Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative

Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the University of Chicago's Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative is a cross-divisional collaboration, intended to create a sustained campus conversation about the future of Islamic studies.

Upcoming Events with Visiting Professor Regula Qureshi:

CONFERENCE : Islam, Music, and the Sublime

Friday, February 20
9-5:30 pm, Swift Hall Common Room

Sufism today has gained widespread interest mainly through its music and poetry, but also through its contrast with orthodox scriptural Islam. Sufism stands for an inclusive Islam focused on personal love of God and spiritual guidance within a wide range of devotional practices. Music and mystical poetry are the sonic embodiment of Sufism and its worldwide placeholder in the search for spiritual goals. Sufi, thus, can designate a broader spectrum of vernacular devotional and ritual identities. The core idea for this workshop allows us to approach this near-global vogue of a Sufi Imaginary through its music. 
“Islam and Sufism” also brings into conversation a range of ideascapes and practices, from the traditional South Asian spiritual lineages to a new generation of Muslim popular culture. Sufi music is founded in ritual and its constraints, but its practice is also open to creative agency. Reaching for the gift of the sublime enables embodied engagement on multiple levels—through rhythm, repetition of words, even ecstatic dance, to reach for the gift of the sublime, individually or collectively. 
Sufism is part of a larger social imaginary of Muslims responding to the global fundamentalist movement. Its appeal is the Spiritual and Aesthetic in Sufi music, which can inspire lofty goals of self realization as well as the pursuit of social justice, especially as inspired by Islam’s profoundly egalitarian commitment.
Schedule of Events:

9 am – 9:45 am
Michael Sells, Welcome
The Sublime and Music: Islam and the West
Regula Qureshi and Philip V. Bohlman in Conversation
Discussant: Michael Sells
10 am – 10:45 am
Recitation and Discussion of Poetry
Michael Sells, Love Lyrics of Ibn al-Farid and Ibn al-`Arabi
Saleem Qureshi, Sublime Rebellion: Iqbal's Urdu and Farsi Verse
Chair:  Thibaut d'Hubert

11 am – 12 am
Colloquy 1
Deborah A. Kapchan, Witnessing the Sublime: Sufi Samaa in Secular France
Moderator: Hakan Karateke

Deborah Kapchan is Associate Professor of Performance Studies at New York University. A Guggenheim fellow, she is the author of Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press 1996), Traveling Spirit Masters: Moroccan Music and Trance in the Global Marketplace (Wesleyan University Press 2007), as well as numerous articles on sound, narrative and poetics. She is translating and editing a volume entitled Poetic Justice: An Anthology of Moroccan Contemporary Poetry, and is also the editor of two recent volumes:  Intangible Rights: Cultural Heritage in Transit (2014 University of Pennsylvania Press) and Theorizing Sound Writing (currently under review).

Lunch break, 12-1 PM

1 pm – 3 pm
Music and Sublime Across the Muslim World         
1:00 – 1:30 pm – Bertie Kibreah, Sufi Tattva: The Sound and Space of Mystical Song in Bangladesh
1:30 – 2:00 pm – Shayna Silverstein, Performing Sacred Popular: Syrian Sufi Dance as National Heritage
2:00 – 2:30 pm – Michael O’Toole, Staging the Sublime: Music and Islam on Stage in Germany
2:30 – 3:00 pm – Lauren Osborne, Locating Experience and Emotion in the Recited Qur'an
Moderator: Marcia K. Hermansen

3:30 pm– 4:15 pm 
The Labor of Sublimity: A Conversation 
Kaley Mason, Robert L. Kendrick, Regula Qureshi

4:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Colloquy 2
Peter L. Manuel, Qawwali as the Anti-Sublime
Moderator: Regula Qureshi
Peter Manuel has researched and published extensively on musics of India, the Caribbean, Spain, and elsewhere.  His several books include Cassette Culture: Popular Musics and Technology in North India. An occasional performer of sitar, flamenco guitar, and highland bagpipes, he teaches ethnomusicology at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

5:30 pm

The Visiting Scholar for 2014-2015 is Regula Qureshi.

