Mon 14 - Fri 18 March 2016 | NISIS Spring School 2016 | "Reviving previous times and expanding horizons: Islam and modernity in global historical perspective” | Istanbul, Turkey

From Monday 14 until Friday 18 March 2016, NISIS, in cooperation with AKMED, CNMS, IFEA, IISMM/EHESS, Koç University, NIT, OII, RCAC, and SRII, organized its annual Spring School, which took place in Istanbul. The overall theme of the Spring School was "Reviving previous times and expanding horizons: Islam and modernity in global historical perspective”.


The organisation of the Spring School 2016 was a joint effort by:

Centre for Near and Middle Eastern Studies / Centrum für nah- und mittelost-Studien (CNMS), University of  Marburg
College of Social Sciences and Humanities; Suna-İnan Kıraç Research Center for Mediterranean Civilizations (AKMED)
l’Institut français d’études anatoliennes d’Istanbul (IFEA)
L’Institut d’études de l’Islam et des Sociétés du Monde Musulman / École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (IISMM/EHESS)
Koç University 
Netherlands Interuniversity School for Islamic Studies (NISIS)
Netherlands Institute in Turkey (NIT)
Orient Institut Istanbul (OII)
Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations (RCAC)
Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul (SRII)

With the support of the Groupement d’intérêt scientifique « Moyen-Orient et Mondes musulmans » (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

At the scholarly initiative of:

- Professor Mercedes Volait, CNRS, director of InVisu, IISMM
- Professor Albrecht Fuess, Philipps-Universität Marburg, director of Centre for Near and Middle Eastern Studies / Centrum für nah- und mittelost-Studien (CNMS)
- Professor Levent Yilmaz, director of Koç University's Suna & İnan Kıraç Research Center for Mediterranean Civilizations (AKMED)
- Dr. Petra de Bruijn, director ad interim of NISIS

Programme Keynote lectures

The keynote lectures which took place in Istanbul as part of the Istanbul Spring School, organized by NISIS and IISMM  in cooperation with AKMED,  CNMS, IFEA, IISMM/EHESS, Koҫ University, NIT , RCAC, CNRS, INHA, MOMM, OII, and SRII,  were open to the public.  

All keynote lectures took place in the auditorium of the RCAC (Research Center for Anatolian Civilization) of Koç University (İstiklal Caddesi, 181, Merkez Han, Beyoğlu, İstanbul)

Monday 14 March
09.30-10.00: Opening remarks
10.00-10.45: Keynote lecture 1 by Prof. Levent Yilmaz (Koç University): ‘Radical Modernity: A good for export-import?’
10.45-11.15: Questions and discussion
11.15-11.45: Coffee and tea
11.45-12.30: Keynote lecture 2 by Dr. Umar Ryad (Utrecht University): ‘Mediators of Religious Modernity: European Converts to Islam in Interwar Europe.’
12.30-13.00: Questions and discussion

Tuesday 15 March
10.00-10.45: Keynote lecture 3 by Prof. Mercedes Volait (CNRS/IISMM): ‘Time and geography in the writings and architectural patronage of Egyptian scholar Ahmad Zaki (1867-1934).’
10.45-11.15: Questions and discussion
11.45-12.30: Keynote lecture 4 by Dr. Elena Paskaleva (Leiden University); ‘Islamic Rhetoric in Post-Soviet Uzbekistan: The Timurid Legacy.’
12.30-13.00: Questions and discussion

Thursday 17 March
10.00-10.45: Keynote lecture 5 by Dr. Murat Dağli (Bilgi University), ‘Pragmatism of early-modern Ottoman polity: Can pragmatism be used as an explanatory and comparative category?’
10.45-11.15: Questions and discussion
11.15-11.45: Coffee and tea
11.45-12.30: Keynote lecture 6 by Dr. Pierre Hecker (Philipps-University Marburg): ‘The Politics of Culture.’
12.30-13.00: Questions and discussion

Overall theme

Whether modernity is equated with Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, or Industrial Revolution in the West, or with Islamic reformism, Tanzimat, or Nahda in the East, it can be safely assumed - considering the vast, often polemical, literature the notion has nurtured - that a basic dimension lays in new engagements with time and space.

