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Edited collection: "Anthropological perspectives in the research of Islam in the Balkans"

CAS 01/02/2011

Islamisation in the Balkans, that took place in the period of Ottoman Empire, had an important impact on people's identities and religious practice. The history of Islamisation shows that "bi-confession"; or Crypto-Christianity, i.e. the situation in which people changed faith only officially but still practised their old religion was widespread all over the Balkans. Therefore, in many situations, conversion was only superficial and a kind of syncretistic Islam arose that includes a lot of non-Islamic elements such as cult of saints and the Crucifix, visiting churches and monasteries, keeping icons at homes and observing both Christian and Islamic festivities.

In the Balkans, Muslims are of different ethnic and national origins: Turks, Albanians and Slavic-speaking people, like Boshnjaks, Torbeshes (Macedonia), Gorans (borderland of Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia) and Pomaks. The example of so-called "Islamicised Slavs" are particularly interesting as they face numerous identity problems. Themselves they declare various identity (e.g. in Macedonia as Turks, Albanians, Torbeshes, Muslims, Macedonians) as well as they are differently defined by their neighbours. In official national discourses they are perceived to be local Christians (Macedonians, Bulgarians) who were forcefully converted into Islam, thus they are included into dominant nations in their country of living.

Nowadays we cannot speak of 'Islam'; we rather should use a plural form 'Islams' and analyse its heterogeneity both in the sphere of practice and Muslims personal and collective identities. We can observe some 'syncretistic' practices like staying at monasteries, lighting candles, taking consecrated water or asking for prayers. It is prominent especially in mixed, Christian-Muslim neighbourhoods. However, for several years now, , there hass been observed strong presence and influence of more 'radical' or so-called 'pure' Islam from the Middle East imported by 'Arab emissaries', media, or locals educated in Q'uranic schools in the Middle East. Therefore, one can observe various patterns of Islam, i.e. of religious practice manifested itself in everyday life, as well as different public and academic discourses of it. Radical Islam is strongly associated with a global 'islamophobia' unlike this 'traditional' one that is frequently perceived as not 'dangerous' or even 'not true' Islam, or 'Crypto-Christianity'. Last but not least, there is significant mobility of people in the region. Especially, increasing migration abroad causes numerous redefinitions of self-identities, life practices and worldviews of local people.

I believe that despite an extensive body of literature there is a need of breaking a new ground in the research of Islam in the Balkans by applying anthropological approach based on ethnographic fieldwork and discourse analysis.

The following thematic areas are suggested:

* Contemporary practice of Islam in the Balkans
* Christian-Muslim neighbourhoods: strategies of coexistence
* 'Our' (Slavic) Mulims in the Balkans: Pomaks, Torbeshes, Gorans, Boshnjaks: an issue of identity
* Old and New Islam: traditional one and 'new radical waves' from the Middle East
* Public and academic discourses on Islam and Muslims
* 'Global' influences on practice of Islam and Muslims’ identity : media discourse of 'islamophobia' and 'terrorism', Muslims' mobility

Please take note that these are only few suggested topics and other ideas on related topics would be taken into consideration.

I would like to invite you to submit paper-proposal of max. 500 words followed by a short bio by 30 April 2011 via e-mail to . For further details do not hesitate to contact me.

Final deadline for papers is 31 December 2011.

Karolina Bielenin-Lenczowska, PhD
University of Warsaw
Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology

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