Regula Burckhardt Qureshi is a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Society (FRSC), Professor of Music, founder and Director of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology, co-founder, past director of folkwaysAlive!, and member of the Religious Studies Advisory council, at the University of Alberta. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (MA Germanics), and Alberta (MA Music 1972, PhD Anthropology 1981), she is also a performer (cello Curtis Institute of Music, sarangi Ustad Sabri Khan, Pandit Ram Narayan). Her major interests are South Asian, Islamic, and Canadian sonic and social practices with focus on preserving sonic and literary heritage under condition of generational change, especially in diasporic Muslim communities. Her numerous publications include the books The Muslim Community in North America and Muslim Families in North America, Sufi Music in India and Pakistan: Sound, Context and Meaning in QawwaliMusic and Marx: Ideas, Practice, Politics, and Master Musicians of India: Hereditary Sarangi Players Speak. Most recently she was invited for a month of lectures and research exploration in by the CNRS Laboratoire d’Ethnologie et Sociologie Comparée and the Centre de Recherche en Ethnomusicologie in Paris.

At the University of Alberta, Dr. Qureshi established the study of World Music, with special focus on he music of India. To create a locus for community outreach and performance, she founded the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology in 1995, and in 1999 the Indian Music Ensemble.  Located in the CCE’s Sound Archive her large collection of field recordings of Indian and Islamic music documents over fifty years of music making in South Asia and Canada, the latter accessible in the website South Asian Music and Culture in Canada (SAMC). Her growing interest is in diverse forms of Muslim hymnody.  Most recently she organized an international conference onSounds and Spaces of Muslim Piety: Traditions and Transformation under the auspices of the CCE and in collaboration with the UK based Association for the Study of Ginan. Her goal is to make Edmonton and the University of Alberta a centre for the study of Muslim devotional sonic expression, thereby reconnecting with, and recognizing her uncle Titus Burckhardt and his profound contribution to European understanding of Sufism and Islam. 

Dr. Regula Qureshi will join the Department of Music at the University of Chicago for the Fall and Winter Quarters of the 2014-2015 academic year.

LECTURE : Sufi Music of India and Pakistan: Feudal Ritual to Global Challenge
Friday, January 16
4:30 - 6 pm, Swift Hall Common Room


Beginning in 2010, the University of Chicago was given the extraordinary opportunity through a three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to bring nine international visitors to campus for one quarter, with conferences, symposia, and lectures associated with each visit, thus raising the profile of Islamic Studies on campus and firmly establishing it as an interdisciplinary enterprise. Past visiting scholars came from Spain, Iran, Turkey, Germany, England, Italy, Egypt, and the United States, and their areas of expertise were equally diverse, with a range of five different home departments, namely Islamic Studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School, the Departments of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, History, and Cinema and Media Studies in the Humanities, and the Committee on Social Thought in the Social Sciences Division. Through the course of the Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative, phase 1, the University of Chicago witnessed an intensification of an intellectual community that stretches across departments, divisions, and schools at the university.  The Initiative brought together a large cohort of individuals engaged in the study of Islam who ranged across all periods and geographical regions as well as thematic clusters such as Islam, media and aesthetics; Islamic political theory, violence and the sacred; the reception of classical Islamic philosophical traditions in modern social, political and legal thought; and the complex ways in which regionally defined Islams relate to global transnational networks and immigration.

Thanks to the continued support of the Mellon Foundation, the University of Chicago began a new grant for a three-year term, commencing in 2014. The Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative will invite three distinguished international scholars for two-quarter residencies, one each over the next three years. Each visitor will bring to the community a unique area of expertise, which they will share with the campus by teaching two classes (one per quarter), giving a public lecture, and organizing a conference or symposium on their topic of study.  This grant represents one key component of the University of Chicago’s goal to forge a new paradigm of transdisciplinary engagement in research and teaching that seeks to transform the way Islam is studied, taught, and understood in the academic and global worlds.