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Symposium on Muslim Africa

April 13, 2016 @ 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Please join us on Wednesday, April 13 between 12:00-3:00pm (Perkins 217) for a symposium on Muslim Africa.

12:00-12:10 – Opening Remarks and Welcome by Omid Safi, Director of Duke Islamic Studies

 12:10-12:40 – Charles Stewart

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign/Northwestern University

“Rethinking the missing manuscripts of Timbuktu”

 Periodically our popular press revisits the possibility of untolled numbers of Arabic manuscripts in the region of Timbuktu, in Mali, as evidence of literary achievement in a continent that was once described as lacking a written past. Until recently there has been no scientific evidence to support those claims. With Stewarts recent publication (in December 2015) of the fifth volume of the series Arabic Literature of Africa titled The Writings of Mauritania and the Western Sahara (Leiden: Brill, 2015), we now know what the Timbuktu manuscript culture was all about, which is, at once, both much less and much more than prognosticators of Timbuktu’s manuscript wealth would have it. In this talk, Stewart will re-evaluate the importance of the manuscripts of Timbuktu in relation to the wider world of Arabic literature in pre-colonial West Africa

12:40-1:00 – Discussion – Engseng Ho, Duke University, will act as discussant, followed by questions and comments from the audience

 1:00-1:10 – coffee break

1:10-1:40 – Sa`diyya Shaykh

University of Cape Town

South African Muslim Women, Marriage and Sexuality: An Empirical Study”

 This talk is based on an empirical study about marriage, gender and sexuality in the lives of Muslim South African women. It is based on a broad sample of “regular” Muslim women, and will be compared with earlier qualitative research that Shaykh carried out on women in violent relationships. The data from the more “normal’ spectrum of Muslim women in Cape town is interesting in revealing some of the ways that sexuality and normative gender roles intersect with marriage practices in a long-standing minority Muslim community in post-apartheid South Africa.

1:40-2:00 – Discussion – Ellen McLarney, Duke University, will act as discussant, followed by questions and comments from the audience.

 2:00-2:10 – Coffee Break

 2:10-2:40  – Ariela Marcus-Sells

Elon University

“Sorcery, Science, and Secrets: Muslim Devotional Practice in the Work of the Kunta Scholars”

In Arabic language texts composed at the turn of the nineteenth century, two Sufi scholars of the Southern Sahara desert, Sidi al-Mukhtar al-Kunti and his son, Sidi Muḥammad, discussed and provided explicit instructions for practices such as communicating with the jinn, crafting amulets, and using magical charts and tables. This paper will examine the categories that the Kunta scholars used to argue that these practices, often labelled “sorcery,” should instead be considered legitimate Muslim devotional practices under a new rubric that they called “the science of secrets.” As I will argue, the re-categorization of these practices formed a central element in the efforts of these scholars to situate themselves, as Sufi friends of God, at the heart of Southern Saharan social authority.

 2:40-2:55 – Discussion – Mona Hassan, Duke University, will act as discussant, followed by questions and comments from the audience.

 2:55-3:00 – Closing Remarks – Bruce Hall, Duke University.



April 13, 2016
12:00 pm - 3:00 pm