Rhetoric of the Image: Visual Culture in Political Islam

Date: March 21 – 22, 2009
Venue: Copenhagen, Denmark

While narrative sources and oral communication were key in the formation and transmission of Islamic culture in the pre-modern period, an increasing use of visual media in the cultural production of modern Islamic societies has effectively placed the image alongside– if not above– text-based rhetorical models. Over the course of the twentieth century, visual media such as film, television, the graphic arts, illustrated books, and pamphlets were mobilized in the drive to modernize and to define a role for Islam in the public domain of everyday politics. In more recent years, new media forms like satellite television and the internet have offered further possibilities to use visual rhetoric for the public representation of Islamic subjectivities. The use of image-based narratives in modern Islamic culture generates an increasingly visualized public sphere that enables states, political groups, and individuals to construct and deploy ideological messages through culturally recognizable symbols.

We invite proposals for papers that deal with the power and role of the image in creating a rhetorical lexicon for political Islam in the modern period in national, nationalist, and trans-national cultural production. Topics should deal with aspects of the visual in any region of the Islamic world, from the emergence of visual media in the early modern period to the production and reception of the latest interactive media, including the presentation of Islam on television (talk shows, Qur’an classes, films); the internet and other digital media; banners, posters, murals and graffiti; and illustrated pamphlets, cartoons, graphic novels, and children’s books. We also invite presenters to assist in developing a conceptual and theoretical framework to investigate more broadly the role of visual culture in modern Islamic societies.

The conference will take place under the auspices of the research unit “The New Islamic Public Sphere” at the University of Copenhagen, March 21-22, 2009. The host institution will cover transport, accommodation, and meals.

Please send a 200-word abstract by October 15, 2008 to Sune Haugbolle (suha@hum.ku.dk) and Christiane Gruber (chgruber@indiana.edu).