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CALL FOR PAPERS! “Pluralism in Emergenc(i)es: Movement, Space, and Religious Difference”


Call for Paper Abstracts: July 31, 2017     |     Paper Submission: October 25, 2017     |     Conference: December 6 – 7, 2017


Attention: We are extending the abstract deadline with specific interest in submissions from urban planners, members of the humanitarian aid and NGO communities, and policy workers from the Middle East.


The Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life (IRCPL) at Columbia University is requesting paper proposals to present for its conference series “Pluralism in Emergenc(i)es: Movement, Space, and Religious Difference,” which will convene first in Amman and then in Tunis. “Pluralism in Emergenc(i)es“ explores pluralism as it emerges in response to contemporary global crises. “Pluralism” is commonly understood as the recognition and affirmation of diversity within a governing body or set of institutional arrangements. Drawing on the resources of Columbia’s Global Centers in Amman and Istanbul, this conference seeks to examine the historical, social, and religious underpinnings of the so-called migrant and refugee crisis in order to position this moment as a state of emergence, rather than a state of emergency. Thinking of pluralism as a technology of power that helps to organize people and their interactions, and often articulated with special attention to religious difference, this conference will address how pluralism becomes activated in emergency situations and is utilized in different ways and towards different ends. This conference series is being co-sponsored by IRCPL, Columbia Global Centers, and the Center for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain at the University of Groningen.

The two-day conference in Amman intends to bring together local experts, students and activists with regional specialists and practitioners from academia, the art world, and the business community, as well as experts from civil society and the NGO sector, to present and discuss the impact of the global migration situation on housing and urban development, collective memory and identity, and religious pluralism in the face of rapidly changing and increasingly precarious lived realities. Following the conference, select participants will be invited to contribute a revised and extended version of their papers to an edited book volume and other online writing fora.

The conference will take place in Amman on Wednesday, December 6 and Thursday, December 7, 2017. A full conference program and papers will be provided in advance of the conference. The organizers will cover the cost of airfare and hotel accommodation for all invited participants. The working language of the conference is English.



The “Pluralism in Emergenc(i)es: Movement, Space, and Religious Difference“ conference in Amman will look at the rich history of pluralist social contexts and sectarian strife that inform the contemporary landscape of the region, from Turkey to Iraq, Iran to Syria, to Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine/Israel. The conference will address the following questions: What are the variations in how “pluralism” is understood and how does it function in a time of crisis? Moreover, what are the material and immaterial modes through which pluralism takes shape? How does it change through the circulation of people – as migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, and capital – whether under the auspices of international development funds, religious aid, or new labor markets? Lastly, how have ideals of pluralism and multiculturalism so often touted by many of these refugee-receiving countries been awakened, shattered, or reinforced in response to the intense survival situations these refugees, migrants, and residents face?

Movement and urban transformation have been at the center of multiple histories of displacement (the Palestinian, Syrian and Iraqi refugee crises) that have produced the present situations in the contemporary Middle East. Alongside these histories are realities of religious difference, intersecting religious identity with national tendencies (e.g., Iran, Turkey, Iraq, and Syria), wherein Sunni/Shi’a relations, Christian and other minority religious groups, and waves of secularizing tendencies all come together to inform contemporary crisis situations and the responses of state and international institutions. Looking at the region, the conference will deal with issues that inform the contemporary Middle East as a space of pluralism in emergence and in crisis.

Discussion at this conference will center on the following four leitmotifs:

  1. Emerging Housing and Emergency Settlement
  2. Collective Memory and Identity
  3. On Religion and Refugees: Conversations from the Field
  4. Conceptualizing and Comparing Pluralism in Emergencies

Contributors are invited to submit abstracts for the aforementioned thematic panels which are elaborated below.

Panel 1) Emerging Housing and Emergency Settlement

The current situation in the region provides an eminently timely context to speak about emerging housing, urban development, and governmental policies. New forms of migration and movement in the recent past due to violence and economic insecurity have led to the construction of semi-temporary housing that, as has been the trend in the region, has become quite permanent. Government policies that discipline the ways that these new populations can integrate into the local economy lead to the creation of new economic spaces and economies. In this panel, we aim to interrogate the triangulation between movement, new forms of housing, and government policies that create the context within which pluralism emerges by exploring:

