About the Shi'i Studies Group

UChicago Shi'i Studies Group Symposium CFP: Shi'ism and Governance

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The University of Chicago Shiʿi Studies Group Symposium

Call for Papers (CFP):

“Shiʿism and Governance”

Abstract submission deadline: February 24th, 2017

Symposium Date: May 12-13, 2017

The relationship between Shiʿism and governance—whether through doctrinal beliefs, political movements and ideologies, or practical exigencies—constitutes a highly relevant area of study within Islamic history and modern life. From the earliest disagreements over the succession to the Prophet Muhammad to current debates over Islamism and the modern state, various thinkers and movements within Shiʿism formulated original and innovative answers to the question of how Shiʿi communities should approach governance, politics, and communal relations in the larger societies within which they lived.

Given its historic minority status, how have Shiʿis theorized their position vis-à-vis caliphates they intrinsically rejected? How have Shiʿis legitimized or contested the rhetoric and practice of Shiʿi dynasties and governments once they came into power? How can we theorize Shiʿi pre-modern and modern notions of “governance” and the “political,” and is this a useful metric for understanding the relationship between Shiʿism and power? Finally, how have other schools of thought approached and responded to Shiʿi notions of governance or politics? We welcome contributions from scholars and graduate students working on these questions from any relevant scholarly perspective, including social, intellectual and political history, anthropology, sociology, political science, area studies, literature, and religious studies.

Papers may focus on both modern and pre-modern subject areas and might address—although by no means are limited to—such topics as the following:

·         Historic Shiʿi notions of leadership and what constituted the authority of the Islamic ruler;

·         Shiʿi beliefs of the Imamate and the Caliphate regarding governance and political responsibilities;

·         Modern Shiʿi scholarly thought and the various political positions of Twelver Grand Ayatollahs towards governance;

·         Polemic debates between Shiʿis and other thought schools on the theory of proper Islamic rule;

·         Political Islam, mass movements, and the modern state;

·         Sectarianism, communal relations, and the state in the modern Middle East;

·         Comparative studies on approaches towards governance between different Shiʿi groups such as the Zaydis, Twelvers, Isma’ilis and Alawis in historical and modern contexts.

Format of the Symposium

Presenters will be requested to present for 15-20 minutes followed by additional time for moderated discussion between panelists and the audience.

Abstracts of around 300 words along with a CV should be submitted by February 24, 2017. Send abstracts to Mohammad Sagha at msagha@uchicago.edu, with the words “UChicago Shiʿi Studies Symposium Application” in the subject line.

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. 

About the Shi'i Studies Group


The Shiʿi Studies Group is a forum for discussion and the presentation of studies, research and work-in-progress related to the academic study of Shiʿism covering a diverse set of textual and lived traditions, practices, philosophies and identities. The group covers Shiʿism in all periods, past and present, and is open to all disciplinary perspectives.

The Shiʿism Studies Group holds an ongoing, but episodic seminar series, in conjunction with the Middle East History and Theory (MEHAT) workshop, and the Islamic Studies workshop (Majlis) as well as talks and events co-sponsored with other groups at the University of Chicago. The seminar series involves presentations by students and faculty, visiting speakers, and round-table and informal discussions.

The Shiʿism Studies Group is also host to the SHII-STUDIES email list: shii-studies@lists.uchicago.edu

In order to suggest a speaker or a seminar session, or for any other questions, please contact the Shiʿi Studies Group Director, Mohammad Sagha, at msagha@uchicago.edu.