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Online Short Course: Islam and Creativity in Popular Culture

This is a three-day online course that addresses the many new expressions of mass mediated creative arts that make reference to Islam.

These expressions may be motivated by a wish to express an Islamic interpretation or spirituality, but they may also be for other reasons, such as from anti-racism or critical perspectives. Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, take part in this ongoing art making process. By looking into a number of exciting and intriguing case-studies, and by combining this with the latest theoretical ideas in the field, this course aims to enable participants to individually analyze and comprehend contemporary creativity in relation to Islam.

Course Convenor

Professor Jonas Otterbeck is a specialist on contemporary Islam. He is Head of Research at the Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations (AKU-ISMC) and the current holder of the Rasul-Walker Chair in Popular Culture in Islam. The three main topics of his research are Islamic views on music, Muslims in Europe, and contemporary Islamic ideas. Theoretically, he has worked within gender, culture, and religious studies. In August 2021, Otterbeck’s new book The Awakening of Islamic Pop Music was published by Edinburgh University Press, and his current research is on creativity and Islam.

Important Data

Date: 12, 19, and 26 September 2022

Venue: Online (via Zoom)

Organized by: Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC)

Tickets: £75 professionals | £45 students, AKU alumni and staff.

Website: aku.edu


Lecture One: The Islamic Discourse on Art and Creativity

Date: Monday 12 September 2022 Time: 13:30 – 16:00, London

This session provides a broad introduction to the topic, and then becomes dedicated to how art and cultural creativity have been dealt with in texts by Islamic intellectuals. It will look into the changing discourse on art and cultural creativity among some Islamic intellectuals. Not least, we will focus on writings about purposeful and clean art.

Lecture Two: Gender and Artistry

Date: Monday 19 September 2022 Time: 13:30 – 16:00, London

This session will discuss what a focus on gender can illuminate in relation to creativity and Islam. The case study in question is: Pop-nashid music. Taking its departure in his book The Awakening of Islamic Pop (published in August 2021) by Jonas Otterbeck, this session will discuss the growth of nashid music as a popular cultural genre and how an ethical masculinity became a requirement for artists to appear authentic.

Lecture Three: What Are the Limits of Creativity in Relation to Islam?

Date: Monday 26 September 2022 Time: 13:30 – 16:00, London 

The session will focus on expressions of creativity, made by Muslims as well as non- Muslims, and the suggested limits that others try to impose on them. It will bring to your attention interesting examples which may be difficult to analyse. The key question for this session is: How do we analyse references to Islam when they are not necessarily affirmative in a manner expected by opinion makers and audiences?

Furthermore, we will broadly discuss art, migration, identity, Islam, and creativity to exercise the ideas that have materialised over the whole course.

About Ali Teymoori

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