  • Shifts in migratory landscapes and populations
  • Creation of new sites of intersection, community, and exchange
  • Housing needs and settlement
  • Urban vs. camp housing policies
  • International humanitarianism and NGO management of camps
  • Intersection of displacement, refugees, and the policies of refugee camp architecture
  • Ongoing “temporary” status of refugees despite “permanent” dwellings
  • Property-owning rights for Syrians, Armenians, Palestinians, and Lebanese after displacement
  • Emergence of new economies

Panel 2) Collective Memory and Identity

New forms of movement, and impetuses for these movements, create new spaces of encounter amongst peoples with diverse collective histories. Reflecting upon these emerging spaces of collectivity, this panel seeks to critically explore:

  • Memories of porous borders and experiences of hardened borders
  • Memories of colonialism
  • Socialization of historical identities into the broader social context, or living together amongst emergent crises
  • Concept of “Refugee-ness” in the Lebanese and Jordanian contexts
  • “Culture wars” and conflicts between religious/secular groups that obscure and enable social alliances
  • Transformation of neighborhoods with arrival and settlement of minority populations and internal migrants

Panel 3) On Religion and Refugees: Conversations from the Field

The largely neglected question of religion and its intersection with displacement and migration in Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq will be discussed in this panel. Academics, NGOs, and civil society members will offer their insights on the different modes of interaction and reception of the migration crisis in these aforementioned locales, along with the following topics:

  • Contemporary religious traditions and perspectives on hospitality
  • Gender, religion, and migration
  • Secular organizations, international agencies, and faith-based organizations responses to gender mainstreaming efforts
  • Facilitation and role of faith leaders to support displaced persons and aid refugees’ access to services
  • Diverse responses of aid organizations tending to different religious communities
  • Incorporation of religious practice into design and refugee housing to accommodate a multitude of faith practices

Panel 4) Conceptualizing and Comparing Pluralism in Emergencies

In this panel, we enter into a fundamental discussion about how “pluralism” is variously conceived across the different locations. This panel provides the opportunity for explicit comparative work on the emerging contexts wherein pluralism becomes a politically exigent discourse. The fact that pluralism has become conceptually important across these different times and spaces makes clear that we must better understand where and when the lens of pluralism presents itself as useful to those in power, and to those in states of precarity. Thus comparison allows for reflection on difference, to better understand the various types of pluralism that emerge, and the various contexts in which pluralism becomes emergent. This panel seeks to engage with:

  • Grassroots organization and providing space for the promotion of political rights
  • Emergence of new communities through migration
  • Production of democratic practices and institutions that come into formation
  • Merging of various forms of identity politics “ nationalist, religious, ethno-linguistic“ into religious nationalistic politics
  • Evolving relations of refugees and potential refugees and networks formed during the migration process
  • Emergence of refugee/migrant hubs and their determining factors
  • Making space accessible, useful, and meaningful given the diversification and informalities in migrant hubs


Abstracts should be written in English and no longer than 250 words. They should be titled and have all requisite bibliographic citations. Along with the abstract, please include a detailed, recent Curriculum Vitae/resume (no longer than 3 pages).

Abstracts will be evaluated according to the following categories: originality of theme, clear data and methodology, clarity and relevance of the proposal to the conference theme, and contribution to the conference theme.

To submit your abstract, please send them to with the subject line of the email titled “Religion and Pluralisms Amman,” by July 16, 2017.




For any enquiries regarding the conference program, please contact:

Soraya Batmanghelichi:

For all general enquiries, please contact:

Walid Hammam, Associate Director of IRCPL:

Ahmad Al-Mousa, Program Manager at the Columbia Global Center in Amman:

Brokering Religion and Development: Ethnographic Approaches to NGOs


May 18, 2017 @ 12:30-2:30pm, Knox Hall, Room 509

This event will focus on the past decade that has witnessed a remarkable surge of interest among both policy makers and academics on the effects that religion has on international aid and development. Within this broad field ‘religious NGOs’ or ‘Faith-Based Organizations’ (FBOs) have garnered considerable scholarly and professional attention, resulting in a flurry of surveys and mapping exercises, as well as a number of practitioner-oriented handbooks and toolkits aiming at integrating religion into development programming. Beyond these attempts at conceptualizing the field at a macro level, more recently there has also been significant new research examining the work of particular organizations and contexts from ethnographic perspectives. This growing literature provides new tools to better appreciate the ways in which emergent institutional forms advocating diverse social interventions arise out of or in conversation with religious communities and discourses on transcendent values. This, in turn, sheds light on the variety of ways in which FBOs are reshaping the global landscape of non-governmental organizations and their work across diverse societies – thus opening up new conversations on the possibilities and problematics of contemporary engagements of religion in the public sphere in diverse societies across the globe. This presentation features critical reflections on cutting edge work in this direction by a team of researchers examining dynamics of religion and NGOs in Southeast Asia based at the National University of Singapore’s Asia Research Institute, and the University of Oxford.