Modern representations of time have been characterized both by a break with the immediate past, and a curiosity about earlier ages. The surge of interest in classical times is a well-known feature of European Renaissance that gave birth to myriad new intellectual activities, from collecting manuscripts and antiquities to circulating widely printed texts and engravings; new cleric figures, legitimized by their erudition, emerged in the process and paved somehow the way to the formation of the modern state. Shifting representations of ancient times in the Muslim world have generated less scholarship but are no less revealing. The Sublime Porte’s awakening to the political value of antiquities since the mid-eighteenth century is a good example of increased and novel uses of the material past. The modern reception of classical texts such as Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah offers another perspective. The new forms of historical writing that resulted in turn gave birth to a new class of literati that transformed in the long run established social stratifications and professional identities.

Contested memories of things past may represent another crucial dimension of modernity, and this is nowhere more visible than in the enduring grief caused by the recurrent eruptions of violence that have characterized our modern times and the fragmented narratives they have legated. Outbursts followed in some instances dynamics of religious redefinition, that eventually fueled sectarianism and ascribed ethnicity to persuasion – a process that can be viewed indeed as inherent to modernity, whenever and wherever it takes place.

The incorporation of the world into the systems of knowledge is an equally salient feature of modernity that took varied forms and meanings depending from where it is viewed. Europe turned to distant civilizations to debate domestic issues as early as the seventeenth-century, at a time when an already exhausted Ottoman imperial system was being conscious of the limits of its model and forced to come to terms with European military and economic supremacy. By the nineteenth century, emulating European governance and culture had become standard currency throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, producing along the way many an idiosyncrasy.

Pleas have been made to think the integration of nations into the international state system in global terms, rather than in a Eurocentric way. French culture did dominate the social life and cosmopolitanism of many port cities around the Mediterranean in the imperial age, but Western Europe was soon to cease being the only location of authority at world scale. Japan emerged after its 1905 military victory over Russia as a privileged counterpoint to modernization without the imperialism and race ideology associated to the West. The interest in non-Western modernity is well reflected in the increasing number of Middle Eastern writings on the East that followed. These flows and counter-flows invite to challenge diffusionist notions of modernization (i.e. its gradual dissemination from Europe to the rest of the world), and to acknowledge the social dynamics that existed in many societies before, and beyond, their encounter with the West. They suggest not neglecting the long history of entanglements and transnational conditions that went into the co-production of modernity anywhere.

The Spring school invited to rethink the temporality and spatiality of modernity over a long time span and within enlarged geographies. It aimed at pluralizing the notion of modernization, by trespassing usual national and civilizational boundaries.

Call for applications

PhD candidates, research master and advanced MA students active in the field of Islamic Studies were invited to apply. Successful applicants received the following:

- Participation in the complete programme, including one excursion. 
- An allowance of € 500 for travel and housing expenses (please note that this is a maximum!)

To apply for participation, they were invited to send their applications to
The deadline for application was: Monday 11 January 2016, 09.00 hrs (CET).  Applications submitted after this deadline were not taken into consideration.
Applications included the following:

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

The following details were important for selection: 
1. NISIS PhD candidates funded by NISIS automatically qualified for participation and funding. Their travel and accommodation were booked by the NISIS office. However, they had to register for participation by handing in a title and abstract and a short biography (see above for format) before Monday 11 January 2016.

2. NISIS junior members NOT funded by NISIS automatically qualified for participation (if capacity permitted) but did NOT automatically qualify for funding. If they wanted to apply for funding they had to apply by handing in: a motivation letter, a reference letter from their MA thesis or PhD supervisor, a title and an abstract and a short biography (see above for format). Like other participants NISIS junior members  arranged for travel and accommodation themselves.
If they wanted to participate without funding from NISIS, they had to apply by handing in a title and abstract and a short biography before Monday 11 January 2016.

3. A total of 10 applicants were accepted by NISIS 

4. Successful applicants must arrange their own visa (if applicable), transport to and from Istanbul, and accommodation in Istanbul themselves.

5. A reimbursement of €500 for the travel and accommodation expenses took place after submitting original tickets and receipts to the NISIS office; scanned by email. Please note that this amount is a maximum.

Obtaining credits

The NISIS Spring School was part of the NISIS Training Programme. Please read more about course objectives and requirements in the course description of the NISIS Spring School 2016.
Participants (PhD candidates and research master students) who wanted to obtain credits for participation in the Spring School (5 EC) were required to:

- give a presentation (15 minutes) in one of the workshops; 
- and/or act as a discussant;*
- write a paper (3500-5000 words) in which the theme of the Spring School is related to own research.

*As a discussant during the Spring School, participants were required to pose questions for discussion and to actively participate in and contribute to the discussion. NISIS aimed at assigning the participants to the different (thematic/geographical) workshops in accordance with their respective field of study within Islamic Studies in the broadest sense of the word as much as possible.

Last Modified: 26-04-2016