Appel à communications : Interdisciplinary Research Conference « Democracy and Islam », Vienne (Autriche), 05-06/11/015 — LIMITE : 15/07/2015

The National Working Group on Democracy of the Austrian Research Association is calling for the submission of conference paper proposals for an interdisciplinary conference to be held on November 5-6, 2015 in Vienna by the WORKING GROUP ON DEMOCRACY of the AUSTRIAN RESEARCH ASSOCIATION.

Invited presenters can (within reasonable limits) expect to have their travel expenses covered and will be provided with accommodations. The conference language is English only.


This conference aims at discussing the relationship
 between ‘Islam’ and ‘democracy’. Islam has become a  political issue after the Islamic Revolution in Iran and even more so after Huntington’s theory of the Clash of Civilizations. At the latest since 9/11 and following attacks by so called homegrown terrorist groups in Europe and the US, Islam has also become an issue in domestic politics in many Western countries. State authorities and political representatives in the realm of security, education, youth and culture have had to react to the various Islam-discourses by engaging in the debate itself and/or by implementing new policies and laws. On the other hand, Muslim actors have appeared on the political stage, publically stating their interests and voicing their concerns and grievances. These developments have had important consequences for democratic processes. How are democratic narratives, frames, and/or principles challenged by the rise of exclusionary politics and ethnocratic arguments? How do state authorities incorporate Muslim civic organizations in the political system? What are the implications of politics of resistance and opposition to, or support for the practices of the democratic state on the part of Muslim actors? Questions of this nature will addressed at the conference.


 As the organizing institution, the Austrian Research Association, is inter-disciplinary, the call is open to all disciplines. Desirable work should be empirical or analytical in nature. The conference is especially interested in novel ideas and innovative work. Individual submissions are not required to follow an inter-disciplinary approach.
To be considered, please submit an abstract of not more than a single page (or 700 words) along with a brief description of your current work and institutional affiliation to the address listed below. Deadline: July 15, 2015


Topic 1 : Relationship Islam — Democracy
Guiding research question:
Böckenförde’s  paradox argues that the liberal-democratic state relies on  preconditions, which the state itself cannot guarantee. The discussion of a normative dimension of the relationship between religion and democracy (the body politics more broadly) has been, at least in Europe, mostly restricted to Christianity as can be seen in the debate on the dialectics of secularization (Habermas & Ratzinger). But what can be the role of Islamic institutions in the maintenance and development of democratic institutions and processes? Can Muslim religious institutions and organizations play a part in supporting democratic norms? 

Topic 2 : Muslim Youth Culture

Guiding research question:
Debates on Muslim youth culture have not only recently gained more and more attention in the media after the emergence of the Islamic State and the Europe an ‘Jihadi Cool’. Muslim youth
cultures have long been investigated in social sciences in terms of identity construction and radicalization. Attention needs to be shifted towards the role of Muslim youth as self-identified Muslim actors in democratic  processes. What is the role of organized Muslim youth movements in the participation in democratic processes? What is the role of Muslim youth movements in challenging, questioning, opposing, and strengthening democratic processes?
Topic 3 : Islamophobia and exclusion
Guiding research question:
The implications of the rise of Islamophobia for the political field are undeniable. Movements such as PEGIDA in Germany, the rise of attacks on Muslims in France after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo on one hand and discussion and/or laws banning Islamicate objects such as the building of minarets on the other pose challenges for democracies. How do Islamophobic discourses and/or laws constrain the democratic  populus? What are the implications of Islamophobia for constitutional democracies?
Topic 4 : European models of incorporation of Islam
Guiding research question:
European nation states have applied a number of different regimes in the relation  between the state and churches. What are the implications of historically built state-church-relations for the incorporation of Muslim institutions or the accommodation of Muslim practices?
Topic 5 : The tradeoffs between protection and freedom
Guiding research question:
Democratic states are charged with guaranteeing a maximum of liberty and individual autonomy. They also have an obligation to protect citizens from internal and external threats. Perceived and real threats especially in the wake of recent terrorist attracts have pushed the line between  protection and freedom further and further in the direction of the security state. Can we take stock of where we are in terms of these tradeoffs and what cross-national differences exist?
Topic 6 : The necessary tolerance and intolerance of others
Guiding research question:
The emergence of Islamicate actors in the public space has evoked a variety of reactions to these new political actors. State authorities have incorporated as well as criminalized Muslim institutions based on different traditions in political culture, state-church-relations, narratives of national identity, etc. To what end and how do state agencies decide to incorporate or criminalize Muslim institutions in the political field?

Conference Details:

The conference is interdisciplinary in orientation and welcomes work from all social sciences and the field of legal studies. Whereas theoretical work is considered important, the Working Group is especially interested in sound analytical and empirical scholarship and the application of qualitative or quantitative methodology commensurate with, and appropriate for the discipline in which the work originates. Case study designs are welcome but it should be understood that the goal of the conference is to draw comparative conclusions and develop a general understanding of the matters at hand. Thus, the ability to generalize from findings will be as much a criteria for inviting presentations as is the innovative character of the paper or project. Although the working group focuses primarily on Austrian democracy, this research conference and its themes are not Austria-centered and may draw on a wide variety of international experiences. However, the inclusion of Austria as a reference case in the analysis is certainly welcome.
The two-day research conference will be held in the vicinity of the University of Vienna. The goal is to invite a small number of researchers of all levels (including advanced graduate/doctoral students) to participate in a two-day workshop style event in which all participants will be present for the duration of the program and engage in discussion. The papers will be presented and critiqued by qualified peers. After that the discussion is opened to the remaining conference participants and a small general audience. The discussions are intended to be focused and expert-oriented with the goal of developing working papers to be published in a working paper series at the association website and a further book publication. An important benefit of this format is both the depth of the expertise present and the interdisciplinary nature of the event. The language of the conference and for the papers is English.
Proposals must be submitted by the date posted below. Selected presenters will have their travel expenses paid and will be provided with accommodation.

Organizing Institution :

The Working Group on the Future of Austrian Democracy of the Austrian Research Association is a national interdisciplinary and inter-institutional panel of scholars organized under the auspices of the Austrian Research Association and led by Reinhard Heinisch, Professor of Political Science at University of Salzburg.

group’s specific objective is to assess the state of democracy in Austria and to investigate important challenges that impinge on its future development. Specifically, the work intends to draw attention to significant questions and problems affecting the state of Austrian democracy in at least five critical dimensions, one of which concerns the relationship between immigration and democracy. Drawing on the diverse expertise of the scholars involved in this project, the goal is to engage in scholarly research, contribute to a public discourse on democracy, and stimulate further specialized research.
JULY 15,2015
Dr. Reinhard Heinisch
Professor of Austrian Politics in Comparative Perspective
Department of Political Science University of Salzburg, Rudolfskai 42, A-5020 Salzburg, Austria
For questions and further information, please contact:
Reinhard Heinisch or
Farid Hafez
Tel.: 0043-(0)662 8044 – 6615,
Dept. Office: Tel.: 0043-(0)662-8044-6610
For more on the Austrian Research Association, please see: 
(Proposal submitted after the deadline may not be considered)

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