International Conference
“Rethinking Jihad: Ideas, Politics and Conflict In the Arab World and Beyond”

The University of Edinburgh, 7-9 September 2009

Especially since 11 September 2001, the notion of ‘jihad’ has assumed
centre-stage in public and academic discourses on Islam, Muslims, and the
Arab world, particularly as a byword for terrorism and violence. But
clearly jihad has meant different things to different people at different
times, whether as theory, as action or as metaphor. As a timely exploration
of this diversity, the Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World
(CASAW) is convening a major international conference on the subject of
jihad in its multiple dimensions. The conference has three overarching
goals. The first is to bring together academics and others from a variety
of disciplines and specialisations to generate an in-depth discussion of
jihad in its practical, theoretical, historical, juridical and symbolic
dimensions. It is hoped that by drawing on a diversity of perspectives
(methodological, historical and geographical) the conference will contribute
to a deeper and more critical understanding of jihad. The second goal is to
reflect critically on the importance of jihad, however defined, to the study
of the Arab and Islamic worlds: to what extent is jihad a useful analytical
concept? Have students of Islam and the Arab world minimised or overstated
its importance? How should jihad be located in future research agendas?
Finally, the conference will seek to engage with the broader knowledge
community and explore current understandings and representations of jihad
within policy and media circles internationally. It will critique these
representations, as well as explore ways in which academics might contribute
to an improved understanding and contextualisation of jihad in public

The conference will combine keynote addresses and panel discussions over
three days at the University of Edinburgh. Confirmed speakers currently

Prof. John L. Esposito (Georgetown University), Prof. Fred Halliday
(Barcelona Institute for International Studies), Prof. Carole Hillenbrand
(University of Edinburgh), Prof. Rudolph Peters (University of Amsterdam),
Prof. Tariq Ramadan (University of Oxford), Dr. Hasan al-Turabi (PCP,
Sudan), Dr. Roxanne Varzi (University of California, Irvine), Prof. Sami
Zubeida (Birkbeck, University of London)

Paper proposals for panels are invited from scholars and graduate students
in all fields of the humanities and social sciences, including area studies,
history, religious studies, political science, law, international relations,
anthropology, cultural studies, comparative literature, and sociology .
Papers addressing the topics detailed below are particularly encouraged, but
we aim to make the conference as inclusive as possible. As such, any
proposal dealing with jihad (broadly defined), or related topics will be

1. Jihad in History
How has jihad evolved in the centuries since the Qur’an, both doctrinally
and in practice? What factors have influenced this evolution? Are the
ideas and political actions associated with jihad unique to Islam, or
representative of more general religious and political developments? To
what extent do particular readings of jihad in Islamic history inform
contemporary debates and practices?

2. Jihad Theory
How much consensus has there been among Muslim intellectuals about jihad?
What are/have been the main areas of convergence and disagreement? How
central is, or has been, the issue of jihad to Muslim theological and
intellectual discourses? Papers may also discuss the role of, or potential
for, interfaith dialogue on the issue of jihad.

3. Jihad and Martyrdom
What is the relationship between these two categories, and how central has
the idea of martyrdom been to jihad? Papers engaging with this theme could
also compare notions of martyrdom in other religions.

4. Jihad in non-Muslim Majority Societies
How has jihad been interpreted and practiced in non-Muslim majority
societies? How does this compare to the role of jihad in the Arab and
Islamic worlds? How do transnational intellectual, institutional and
cultural links influence the way Muslims in the West conceptualise jihad?

5. Jihad, Language and Popular Culture
What is/has been the resonance of jihad within language? How have its
meanings and associations shifted over time? How has jihad been represented
at the level of popular culture, including within literature, poetry, the
press, television and film?

6. Jihad and Social and Political Action
What has been the role of jihad in political mobilisation and activism?
What have been the links between ideas and action? How has jihad informed
or been reflected in social practice?

7. Non-Muslim Approaches to Jihad
How have academic, media and policy communities shaped public perceptions of
jihad in non-Muslim majority contexts? To what extent have ideas on jihad
shaped perceptions of Islam, Arabs and Muslims more generally? How are
jihad and related topics taught as part of Middle East or Islamic studies
programmes in universities and can this be improved?

8. States, Law and War
To what extent does jihad function as an international legal or normative
framework? How compatible is it with international law? What are/have been
the relationships between jihad, violence, terrorism and war? How have
shifting conceptions of authority affected jihad? How has globalisation
impacted on jihad as theory and as practice?

Depending on funding, a contribution toward travel and/or accommodation may
be available.

Proposals should consist of a 300-word abstract and indication of current
affiliation, title and position (e.g. student, lecturer, etc.)

Abstracts will be judged by a panel on the basis of theoretical or empirical
originality, coherence of argument and relevance.

Please send proposals by 12 January 2009 to The results
of the selection process will be communicated by 1 April 2009.


For further information, please contact:

Dr. Ewan Stein
Postdoctoral Fellow
Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World (CASAW)
The University of Edinburgh
16-19 George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LD
Direct Line: + 44 0131 650 9973
CASAW office phone: +44 0131 650 6814
Fax: +44 0131 650 6804