Muslim Publics: Religion and Revolution

Muslim Publics: Religion and Revolution
2013 to 2014
Emerging Networks

Muslim Publics: Religion and Revolution examines the aesthetics of political change in the Middle East through three distinct but interrelated projects on social media and social movements (Negar Mottahedeh), Islamic understandings of human rights and women’s rights (Ellen McLarney).  These faculty bring together diverse perspectives on how religion has been at the center of revolutionary politics in the Middle East and the Muslim world, but also how Islamic cultural production has been central to both expressing and precipitating revolutionary change.

The core of the initiative is a set of public events featuring major scholars and producers of Islamic humanities, media, social media, and popular culture. Involved faculty will coordinated their courses to focus on these events and the featured speakers. Their students will not only attend the events as part of their coursework, they will also be enlisted as facilitators, interviewers, and interlocutors.

The events will reach beyond the classes by bringing students, academics, the local community, and the Muslim community together for conversation and performance (poetry, film, photography, satellite television, music, readings, etc.). The focus on Islamic humanities and cultural production manages to educate about Islamic politics without the usual biases surrounding representations of Islam in American media and popular culture. This format will promote learning and interactivity with both students and audiences, allowing the students to participate in just the sort of public sphere they are studying.

Students will be broken into groups, each one concentrating on a different country from the Arab spring: Egypt, Tunisia, and Syria. They will both study and interact with people, institutions, and narratives that focus on protest, peace-building, and war, on the role of social media in shaping discourse, on a whole panoply of human rights issues, and on the cultural production that has flourished in the midst of revolution. Each student group will present their research at a workshop aimed at the campus as a whole.

Students will be required to establish an interactive website that will serve as an invaluable outlet for transmitting our research to a broader public. Transcripts from the public events will be featured on these websites, as well as undergraduate and graduate projects, writings, research, and commentary. The website will also serve as a portal to faculty-driven resources including “IslamiCommentary” — a clearinghouse for research on Islam and the Muslim experience — and Ebrahim Moosa’s new online Muslim Humanities e-zine.

The main goal of the initiative is to groom a robust coterie of majors in Middle East and Islamic Studies by drawing students into faculty research agendas. In addition, it will contribute to and enrich programming connected to Duke’s Islamic Studies Center (DISC) and Middle East Studies Center (DUMESC), core units that support and disseminate the participating faculty's research. Finally, the initiative is a way of cultivating connections and collaborations within Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and from there to other academic units across the university (AMES, Religion, Literature, Kenan, Focus, Women’s Studies, FHI, Human Rights).


Ellen McLarney
Assistant Professor of Arabic Literature and Culture, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
Negar Mottahedeh
Assistant Professor, Literature and Women’s Studies