Aarhus Universitets segl

Al-Ghayb: The Poetics and Politics of the Unseen in Islam

A SATS conference, with Paulo Pinto, Amira Mittermaier, Stefania Pandolfo, and Nadia Fadil as visiting scholars.

Oplysninger om arrangementet


torsdag 12. december 2013, kl. 10:00 - fredag 13. december 2013, kl. 17:00





The concept al-ghayb refers to the hidden, unseen, and invisible, and encompasses a range of important phenomena in Islam and in the everyday lives of Muslims. The dominion of the unseen (‘alam al-ghayb) includes both those parts of reality that cannot be seen simply because they are covered by other visible objects and those phenomena that cannot by their nature be perceived (e.g. the face or throne of God, paradise, hell, the past, or the future). Al-ghayb for instance plays a role in relation to barzakh (the intermediary realm between life and death); to the issue of veiling; to visions of deceased saints or true dreams of Prophet Muhammad; and to the uncontrollable powers of jinn, angels, magic, evil eyes, and omens.  The unseen is in other words full of power and potential; but the lure of the territories of the unseen is also disturbing, troublesome, even dangerous.  


The conference explores the sensual, existential, spiritual and political interfaces between visibility and invisibility in Islam. It invites papers that probe ethnographically or historically how this-worldly affairs are imagined, understood, and managed in various ways through connections to invisible worlds.  In the process, the conference seeks to address the methodological, analytical, and epistemological questions that al-ghayb raises for anthropology and other social sciences. How can we approach the unseen world of al-ghayb empirically? In what ways might an appreciation of Islamic understandings of invisibility inform a re-thinking of the role of the unseen as a trope in social analysis? And how does the realm of the unseen engage debates within contemporary social theory about (in)visibility, embodiment, affect, imagination, and self-cultivation? The aim of the conference is to bring reflection on these questions of theory, analysis, and method together in an attempt to build a phenomenological and social understanding of the unseen in Islam.