NISIS Autumn School |The religious/secular divide in the Muslim world

NISIS Autumn School |The religious/secular divide in the Muslim world | Nijmegen

From Tuesday 21 until Friday 24 October 2014, NISIS organises its fifth Autumn School. This year’s theme is: “The religious/secular divide in the Muslim world.”

Conveners: professor Karin van Nieuwkerk (Radboud University Nijmegen) and professor Léon Buskens (Leiden University).
Location: Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

The religious/secular divide in the Muslim world

The religious /secular divide is a problem that haunts both public debate about the Muslim world as well as academic studies in the field of religious studies and Islam at university. More than ever, the divisions between Islamists and secularists appear to be at the forefront in socio-political struggles in the Middle East and beyond. Particularly the argument of “secularism under threat” or the fear for an “Islamization of the public sphere” or – on the contrary – “Islam under threat” and the fear for a “secularization of the public sphere” are forceful ways to frame present conflictive ideals. This not only assumes a clear demarcation between the field of the religious and the field of the secular, but also a conceptualization of the two fields as mutually exclusive and antagonistic.

Recent academic debate questions these assumptions and raises important topics for research that are highly relevant for Islamic studies. Starting with the seminal work of Talal Asad, other scholars have deconstructed the religious/secular divide and show its diverse historical and contextual meanings of which the mutually exclusive notion is a relatively recent outcome with material consequences. Several scholars now try to move beyond the religious/secular divide in their approaches to Islam. They highlight that in everyday life, religious and the secular discourses are intertwined, and that both inform daily practices and subjectivities of Muslims. Others deal with issues such as religious freedom, blasphemy, and apostasy as well as with topics related to the headscarf and women’s piety movements. Also analyses of current political issues in the region point at a need to re-assess the religious/secularist or Islamist/secularist paradigm.

Speakers in this Autumn School are invited to reflect on the tension between the concepts of the religious and the secular from a variety of subdisciplines in the study of Islam, that is, history, religious studies, political sciences, and anthropology.

Aims of the Autumn School

The three main aims of the autumn school are:

  1. To critically reflect on theoretical issue connected to the religious/secular divide.
  2. To critically reflect on the consequences of the approaches in which the religious and secular are perceived as mutually exclusive and antagonistic.
  3. To empirically illustrate ways to move beyond the religious/secular and Islamist/secularist division.

Keynote speakers

Professor Yolande Jansen | VU University Amsterdam | more information
Professor Sherine Hafez | University of California | more information
Dr Nadia Fadil | KU Leuven | more information
Professor Markus Dressler | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen | more information
Professor Gudrun Krämer | Freie Universität Berlin | more information
Professor John Bowen | Washington University in St Louis | more information

Call for application

PhD candidates and advanced MA students active in the field of Islamic studies are invited to apply for participation. The NISIS Autumn School is part of the NISIS Training Programme. Participants can obtain 4 EC after successful completion of the programme. Please read more about course objectives and requirements in the course description of the NISIS Autumn School 2014.

Participants (PhD candidates and research master students) who want to obtain credits for participation in the NISIS Autumn School are required to:

  • carefully study the prescribed literature in advance;
  • give a presentation in one of the morning workshops and/or act as discussant* for one of the presentations of others;
  • write a report.

*As a discussant during the NISIS Autumn School, you are required to:

  • carefully study the readings as prescribed by the keynote speakers in advance;
  • prepare questions for discussion in advance in which you relate the topic of the presentation to the prescribed readings;
  • actively participate in and contribute to the discussion.

To apply for participation, please send your application to professor Léon Buskens, academic director of NISIS ( Deadline for application: Monday 1 September 2014, 09.00 hrs (CET). Applications that reach us after that will not be taken into consideration.

Your application should include the following:

  • a motivation letter
  • a CV
  • a one-page description of your MA thesis or PhD project
  • a reference letter of your MA thesis or PhD supervisor
  • a title and abstract of your presentation (300 words max)
  • a short biography of appr. 50 words.

Please note the following:

  1. NISIS junior members automatically qualify for participation. However, they do need to register before 1 September 2014 in order to participate. Your registration should include the following:
  2. a title and abstract of your presentation (300 words)
  3. a short biography of appr. 50 words.
  4. The number of people who will be admitted to the NISIS Autumn School 2014 is limited!
  5. Successful applicants have to arrange their visa (if applicable), flight to and from The Netherlands, transport to and from Nijmegen themselves, and accommodation in Nijmegen themselves.
  6. A reimbursement of € 500 for your travel expenses (only for international applicants) will take place after submitting original tickets and receipts to the NISIS office; preferably scanned by email.

Succesful applicants are granted the following:

  • Participation in the complete programme
  • An allowance of € 500 for your travel and housing expenses.

Registration for public lectures

The public lectures are open to all. If you are interested in attending the public lectures, please register at stating your name, academic or professional affiliation and your email address.


The programme of the NISIS Autumn School 2014 can be found here.
If you have questions about practical details of the programme, please contact Femke Groeneveld (

One thought on “NISIS Autumn School |The religious/secular divide in the Muslim world

  1. Nico J.G. Kaptein Ph.D. (1989) teaches Islamic Studies and is Chair of the Programme for Middle Eastern Studies at Leiden University. He has held research fellowships at the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore; the Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin, and the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies. He is section and contributing editor Southeast Asia for the authoritative
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