Call for papers on cinema in the Muslim world

In the wake of our discussion of Fitna vs Schism, I thought I’d post this call for papers that I received via Kalpana Ram. I wonder if the journal is prepared to entertain papers on YouTube films — does that count as “cinema”?

Please contact for further information

Cinema and the Muslim World

The journal Third text is compiling a special issue on cinema and the Muslim world.

Whilst it seems a bad idea to take for granted, as some authors do, the existence of something called ‘Islamic’ or ‘Muslim cinema’ (often without defining it), others risk reifying the nation-state, ethnic group or region by ignoring the significance of transnational and trans-regional Islamic political processes, subjective identifications and experiences, many of which span continents. It seems reasonable to ask whether the recent convergence in imperialist meddling and intervention, the rise in fundamentalist religious belief and the surge in political Islam across many parts of the world that are populated by Muslims have forged similar sets of preoccupations for directors and film writers, for instance, in, say, representing love, sexuality and the body; in thinking about gender and patriarchy; in making certain kinds of political statements such as criticising religious authority and hypocrisy; in representing the trauma, violence and conflict that accompanies war, imperialism, occupation and resistance.

Clearly, the comparison of experiences cannot be made in a way that dissolves national, ethnic and other specificities (some authors may prefer to focus on these). Authors may define their units of analysis as they fit: experts in national and regional cinemas (e.g. Arab) are welcome to question the appropriateness of comparing cinematic traditions within the wider Islamic World, and may prefer instead to compare styles, genres and preoccupations of their chosen unit to those of films and filmmakers from Europe, Latin America or elsewhere. Egyptian and Iranian cinemas, for instance, arguably stand alone, and cannot usefully be juxtaposed with those from other Muslim countries without giving comparison an apples and orange-like quality. They might be compared, respectively, with Hollywood/Bollywood and avant-garde
European cinema.

Some contributers may wish to explore the idea of Islamic cinematic cultures and aesthetics as having some kind of identifiable content. This might include discussion of films from within the Islamic World that represent religious, ontological and spiritual problems and concerns. A discussion of ‘Islamic culture and aesthetics’, however, veers dangerously close to cultural essentialism, and must be approached with caution. One particularly useful line of argument could be based on the fact that many of the films that arguably bear traces of an Islamic ‘essence’ do not emanate from what is most often constructed as the ‘Islamic World’: analysis of the essence, that is to say, can take place through an anti-essentialising framework that points to syncretic and cosmopolitan dynamics in films and cinematic traditions outside the Islamic World that owe important elements of their constitution to a certain presence, structure of feeling or cultural formation that has loosely identifiable aesthetic and moral contents and lineages that may be usefully described as Islamic. The importance, for instance, of Indo-Persian Islamic lyricism, mysticism and musical cultures in the history of ‘Indian cinema’ (which circulates far beyond Muslim lands) underlines the fact that much so called ‘Islamic culture’ does not belong to exclusively to Muslim majority societies; nor is it necessarily produced only by Muslims, or viewed exclusively by them.

If this history of cultural borrowings underlines the labile nature of cinematic culture, which tends to elude the ‘civilisational parameters’ laid out by Huntington et al, a social and political history of Islam and Muslims in ‘Bollywood’ (much like a history of Jews in Hollywood) reveals that the politics of religious identity is crucial to making sense of how cultural borrowings are mediated by historically shifting political borders and absolutist identities. Attentiveness to this issue allows us to make sense of such paradoxes as why ‘Indian films’ are positioned as being outside of ‘the Islamic World’, and how, at the same time, the presence of Muslims and the ‘Islamic World’ within them has helped to forge an ethos of inter-religious harmony that bolsters the legitimacy of the Indian nation-state. Islamic aesthetics, in other words, are understood in their historical articulation with, through and in relation to the political.


Finished essays should be no longer than 5,000 words and completed by January 10th 2009 at the latest (it is hoped that the special issue can be launched alongside a film festival curated by the journal, so ample preparation time is needed to ensure its launch coincides with this). First drafts are expected to arrive at the beginning of December.

Please send proposals and enquiries to, preferably in the form of abstract between 300 words and a page in length, with a list of some or all of the films and filmmakers you propose to write about as soon as possible (essays will be commissioned as and when suitable proposals arrive).

One Response to Call for papers on cinema in the Muslim world

  1. Hosein says:

    Iranian directors have made a movie replying “Fitna”. Download “beyand fitna” from
    I’m waiting your comment about this movie.

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