in their words | in our words

The Australian National University is hosting a conference titled ‘in their words | in our words‘ from 23-24 November 2017. The Call for Papers is open until 24 July 2017.

To the Call for Papers:


The Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (ANU) is proud to convene its third conference for postgraduates and early career researchers. This two day interdisciplinary conference is open to scholars, students, professionals, and the general public with an interest in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

Conference theme

In glossy Islamist publications and in the blogs of opposition activists, we seem to have unprecedented empirical access to voices from the Middle East and Central Asia. We are bombarded with images from and about the Muslim world. The Syrian conflict alone has produced a stream of videos, testimonies, counter-testimonies and raw propaganda. The revolution has been live streamed, skyped, tweeted and mapped in real-time. This is a function of both technology and of new forms of media and material. Social media, most notably, has become something of a danger and a boon to analysts and policy makers. Its epistemological promise matches its purported role in disrupting and transforming social and political life on the ground. Words, symbols and media proliferate. The remains of destroyed historical artefacts, the filming of that destruction, and the propagation of such film on social media: each are potential data sets for the scholarly endeavour.

Yet it was almost thirty years ago that Timothy Mitchell argued the European enterprise of knowledge about colonial Egypt actually constituted an idea of Egypt as a picture. Western knowledge of the Orient relied on the idea that the other could be drawn, re-presented, re-figured, re-ordered. Echoing Heidegger’s epithet, this was ‘the age of the world exhibition, or rather, the age of the world-as-exhibition’.  Arguably this picturing of the Other has not slowed down: the Muslim is described, explained, illustrated in cartoon and prose, delineated in laws and regulations, and filmed in real-time as he crosses the sea. Yet we picture them differently depending on disciplinary background: as construction, as epiphenomenon, as agent, as function of history. So images, symbols, and all manner of representations are more dominant than ever. The Muslim is an image, an idea, an other.

We suggest that words, symbols, images and other representations therefore warrant a dedicated empirical and theoretical investigation beginning from the best of the inter-disciplinary traditions of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, but welcoming participation from surrounding academic practitioners. We are interested in both the epistemological potential of these symbolic tokens, as well as various theoretical challenges that are raised by them, concerning the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

Call for papers

We are proud to welcome proposals from across the social sciences and humanities on topics broadly relevant to the conference theme and concerning the Middle East, Central Asia or North Africa. We seek proposals that examine topics including but not limited to:

  • representations of and by violent or non-violent Islamist and other protest groups
  • challenges to representations of the other in the media or scholarship
  • the symbolic and rhetorical practices of Islamist, Sufi, feminist or other groups
  • the production, use and distribution of new media and other images during and since the Arab Spring
  • the development of networks of communication, identity and shared symbolic infrastructure enabled by new technologies
  • methodological opportunities and challenges of both new and old sources of data, including maps, images, iconography, poetry, and social media
  • theoretical issues and problems related to symbols, images, representations, concerning the geographic region, the society.

Submission details

To submit a paper or panel proposal, please email an abstract of 200-300 words and a biographical paragraph of 200 words by 24 July 2017.

Important dates

• Deadline for submission of abstracts – 24 July 2017
• Notification of successful panels and abstracts – 15 August 2017
• Deadline for full papers – 15 October 2017
• Conference – 23-24 November 2017


The Conference organisers expect to offer a limited amount of funding for some presenters, consistent where possible with ANU benchmarks. Funding will be offered on a case by case basis to those presenting papers, and is at the discretion of the organisers. Funding will only be considered for all abstracts and papers submitted in a timely manner by doctoral candidates.