Islamic Aesthetics: Production, Curation, and the Sublime (E-Seminar)

Dr. Saud Al-Zaid
Islamic Aesthetics: Production, Curation, and the Sublime

E-Seminar, English, 2 SWS, 2 ECTS
6 Video live sessions: Tuesdays, bi-weekly, 14 – 18 h: starts 12.5., 26.5., 9.6., 23.6., 7.7., 21.7.2020

How and why does one perceive an object or sound as being "Islamic" or connected to the Muslim world? How does the world appear in the eyes of Muslims and why would it be different? This seminar explores aesthetics through a deep and rather intimate reflection on identity politics. The point of this reflection is to analyze identity's affect on cultural production, curation, and religiosity/secularity. Through the written word, architecture, art, and music we will explore examples that evoke an Islamic sublime. Yet these examples may have little if anything to do with the religion of Islam at all--or even worse, could be perceived as highly un-Islamic by some Muslims. Students will follow the chain of Islamic history to understand the foundations of that debate. Furthermore, we will analyze basic and often negative reactions towards Islam and Muslims in the west.
This seminar is geared towards two broad groups: firstly, artists with backgrounds in the Muslim world who are grappling with their identity in their artistic practice. Secondly, it is geared to non-Muslims who wish to explore these themes and hope to assist or curate projects without falling into the old patterns of Orientalism or cultural appropriation. We hope with deep reflection comes a deeper sensitivity towards the cultural-political moment we live in today, and a better mutual understanding of our common humanity.

This class will be conducted online due to the current pandemic. It will be made up of pre-recorded online lectures that we will view at the same time. Then we will have a group discussion via video conference once every two weeks. Participation will entail very short writing assignments and active feedback between the instructor and the students. There will also be guest speakers who will introduce their work and they will be available for discussion with the students.

Requirements for the ungraded Studium Generale credit: regular and active participation, viewing the recorded lecture videos and short essay.

Ausrichtung der Veranstaltung: interkulturell, kritisch
Kompetenz/Aktivität der Teilnehmenden: wahrnehmen, reflektieren/denken

Saud Al-Zaid is a scholar of radical Islamic thought and aesthetics. He specializes in the writings of Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), a literary critic and ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood, and his aesthetic influence on the Salafis of Central Arabia and the Gulf. Al-Zaid holds degrees in Economics and Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago, a Masters degree in Arab Studies from the Center of Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University, and another Masters in the Anthropology & Sociology of Religion from the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. He completed his doctorate in Islamic Studies at Freie Universität Berlin entitled “Modernity’s Other: An Intellectual Anthropology of Radical Islamic Thought”. Al-Zaid is based in Berlin and has given public lectures at Re:publica, the Berlin Biennale, Chaos Computer Club Congress and Computerspielemuseum, among others. More information on