Identities & Islam. Symposium on Islamic Archaeology (Southampton, 20th April 2013)

15/1/13 .-

Identities & Islam: Material Culture, Self and Society in the Pre-Modern Muslim World is the inaugural UK Early Career Symposium on Islamic Archaeology, a free conference hosted by University of Southampton Archaeology on 20th April 2013.


Archaeological scholarship has revealed considerable temporal and geographic variation in material expressions of identity within the Islamic world, through architecture, art, crafts, burial and subsistence, as well as in the organisation of trade and exchange. How integral was the uniting force of Islam in the construction of personal, group, and state identity in the past? To what extent can we see identity as being formed locally and diachronically – either in opposition to different external and internal cultural groups, influenced by pre-existing indigenous cultures and contemporary neighbouring states, or resulting from particular political changes?

The University of Southampton Department of Archaeology will host a free conference on Islamic Archaeology on 20th April 2013, addressing these issues. This conference aims to bring together post-graduate, post-doctoral and established scholars in the disciplines of Islamic Archaeology as well as architectural and art history, from institutions in the UK and beyond. This will be a unique opportunity to share knowledge and expertise – uniting what has been, until now, a disparate community.

The aims of the conference are:

To facilitate dialogue between scholars of material culture in the medieval and early modern Islamic world, from the UK and abroad
To assess the use of material culture as an indicator and creator of different kinds of identities including ethnicity, gender, religion, and class
To explore geographic and temporal variation in identities in the Islamic world
To identify multiple, layered or contrasting expressions of personal identity within groups and by individuals
To disseminate the results of new excavations and surveys of medieval and early modern Islamic sites and landscapes, where new evidence has a bearing on our understanding of identity
To consider the relationship between the material culture of the pre-modern Islamic world and the creation of identities in contemporary nations

The conference will consist of four sessions, details of which can be found here.


We invite submissions for papers and posters in the form of no more than 200 word abstracts, which should be emailed to no later than 12th December 2012. In addition to the abstract your submission should include:

Name(s) of Author(s)
Paper title
Intended session
Your institutional affiliation
Description of the geographical and temporal scope of the paper

Papers will be 20 minutes in length, and the language of the conference will be English. Any further enquiries should be made by email


The conference will consist of four sessions, each focussing on a different aspect of identity creation:

Transitions and Continuity

The Islamic world was simultaneously both diverse and profoundly connected. The analysis of material culture has demonstrated that while aspects of identity may emerge abruptly or evolve slowly over time, they are frequently created with reference to the past. This session therefore aims to explore not only the constancy of Islamic identity but also the role of multiple factors – regional, historic, religious and ethnic – during the medieval and early modern era.

Papers in this session may include, but are not limited to, the following themes:

Identity before and after the advent of Islam
The effect of transitions between ruling dynasties and changing judicial-religious doctrine
The effect of crises, episodes of prosperity, and long-term social changes
Evidence from multi-period sites and landscapes

Trade and Cultural Exchange

The system of trade and exchange in the medieval and early modern world united different, often rival, Islamic states, in addition to bringing the Muslim world into contact with non-Islamic communities in East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Africa and Europe. This session will explore the movement of goods, wealth, ideas and people resulting from mercantile trade, and its effect on personal and group identities.

Papers in this session may include, but are not limited to, the following themes:

The exchange of ideas and social practices between communities, as facilitated through trade networks
The expression of merchant identity, and of a mercantile class, in material culture
The impact of extraneous cultural traditions of foreign mercantile enclaves and communities on surrounding groups

Conflict and Cultural Contrasts

Within the medieval and early modern Islamic world there existed a multitude of ethnic, political, religious and cultural divisions. For Muslims, how far were such divisions overshadowed by the uniting concept of the umma, or rather did internal conflicts and distinctions form a greater part in identity formation? For those who did not convert, how distinct did their way of life and expression of identity remain, and what effect did this have on the formation of Muslim identities? Compounding these internal contrasts are processes of interaction with external peoples and polities – whether through warfare, immigration or diplomacy

Papers in this session may include, but are not limited to, the following themes:

The expression and formation of identity by religious, ethnic, political and cultural minorities within the Islamic world
Distinctions and similarities between Muslim and dhimmi identity
Identity in frontier societies and the effect of interaction across borders
The effect of immigration and invasion on identity formation

Islamic Archaeology and Contemporary Identities

The material culture of the medieval Islamic world continues to inform the identity of individuals and groups through its interpretation by modern scholars, and its curation and display in museum collections. This session will explore Islamic Archaeology’s place in discourses of Muslim, national and ethnic identity in the contemporary world.

Papers in this session may include, but are not limited to, the following themes:

The development of scholarship, curation and display of medieval Islamic material culture, and its role in nationalist discourses
The status of Islamic versus pre-Islamic Archaeology in the cultural heritage industries of modern nations
The archaeology of Islam and its relationship to modern religious practice
The role of Islamic Archaeology in conflicts within and between contemporary nations

More information:

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