Colloque “Notions of Jihad Reconsidered: Perspectives on Media, Materiality, and Political Violence” — Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, 6-8 October 2021


The symposium Notions of Jihad Reconsidered: Perspectives on Media, Materiality, and Political Violence explores how different notions of jihad and political violence have entered and been shaped by discursive formations in academia, media, and the arts. It takes the aesthetic dimensions of images and sounds that have emerged over the last 20 years in the engagement with 9/11 and its aftermath as a starting point to rethink the various notions of jihad and its relation to political violence.

The symposium includes a joint visit of the special exhibition MINDBOMBS and an Artist Talk at the Kunsthalle Mannheim, a keynote lecture as well as four thematic panels. During the four thematic panels, renowned scholars and artists explore the visual and sonic aesthetics that have helped manifest perceptions of jihad. They critically reflect on the practices of knowledge production in different social spheres that have conditioned notions of Jihad and political violence, debating the canonization and archiving of mediations and imaginations of Jihad, as well as ethnographic case studies that show how notions, media, and materialities of Jihad are entangled with local and global structures of power.

The thematic design of the symposium draws on the premise that since the attacks of 11 September, 2001 in the USA, global politics, regional orders and social cohesion in many societies have been exposed to unprecedented dynamics. Images, sounds, and their mediations have played an essential role in the perception of this event and its consequences. Usama Bin Ladin’s video calling on all Muslims to take up arms against the United States and its allies in a sanctified struggle framed as Jihad was only one element in the widespread dissemination and popularisation of this polysemic concept from the Muslim tradition. As one of the many consequences of the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent ‘war on terror’, discourses on Islam per se, Muslim religiosity, belonging and power relations in Europe and North America were increasingly shaped by rather narrow understandings of Jihad as embodying a potential for violence inherent in the religious foundations of Islam. Under these premises, certain characteristics were attributed to Muslims and their compatibility with ‘Western’ notions of social order was questioned (Bayat 2007: 5).

The attacks of 9/11 also mark a turning point for many visual and media scholars: on the one hand, recordings of such events gained unprecedented visibility and rapid dissemination via the Web 2.0. On the other hand, the content of these images had an increasingly spectacular, shocking, or traumatizing effect (Mitchell 2011: 2). Taken together, they represent a ‘new geography of rage’ that provoked remediations in popular media culture in regions not directly affected (Behrend & Wendl 2015). In their various manifestations, not only the images of the collapsing Twin Towers have entered our collective memory. It is also impossible to imagine global audiovisual cultures without the mediations of the subsequent invasion and the so-called ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries, images of tortured prisoners in Guantánamo and Abu Ghrayb, as well as the networked images and videos of the ongoing war in Syria. Shared in manifold iterations, altered, contested, recomposed, and placed in different contexts in the form of digital media, these sounds and images testify to the fact that this concept cannot be limited to its religious meanings. They manifest the materiality of violence, shape the wide range of sentiments about what Jihad means, and affect discursive formations that evaluate Muslim life and religiosity also in terms of their relationship to jihad and political violence.

Against this background, the symposium Notions of Jihad Reconsidered will present a scholarly discussion that complements and critiques existing research on the topic. In order to offer a broad and comparative perspective, the event will commence with a joint visit of the special exhibition MINDBOMBS –Visual Cultures of Political Violenceat Kunsthalle Mannheim. The artworks displayed in one part of the exhibition explicitly engage with mediations of Muslim militants as well as the devastation of war and violence. As an opening event, an Artist Talk onArt and Political Violence at Kunsthalle Mannheim will facilitate a discussion between art historians and artists represented in the exhibition, whose work addresses left-wing, right-wing, and Muslim militant violence, its repercussions and entanglements with broader social and political processes. This event will provide fruitful impulses for four thematic panels during the following two days in Mainz. Click here to view the full programme and abstracts.

Keynote by Christiane Gruber

Panel 1 | Affective Archives – Enduring Sounds and Images

Panel 2 | Aesthetics of Jihad: Audiovisual Mediations and Formations

Panel 3 | Ethnographic Perspectives on Imaginations and Materialities of Jihad

Panel 4 | Notions of Jihad and the Production of Knowledge.

More information and registration: here

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