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Job Opening: Creating an Alternative Umma – Clerical Authority & Religio-Political Mobilisation in Transnational Shii Islam

This interdisciplinary project investigates the transformation of Shii Islam in the Middle East and Europe since the 1950s. Specifically, it will examine the formation of modern Shii communal identities and the role clerical authorities and their transnational networks have played in the religio-political mobilisation of Shii communities.

The volatile political situation post-Arab Spring, the rise of militant radical Sunni movements such as ISIS and the sectarianisation of current geopolitical conflicts in the Middle East have intensified efforts of clerical authorities and their networks to forge distinct Shii communal identities and to conceive Shii Muslims as part of an alternative umma (Islamic community).

Focusing on Iran, Iraq and significant but unexplored diasporic and exilic connections to Syria, Kuwait and Britain, this project provides the first comparative study of the historical processes that led to the transnational religio-political mobilisation of Shii communities and to the current articulations and manifestations of modern Shii communal identities both in the Middle East and in Europe.

Oliver will be joined by four postdoctoral researchers and three PhD students over the course of the five-year project, which starts in January 2018.

The project yields a perspectival shift on the factors that led to Shii communal mobilisation by:
– Analysing unacknowledged intellectual responses of Shii clerical authorities to the secular or sectarian ideologies of post-colonial nation-states and to the current sectarianisation of geopolitics in the Middle East.
– Emphasising the central role of diasporic networks in the Middle East and Europe in mobilising Shii communities and in influencing discourses and agendas of clerical authorities based in Iraq and Iran.
– Exploring new modes of cultural production in the form of a modern Shii aesthetics articulated in ritual practices, visual art, poetry and new media and thus creating a more holistic narrative on Shii religio-political mobilisation.

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