Thinking Thru’ Islamophobia Symposium

7 May 2008

Centre for Ethnicity & Racism Studies
School of Sociology and Social Policy
University of Leeds

Since the end of the Cold War a series of `moral panics’ has swept over Western plutocracies at the heart of which has been the figure of the Muslim. Contestations about Western values such as freedom of expression, gender equality and national belonging have been raised through the interrogation of Muslim settlement in major Western conurbations. For many these moral panics are reminders of a growing Islamophobia. For others, they are a testimony to real problems in Muslim communities and talk of Islamopbobia is at best a distraction and at worst a form of cultural censorship under the cover of which Muslim extremism and intolerance are allowed to go unchecked. Those who do see Islamophobia not as a polemical but as an analytical term are confronted with the paucity of its current formulation. Conceptually, Islamophobia is neither consistently defined, deployed or understood. This has allowed it to circulate widely, but ineffectively: for some to vent grievance, for others to pontificate, and policy and opinion makers to resort to platitudes and clichés while unable or unwilling to see its analytical value as a tool for justice. Islamophobia is in danger of becoming an irritant rather than a source of illumination.

The aim of this symposium is to explore the analytical value of Islamophobia and its limitations. To this end a number of key questions will be addressed:

  • How was the phenomena that Islamophobia seeks to conceptualize dealt with prior to the formation of the concept?
  • What is it that the category of Islamophobia brings to the table- is it useful and if so why?
  • How would a consistent and clearer understanding of Islamophobia help?
  • How does Islamophobia relate to other forms of social exclusion?
  • What is the relationship between Islamophobia and racism?

Symposium presentations and discussion fall into three areas. Between them, it is envisaged that contributors will cover the representative diversity of conceptual and empirical contexts of Islamophobia in both Muslim minority and Muslim majority countries. Contributions to the first panel Genealogies of Islamophobia explore the function that the category of Islamophobia was recruited to perform, and examine the processes by which Islamophobia entered public discourse. In an effort to furnish a more rigorous understanding of the concept, the second panel Morphologies of Islamophobia is dedicated to the analysis of Islamophobia’s relationship with racism and anti-Semitism. The third panel Sociologies of Islamophobia addresses concrete instances of Islamophobia, trends, monitoring institutions and instruments, published reports and policies, their reception and effectiveness.

Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies at the University of Leeds has a history of critical interdisciplinary engagement with the origins, production and conditions of racism. This Symposium forms part of CERS’ Racialised Hostilities programme of activities for 2008 in celebration of its tenth year of existence.

REGISTRATION: Early registration is advised as participant spaces are
strictly limited. Registration fees:
£30 (Academics and unwaged)
£60 (others)
Registration includes morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea.

For registration or further details contact:
Ms Marie Ross
Research Support Officer
Tel: 0113 343 4407

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