Examples of recent research

Nahid Afrose Kabir, 'Muslim identity formation in the West: the case of Australian, British and American Muslims'

Abstract for the Inaugural Australasian Conference on Islam: Muslim Identity Formation in Religiously Diverse Societies, Charles Sturt University’s Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation in partnership with Islamic Sciences and Research Academy of Australia, Sydney, 25–26 November 2013

Young Muslims growing up in the West constantly interact with two environments: their home/ethnic community and the wider society. Through their home environment and ethnic community they are influenced by their cultural and religious practices and through school and work they integrate with the wider society. Through continuous processes of enculturation and acculturation, they tend to endorse certain identities.

In my study of young Muslims (aged 15 and over) in Australia, Britain and America, I found their identities varied. They shifted from single, to dual to multiple identities. I also found that identity formation was a flexible process, and various factors impacted on identity formation. Some respondents in my study identified themselves with an exclusive Islamic identity, while others endorsed dual or multiple identities. But when the participants spoke of their dual or multiple identities, their Islamic identity was inadvertently sparked when they spoke of issues impacting on Muslims in general. In this paper I discuss the factors that impacted on the formation of an exclusive Muslim identity in the participants in this study. I also observe the bicultural stance of the participants.

Keywords: Muslims, identity, politics, media, biculturalism

Nahid Afrose Kabir, 'Religion and Identity Politics: The Case of India and Pakistan, 1905–1971”

Abstract for the Australian Association for the Study of Religions Annual Conference: The Paradox of Liberation and Religion, in partnership with the International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding, University of South Australia, City West Campus, 2–4 October 2013

Prior to the British colonisation of India in 1757, Hindus and Muslims were one people practising their respective religions. Their sense of camaraderie was remarkable. The contribution of both Hindus and Muslims to Indian civilisation was magnificent. Hindus contributed to literature and mathematics; and art and architecture reflected Mughal glory. In 1905, to break up the solidarity among the Indians and for its administrative convenience and economic benefit, the colonial power introduced its strategy of ‘divide and rule’ by partitioning Bengal. This was annulled in 1911 but it led to the rise of nationalism among Indians. Eventually, identity politics divided Indians between the notion of a united India and the two-nation theory. In 1947 Pakistan was created for the Muslims. Muslims in India (Hindustan) remained a minority. Between 1947 and 1971 once again, identity politics tore the two wings of Pakistan apart, leading to the birth of Bangladesh in 1971.

In this paper, I first discuss how religion became a source of power in individual and collective spheres before the partition of India. Secondly, I briefly discuss the various factors that led to the break-up of Pakistan. And finally, as a person born in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh); and raised in West Pakistan (now Pakistan), I saw religion as part of West Pakistani culture while I saw more Bengali culture in East Pakistan. Though both wings of Pakistan separated from India in the name of Islam, I question whether religion was a factor in the break-up of Pakistan, and if the population of the western wing viewed those in the eastern wing as lesser Muslims and hence the 'other'.

Keywords: identity politics, language, religion, nationalism

Jeanne-Marie Viljoen, '"War comics" and the representation of violence: merging our representation and our experience so we can see the "invisible"’

Abstract for Inkers and Thinkers: The Evolution of Comics, JM Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice and the University of Adelaide's Discipline of Media, April 2014.

My contention in this presentation is that ‘war comics’ can amalgamate the representation of political violence with the experience of political violence in a powerful way. Treating the representation of violence and the experience of violence as interdependent allows us to approach otherwise imperceptible aspects of violence, which are obscured if we see the representation of violence and the experience of violence as separate entities. Žižek, in his reflections on violence (2008) reminds us that what is dangerous about violence is not so much the startling, visible violence in the media, because we can become used to that. Instead, it is the 'objective violence' seething beneath the surface of every eruption of visible violence that perpetuates the violence that we can see. Žižek insists that this ‘invisible’ violence can only be approached indirectly, through art, because art helps us to avoid the 'mystification of the direct' in the media’s approach. According to Žižek, in order to approach this ‘invisible’ aspect of violence, we need to fully understand that the experience of violence includes, and is not separate from, our representation of it. Not only do comics (like film) present readers with what seems to be an immanent experience whilst at the same time making them  aware of the mediated nature of experience, but comics also involve readers as active participants who can arrange and rearrange a story in space and time. This recreates a more authentic representation-experience of the horror of war and conflict than is possible by other means.

Keywords: representation, experience, violence, ‘war comics’, Žižek, Waltz with Bashir, invisible, reader-participant.

Jeanne-Marie Viljoen, 'Making the invisible visible: the case of memory loss where representation becomes experience'

Abstract for UniSA CIL Narratives of War Research Group 2013 Symposium: Traces of War, November 2013.
This presentation interprets the case of memory loss by making use of Slavoj Žižek’s perceptive exploration of violence. In terms of Žižek’s indirect method of exploring violence, he refers to subjective (or visible) violence as those cases most obviously seen (and often shown by the media) in incidences of war and conflict reportage. Strikingly, he refers to objective violence as the invisible violence, lurking like an unapproachable backdrop to visible violence. According to Žižek, this invisible, objective violence is a menacing system which, if unchecked, perpetuates visible violence forever. This presentation attempts to approach invisible violence by incarnating the notion of trace, which operates in this (partially ineffable) zone. Also, using the indirect method of exploring art and literary traces allows us to avoid the mystification of the common-sense method of looking directly at visible violence in a way that keeps masking this indistinct zone and paradoxically distances us from it even further. However, approaching this zone is problematic. Experiencing the predicament of the indistinct and ineffable is complex. In this zone we are hardly able to describe discrete entities because, as soon as we do, they cease to be what they are and their presence is continually deferred (Derrida 1997). However, this paper holds that this ensuing mess or dimness enriches our understanding/experience of representation and, ironically, not only allows us to communicate with greater authenticity but also to recuperate experiences that may hitherto have seemed to be forgotten or to be too violent to represent.

Keywords: traumatic memory loss, ineffable, trace, unrepresentable, violence,  Žižek, Waltz with Bashir, invisible.

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