Please register on Eventbrite at:

sitarApril 20, 2017 @ 7pm – 8:30pm
Pulitzer Hall, Brown Institute for Media Innovation
2950 Broadway

Featuring a Hindustani Classical Sitar Concert by:

Pandit Kushal Das, Sitar

Pandit Ramdas Palsule, Tabla

And a conversation with students from Columbia Journalism School’s
Covering Religion Seminar

Join us! Register here:

Spring is here, and what better way to celebrate than with raga music? The evening features a sitar recital by Pandit Kushal Das and Pandit Ramdas Palsule, leading exponents of the sitar and the tabla in the world, performing rarely heard Spring ragas. Pandit Kushal Das rarely performs in NYC. This is a fantastic opportunity for connoisseurs and beginners!

In the discussion following the concert, some of the students from Columbia Journalism’s Covering Religion Seminar, who have just returned from a reporting trip in India, will engage with Pandit Kushal Das and his experiences on performing religious and secular music. They will reflect on their own understanding of music’s role in Indian society and Indian religiosity. How has music helped them better understand and unpack Indian life and religiosity? How has music helped them better cover religion?

The concert is hosted and curated by Yogi Trivedi, Adjunct Professor, Columbia Journalism

The Evening:

Religion and Media share an intimate relationship. In India, music has arguably been religion’s primary medium of choice for millennia. Even with the advent of newer forms of media, music has still retained a central role in religious experience and expression.

This concert and discussion reflects on the experiences from a recent trip to India by Columbia Journalism School’s Covering Religion class. Each year Professors Goldman and Trivedi lead a class of students to a different part of the world to see how religion manifests and how it can and should be covered by journalists. The students spend several weeks preparing for the trip before witnessing the role of religion in a particular society.

This year the students traveled to India. They realized that music and religiosity shared a dialectical relationship. Religious experience and expression were still mediated by music despite the advent of newer forms of media. Seasons, festivals, life, death, and even social change are mediated by performance, and more often than not musical experience. Their own journeys as students and journalists were also shaped by music, dance, and theater. As one student put it, music and religion in India sing to each other, sing with each other, and often silently.

In the discussion following the concert, some of the students will engage with Pandit Kushal Das and his experiences on performing religious and secular music. They will reflect on their own understanding of music’s role in Indian society and Indian religiosity. How has music helped them better understand and unpack Indian life and religiosity? How has music helped them better cover religion?

Join us for an intimate Indian classical music performance of Spring Ragas followed by a conversation with Pandit Kushal Das and the students from the Covering Religion class. The discussion will be moderated by Yogi Trivedi, Adjunct Professor, Columbia Journalism.

The Artists and Curator:

Pandit Kushal Das is one of the leading sitar and surbahar players of India. He hails from a family of musicians from Kolkata. He is a top grade musician at All India Radio. His “singing sitar” has become a favorite amongst connoisseurs today. His style is often likened to the Late Pandit Nikhil Banerjee.  His ability to play classical, folk, and devotional genres has also earned him great prestige amongst the musician community.

Pandit Ramdas Palsule has been recognized as one of the most senior disciples of tabla maestro Pandit Suresh Talwalkar. He regularly performs around the world with instrumentalists, vocalists, kathak dancers, and as a soloist. He is a guru at the Center for Performing Arts at Pune University and at the newly created Avartan Gurukul in Pune.

Yogi Trivedi is currently an Adjunct Professor at the Journalism School. His latest book, Swaminarayan Hinduism: Tradition, Adaptation, and Identity (2016), is a comprehensive edited volume on the Swaminarayan community. His scholarship is enriched by his training as a lecturer and musical performer of bhakti poetry and classical and devotional North Indian music. He has trained with various internationally acclaimed classical and folk musicians, such as Padma Vibhushan Pandit Jasraj and Gujarati ghazal maestro Purushottam Upadhyaya.

