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Muslim Studies Program Annual Conference

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2023

16th Annual Muslim Studies Program Conference

Measuring Muslim Publics: Curves, Columns, Spheres and Squares
February 23, 2023
Michigan State University, International Center, East Lansing, MI, USA
Hybrid format: 303 International Center and Online

Michigan State University is hosting an international conference entitled “Measuring Muslim Publics: Curves, Columns, Spheres and Squares.” This conference investigates who is ‘the public’ in public opinion? What effect does it have on politics? These questions have received a great deal of attention by scholars of American and European contexts where their contributions have taken on a universalistic overtone. Are these generalized assumptions valid in other societies – notably in Muslim-majority contexts? In addressing these questions, this conference aims to contribute to the interdisciplinary study of public opinion and ‘the public’ in Muslim contexts inside and outside of the Muslim world. 

Previous research on public opinion and the public often falls into one of the following metaphorical categories. Survey research aggregates individual attitudes into curves measuring supplies of cultural values and of political demands. Media studies interprets the public through the writing of columns by journalists and their contemporary electronic equivalents. Social movement theories investigate the contentious social and political behavior of protest and demonstrations in city squares. Theories of public spheres investigate both the discourses that shape collective norms and the institutional settings they reside in. 

Studies of public opinion from these various approaches in the Muslim world have increased in quantity and quality in recent years. However, researchers often fail to have conversations across both disciplinary boundaries and geographic scope. Area Studies specialists – of the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, or of Africa – may share interdisciplinary findings on their region of focus. Scholars within disciplines may use comparative research but without engaging with theories and methods from other fields. Moreover, with greater globalization of media and communications people hear, share (and ‘like’) content from beyond their own communities and nations. Yet, social media have also created information ‘bubbles’ while linguistic differences reflect lasting boundaries. Finally, do these theories and methods reflect imported or indigenous practices? While academic research on public opinion has been globalized in various disciplines, do the concerns of the field only reflect priorities from outside the regions they study? Thus, this conference seeks to foster a dialogue across disciplinary and geographic boundaries about research on public opinion and especially on who constitutes the public that it assumes. 

Conference Schedule:

8:00-8:15am Eastern Standard Time (EST)  Welcome  

8:15am-9:45am EST Panel 1: Investigating Gender - Moderator: Nazita Lajevardi

Shirin Zubair, “Embodied Performativity & Women’s Emergence in the Public Sphere in Pakistan”  

Shabana Mir, “Muslim Women Organizers: Making Change within and without”    

Lina Saud, “Of Veiled Women and Rich Arab Businessmen: Capturing the Different Subtypes of Muslims in the American Imagination”  

Afis Ayinde Oladosu and Habibat Oladosu-Uthman, “Private “Curves” versus Public “Columns”: Constructing the Muslim Publics in West Africa”

10:00am-11:15am EST  Panel 2: Investigating Religion - Moderator: Ani Sarkissian

Leena Ghannam, “Wrinkling Urban Fabric: Topology of two Takiyas in 18th-century Ottoman Cairo”  

Marwa Shalaby, “How Opposition Movements Use Legislative Powers in Authoritarian Regimes: Evidence from Islamist Groups in the Arab World”  

Geon Hassan, “The Impact of Threat Perception among Egyptians on the Disillusionment with Democracy after the Arab Spring” 

11:15am-12:10pm EST   Lunch Break

12:10pm-1:00pm EST   Keynote by Amaney Jamal  (Princeton University)

1:15pm-2:45pm EST Panel 3: Investigating Media - Moderator: Emine Evered

Omair Anas, “The “Muslim International” in the Ottoman-era Sebilurresad/Siratalmustakim” 
Newzaira Khan, “Muslim Crisis: A comparative case study between the Rohingya & Uyghurs.”  

Helen Murphey, “Populism after the Arab Uprisings: Who Represents the 'People'?”  

Ayman Mohammad, Amr Madi, and Camelia Suleiman, “Covid 19 in the Middle East: A Social Media Analysis” 

3:00pm-4:30pm EST  Panel 4: Investigating Theory 

Kiran Phull, “Knowledge that Counts: On Polling and the Reclamation of Public Opinion in the Middle East” 

Russell Lucas and Justin Gengler, “Survey Research in the Arab Gulf States: Between Technology Transfer and Cultural Imperialism” 

4:45pm-5:45pm EST   Keynote by Mark Tessler (University of Michigan) 

Organized by the Muslim Studies Program and cosponsored by the Asian Studies Center; College of Arts and Letters; College of Social Science; African Studies Center; James Madison College; Residential College in the Arts and Humanities; Honors College; Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities; Center for European, Russian, & Eurasian Studies; and the Department of Religious Studies.

Online viewers register here: https://muslimstudies.isp.msu.edu/about/reg-links/