This course focuses on reflections that go beyond the often simplified and dichotomous approaches to the complex set of phenomena known as 'Islam'. It explores the complexity in the social processes that define, design and traverse Islamic discourse and Muslim practice. Based on shared reading of literature, discussions and presentations of current academic research, the course explores, both theoretically and empirically, the effects of Islamic discourse and Muslim practice in contemporary Middle Eastern societies from social, political and cultural perspectives.

Two main issues form the basis for the literature, discussions and assignments: How do Islamic concepts, methods, norms and ideals (and debates about these) relate to broader socio-economic and politically strategic tendencies in the Middle East? What are the power effects of Islamic/Muslim discourse and practice (or criticism of these) from individual, social, political, cultural, consumption-related and strategic perspectives?

The course is organised into four thematic segments as follows:

1. Theorising religion, power and representation in the Middle East
2. Imagining religious and social order
3. Religious consumption, affects, corporeality and visual (re)presentation
4. Individual specialisation, presentation and critical review.

The final two weeks of the course is devoted to an individual paper. The students focus on a topic of their own choice regarding Islam in the contemporary Middle East and discuss it in relation to one or several theoretical perspectives covered in the course. The individual paper is presented at a final seminar where the student also gives oral feedback on another student's paper.