All reservations are for open seating.  For questions about accessible seating reservations, please email

Intimacies: Days I & II April 13 @ 9:30 am – April 14 @ 5:00 pm


PLEASE NOTE: Location for Day 1 has changed to the Presidential Room at Columbia Faculty House

Intimacies I: Sexualities in Contemporary Muslim Societies
(April 13th, Presidential Room at Columbia Faculty House)

Breakfast // 9:00am – 9:30am

Opening Remarks // 9:30am – 9:45am

Panel 1: Muslim Sexualities: Exploring Definitions and Concepts // 9:45am – 11:45am
with Homa Hoodfar, Gul Ozyegin, Sofian Merabet, Scott Kugle, and Moderator: K. Soraya Batmanghelichi

Keynote Speaker: Mona Eltahawy // 11:50am – 12:45pm

Lunch // 1:00pm – 2:00pm

Panel 2: Let’s talk about Sex: On the Ground Perspectives of Muslim Sexuality // 2:00pm – 4:00pm
with Eman Abedelhadi, Mashuq Deen, Urooj Arshad, Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, and Moderator: Samira Mohyeddin

Coffee Break 4:00pm – 4:15pm

Intimacies I Roundtable: Coming Out Muslim // 4:15pm – 5:30pm
with Leila Mouri, Shep Glennon, Hinasahar Muneeruddin, and Wahiba Abu-Ras

Reception and Samra Habib Photo Exhibition // 5:30pm – 7:00pm

Intimacies II: Queerness in Muslim Contexts/Communities
(April 14th, Lerner 569)

Breakfast // 9:30am – 10:00am

Panel 1: Queer Social Movements // 10:00am – 11:45pm
with Samra Habib, Tynan Power, Faisal Alam, and Moderator: Sima Shakhsari

Lunch // 11:45am – 1:00pm

Panel 2: “Variant” Muslims: Gender Pluralism & Ambiguity // 1:00pm – 3:00pm
with Faris Khan, Sima Shakhsari, Asli Zengin, Ali Mian, and Moderator: Durba Mitra

Coffee Break // 3:00pm – 3:15pm

Intimacies II Roundtable: Sexual Violence // 3:15pm – 4:45pm
with Leila Mouri, Ayah Eldosougi, Wahiba Abu-Ras, and K. Soraya Batmanghelichi

Closing Remarks // 5:00pm

Registration is strongly suggested. Please RSVP to this free conference at Eventbrite:

Tariq Ramadan: Muslims and/in the West: Past, Present, Future March 30 @ 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm


With Brexit, the election of Trump in the US, and the rise of the far-right in Europe, Muslims are facing greater scrutiny than ever before.  Throughout Europe and the US they are increasingly considered a fifth column.  Globally, self-identified Muslims are often considered harbingers of regressive values that are antithetical to a secular project of progressive enlightenment.  Western political and media attempts to expunge Islam and Muslims from the collective imaginary are both a reminder of the exclusionary practices that constitute a collective “we” and a confirmation of the ineluctable entanglements between the West and Islam, its age-old “Other.”  Join us for an afternoon with Tariq Ramadan, Brinkley Messick, Katherine Pratt Ewing, and Hasan Azad as we look at the intimate interconnections among Muslims, Islam, and the West.

Tariq Ramadan is Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at the Oxford University (Oriental Institute, St Antony’s College) and also teaches at the Oxford Faculty of Theology. He is Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies, (Qatar) and the University of Malaysia PerlisSenior Research Fellow at Doshisha University (Kyoto, Japan) and Director of the Research Centre of Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE) (Doha, Qatar).

He holds an MA in Philosophy and French literature and PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Geneva. In Cairo, Egypt he received one-on-one intensive training in classic Islamic scholarship from Al-Azhar University scholars (ijazat in seven disciplines). Through his writings and lectures Tariq has contributed to the debate on the issues of Muslims in the West and Islamic revival in the Muslim world. He is active at academic and grassroots levels lecturing extensively throughout the world on theology, ethics, social justice, ecology and interfaith as well intercultural dialogue. He is President of the European think tank: European Muslim Network (EMN) in Brussels.
He is a member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.

Latest books: “Islam and the Arab Awakening” OUP USA (2012); “The Arab Awakening: Islam and the New Middle East” Penguin (April 2012); “The Quest for Meaning, Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism” Penguin (2010); “What I believe” OUP USA (2009); “Radical Reform, Islamic Ethics and Liberation” OUP USA (2008),« Au péril des idées » (French) with Edgar Morin, Presses du Châtelet, March 2014.

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