CFP: The Origins of the Islamic State: Sovereignty and Power in the Middle Ages (London, Feb 2017)

abbasids-1CfP: The Origins of the Islamic State: Sovereignty and Power in the Middle Ages

February 16th-17th 2017, University College London

Deadline for abstracts: December 4th 2016.

Organiser: Corisande Fenwick (UCL) 



The medieval roots of the Islamic state have never been more relevant or misunderstood. Early Islamic history is used to bolster Daesh propaganda of establishing a new caliphate as well as to justify the imposition of strict Sharia law, the oppression and genocide of religious minorities, and the destruction of Islamic (and pre-Islamic) heritage at an unprecedented rate. In turn, Daesh and other Wahhabi and Salafi groups are often critiqued as medieval in their methods and stance. These developments pose significant challenges for scholars of the early Islamic world.

A two-day colloquium hosted by the UCL Institute of Archaeology and generously funded by the British Academy under its Rising Star Engagement Award scheme seeks to bring together historians, archaeologists and art historians to discuss and debate the emergence and development of the earliest Islamic states and the nature of Muslim sovereignty between 600-1000CE, and to open up discussions about how to challenge static and simplistic notions of Islamic statehood outside the academy. The focus is global and comparative and papers are invited from across the early Islamic world –  the Middle East, Islamic West, Central Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and beyond – that consider these issues. The aim is to explore the problem of the early Islamic state from these different disciplinary and regional perspectives and open up a range of ways looking at power and politics in the Islamic context.

Papers of ca. 20 minutes in length are invited on the following core themes:

  • Theoretical and methodological approaches to Islamic states
  • Discourse, authority and legitimization in different media (documentary, epigraphy, architecture, art, numismatics etc.)
  • Muslim sovereignty and rulership
  • The workings of the early caliphate and Islamic states
  • The use and abuse of early Islamic history today

Funding is available to support the travel and accommodation costs of early career researchers from the UK and overseas (defined as being within 10 years of award of PhD or advanced postgraduates) who work on the history, archaeology or art history of the early Islamic State. Scholars funded through this scheme will also attend a workshop before the conference “Researching the Islamic State: New Challenges and New Opportunities”.

Abstracts of 200-250 words should be sent to Corisande Fenwick ( by Sunday, 4 December 2016. Presenters will be informed by Friday December 9th, 2016. 


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