Scholars Gather for a Two Day International Conference on the Histories of Physicality and Spirituality from South Asia and Beyond

     This February, the Departments of South Asia Studies and Religious Studies gathered 10 of the leading experts in Islamic Studies for a two-day conference to discuss the histories of physicality and spirituality, from South Asia and beyond.  

     The Conference, which began the morning of the 16th, started with opening remarks from Dr. Terenjit Sevea, Assistant Professor of history and religion in modern South and Southeast Asia at the University of Pennsylvania. After a light breakfast, Dr. Shahzad Bashir, Director of Middle East Studies and Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Humanities at Brown University, gave a talk on what makes the (Islamic) past real. Afterwards, attendees listened to a talk given by Dinstinguished Professor Dr. William C. Chittick of Stony Brook University on the real, the unreal, and the metaphor.  A department of Religious Studies PhD candidate, Ali Karjoo-Ravary, led a Q&A session after Dr. Chittick’s talk. 

     After a coffee break guests listened to a talk by Dr. Katherine Ewing from Columbia University’s Department of Religion. Dr. Jamal J Elias led a discussion after her talk, which was titled “What has Happened to the Friends of God?” Following lunch, conference attendees heard four more talks from Dr.’s Devin DeWeese, Ramya Sreenivasan, Jamal J. Elias, and Terenjit Sevea. Topics ranged from social bonds in Sufi history to thoughts on Isma’il Angaravi and the Masnavi of Jalaluddin Rumi. The first day closed with a wine and cheese reception, where speakers and attendees relaxed and mingled after a packed day.

     Day two of the conference was abbreviated, and featured only three talks in between breakfast and a closing discussion. Dr. James Caron from the University of London spoke on Pir Muhammad Karwan’s Sentient Muslim Wilderness. Dr. Megan Robb from UPenn spoke on the birth of a Muslim newspaper in South Asia, and Dr. Tariq Al-Jamil from Swarthmore College talked about taxonomies of the ‘real’ in Imami Shi’I discourses. It was a fruitful two days, and attendees walked away with new ideas and perspectives.