The University of Chicago Shiʿi Studies Group Symposium Call for Papers (CFP)


The University of Chicago Shiʿi Studies Group Symposium
Call for Papers (CFP):

“The Acquisition and Transmission of Knowledge: The Role of Shiʿi Institutions of Learning in the Spread and Defense of a Tradition”

Abstract submission deadline: November 1st, 2015
Completed papers due: March 1st, 2016
Date of Symposium: April 1st – 2nd 2016

The study of Shiʿi institutions of learning, traditions, and scholarly practices serve as important areas of research within Islamic intellectual and social history. The role of religious institutions of learning, intra-Muslim polemics over the methods and praxis of knowledge preservation and dissemination, and the means by which authority is conferred to texts and discourses provide rich sources for questions regarding Shiʿism in both contemporary and historical periods.

This symposium seeks to bring together an international and inter-disciplinary group of scholars to address questions that are central to an understanding of Shiʿi Islam. What role do institutions of learning play in the propagation, spread and defense of the Shiʿi tradition? And how do institutions shape and, in turn, become shaped by the nature and practice of the transmission and legitimization of knowledge in Shiʿism? We welcome contributions from scholars and graduate students working on these questions from any relevant scholarly perspective, including social, intellectual and political history, anthropology, political science, literature, and religious studies.

The theme of the symposium encourages scholarly research on core questions regarding epistemic, cultural, and historical studies on the important topic of Shiʿi production of knowledge. Papers may focus on both modern and pre-modern subject areas might address such topics as the following:

Shiʿi conceptions regarding how knowledge may be disseminated and transferred institutionally;

The polemics and debates on verification and authorization of knowledge and texts;

Institutional histories of centers of learning, such as on the unique Twelver Shiʿi institution of the hawza (“seminary”);

The geographic and historical dimensions of centers of Shiʿi learning in cities such as Qom, Najaf, Hilla, Baghdad, Isfahan, and more recently in cities in North America and Europe;

Transnational dimensions of formal scholarly practice of the acquisition and transmission of knowledge;

The means by which clergy and scholars for various minority Shiʿi groups (including Nusayri- Alawites, Zaydis, Ismailis, Alevites) promote scholarly and/or clerical learning and transmit religious knowledge in a formal setting.

Format of the Symposium

Presenters will be requested to present for 20 minutes followed by substantial additional time for moderated discussion between panelists and the audience. The papers will be pre-circulated and should be no longer than 10,000 words.

Abstracts of around 300 words along with a CV must be submitted by November 1st, 2015.

Send abstracts and CVs to Mohammad Sagha at, with the words “UChicago Shiʿi Studies Symposium Application” in the subject line.

Due to the limited amount of funding available, we encourage participants to also apply for independent sources of funding, including from their home institutions or other relevant bodies supporting such academic endeavors.

About the Symposium

The University of Chicago Shiʿi Studies Symposium is an endeavor of the Shiʿi Studies Group, established in 2010, to provide an interdisciplinary, non-area-specific forum for the discussion of research on Shiʿism by faculty and graduate students at the University and beyond. The annual symposium aims to strengthen the field of Shiʿi Studies by bringing together a group of both senior and early-career scholars to present research and to cultivate an environment for intellectual discussion and collaboration. At each symposium we aim to address a focused set of questions with cross-cutting relevance to scholars working on various periods and from various disciplinary perspectives.

This event is free and open to the public. Funding and support for this symposium is generously provided by various funders within the University of Chicago, including the Franke Institute for the Humanities, Norman Wait Harris Fund, the Robert Nicholson Center, the Martin Marty Center at the Divinity School, the Division of the Humanities, the Council for Advanced Studies Islamic Studies workshops and MEHAT workshops, the Department for Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, the Department of Anthropology and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago.