Conference: Everyday Life Practices of Muslims in Europe: Consumption and Aesthetics, University of Leuven
The KU Leuven Gülen Chair for Intercultural Studies (GCIS) organized an international two-day workshop, “Everyday Life Practices of Muslims in Europe: Consumption and Aesthetics” at the University of Leuven, Nov. 28-29, 2013. The aim of the workshop was to understand the daily practices of Muslims in Europe, a phenomenon currently understudied in academia. These practices encompass both religious and non-religious activities, ranging from the most mundane daily actions like cooking and cleaning, to the most ritualistic practices, such as prayer and fasting. The workshop acknowledges that such practices are not neutral, but are in fact culturally and religiously directed, and are also shaped according to the civic values of their social context. Thus the workshop focused on two themes: “Muslim consumerism and leisure time” and “Artistic performances.”
The workshop began with a keynote speech from Dr. Emma Tarlo (Goldsmiths University): “Islamic fashion, dress styles and everyday practices among Muslims in Europe.” Thereafter, the first panel addressed consumption and food practices, and featured presentations from three speakers. First came Elsa Mescoli (University of Milan-Bicocca), who focused on Islamic food practices among Moroccan women in Milan. Her ethnography set out to understand how women shape their self and reaffirm their religious belongings in both the private and public spheres. Rachel Young (Wilfrid Laurier University) gave the second presentation; her fieldwork in Paris looked at how food can serve as a negotiation of identity for North African Muslim immigrants. Her research showed that among North African immigrants a consumption pattern including two or more cultures is on the rise. Last was Valentina Fedele (Catholic University of Lille), whose ethnographic studies in France and Italy focused on how eating and drinking habits highlight particular
THE WORKSHOP FOCUSED ON TWO THEMES: ‘MUSLIM CONSUMERISM AND LEISURE TIME’ AND ‘ARTISTIC PERFORMANCES’
meanings behind religious prescription, and how these lose their normativity and become a Muslim ethic when they cross borders.
The second panel addressed specifically the use of media in daily life. Laurens de Rooij (University of Durham) focused on how “media consumption is linked to the construction and expression of diasporic Islamic identities.” The third panel looked at everyday ritual practices and identity. The presentation from Leen Sterckx (University of Amsterdam) addressed how young Muslims develop new and modern ways of courtship, whilst still keeping in touch with their familial and cultural values.
The second day of the workshop started with the opening panel, “Muslim Spaces, Limits and Everyday Practices.” First presenter Sertaç Sehlikoğlu (Cambridge University) explored women’s agency and privacy within the context of women-only gyms in İstanbul. Next up, Sümeyye Ulu Sametoğlu (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales) spoke about how Muslim women of Turkish background in France and Germany spend their leisure time and practice esthetics. Her research showed that the Muslim youth in Europe develop parallel alternatives in these spheres to those of their non-Muslim peers. She coins these practices, which are both modern (in the sense that they resemble the practices of the larger society) and also religious, as “halal circles.” The third presenter, Jasmijn Rana (Free University of Berlin), carried out ethnographic research at
kickboxing studios in the Netherlands. She looked at the motives behind Muslim women participating in kickboxing and how they define their position within society according to the sport. She examined how kickboxing, Islam, gender and ethnicity create tensions and reconciliations, underlining that her aim was to bring the inner and societal tensions of Muslim woman out from the context of the headscarf debate.
The next panel concentrated on the themes of architecture and urban space. First presenter Ossama Hegazy (Bauhaus University Weimar) spoke about mosques in Germany. By looking into the history of the meaning of the mosque in Germany, Hegazy introduced a type of mosque that is acceptable for the whole society, regardless of its appearance and the religious group it addresses. Corinne Torrekens (Free University Brussels) also spoke about the building of mosques, in a presentation that aimed to shed light on the relationship between mosques and local political authorities. She asserted that the building of a mosque in Brussels had much to do with transparency and equality among religions.
The next panel was titled “Artistic expressions-controversies.” The first panelist, Thierry Limpens (University of Gent), focused on the artistic expressions of Muslims inspired by the Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan. Ramadan’s ideas revolve around integration to Europe as part of being a European Muslim. Limpens looked into how Muslim agency is a part of leisure time and consumerism patterns. The second presenter, Guidi Diletta (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales), examined how art can be used as a form of activism. Her example of activist art was the “NiqaBitch” street performance, in which two women wearing both a full-face veil and shorts toured the streets of Paris.
The last panel, “Well Being Practices and Subjectivities,” brought the workshop to a close. Speaker Kirsten Wesselhoeft (Harvard University) looked at wellness activities organized for Muslim women and their children.
During a productive two-day workshop, the mundane activities of Muslim men and women, who in most cases also have a migrant background, were put in perspective, revealing how their self, their position in and relation with society, and their habits are shaped by the many different elements that compose their identity.
WHAT: Everyday Life Practices of Muslims in Europe: Consumption and Aesthetics
WHO: The KU Leuven Gülen
Chair for Intercultural Studies (GCIS) WHERE: University of Leuven
WHEN: Nov. 28-29, 2013