a comparison between of world religions,” said Kevin Wagner, a world history teacher from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, “There are so many things that the Islamic faith shares with Judaism and Christianity.”

A review committee selected this year’s participants through a competitive, nation-wide application. The educators represented 21 different states and a variety of teaching disciplines from social sciences, language arts, and more.  “The committee was quite impressed with the number and quality of applications to this program,” Harver noted.

Duke and QFI piloted this summer institute in June 2017 with the theme “The Middle East and Islam: New perspectives of Islamic History from the 16th century to the present”. The pilot institute was quite successful, so the program grew to double the size of its teacher cohort this summer.

Everyday Conversions: Attiya Ahmad

Highlights from Dr. Attiya Ahmad’s talk at the John Hope Franklin Center as part of our weekly Wednesdays at the Center series.

 

Why are domestic workers converting to Islam in the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf region? In this talk, Dr. Attiya Ahmad presents us with an original analysis of this phenomenon. Using extensive fieldwork conducted among South Asian migrant women in Kuwait, Ahmad argues domestic workers’ Muslim belonging emerges from their work in Kuwaiti households as they develop Islamic piety in relation—but not opposition—to their existing religious practices, family ties, and ethnic and national belonging. Their conversion is less a clean break from their preexisting lives than it is a refashioning in response to their everyday experiences. In examining the connections between migration, labor, gender, and Islam, Ahmad complicates conventional understandings of the dynamics of religious conversion and the feminization of transnational labor migration while proposing the concept of everyday conversion as a way to think more broadly about emergent forms of subjectivity, affinity, and belonging.

Dr. Attiya Ahmad is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs at The George Washington University. Broadly conceived, her research focuses on the gendered interrelation of Islamic reform movements and political economic processes spanning the Middle East and South Asia, in particular, the greater Arabian Peninsula/Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean regions. Dr. Ahmad is a Ph.D. from Duke University and recently published her first book, “Everyday Conversions: Islam, Domestic Work and South Asian Migrant Women in Kuwait” (Duke University Press, 2017). Dr. Ahmad is currently examining the development of global halal tourism networks.

This event is presented by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Duke University Middle East Studies Center.

Islamic Mysticism – Fall 2017

Course numbers: AMES 373S, ETHICS 373S, ICS 380S, RELIGION 373S

Course attributions: CCI, EI, CZ

Course Description:

This course explores the mystical dimension of Islam, with a bold, poetic, and mystical emphasis on the legacy of human and Divine love.   No background is needed.

Themes explored in this class include the tradition of love poetry of Rumi and Hafez, the various meditative techniques, Sufi poetry and music. We will also explore the controversies surrounding Sufism in the contemporary scene ranging from attacks on Sufism from Muslim fundamentalists to the destruction of Sufi shrines by ISIS and Wahhabis.

Professor biography:

Professor Omid Safi is an award-winning professor in the department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and the director of the Duke Islamic Studies Center.

 

 

 

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