Graduate Student Conference

Past conferences

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2018: Politics of Movement: Racialization, Religion, Migration

April 5-6, 2018

Whether discussing the management of refugees by nation-states, Brexit, the ever-expanding carceral state, the fugitivity of unarmed Black bodies captured on film fleeing the police, or the organized assemblage of citizens protesting the neoliberal regimes, the problem of movement is one of the most pressing themes of the 21st century.

In the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump and the Supreme Court’s reinstatement of the international travel ban, questions about religion, race, and migration have moved center stage. The racialization of Islam and Islamophobia have become transnational phenomena in the politics of secular nation-states. Elsewhere, the (necro)political aftermath of Hurricane Maria and the mudslides in Sierra Leone have put into relief the politics of mobility when natural disasters displace thousands. 

The rise of carceral regimes and police states raise questions about the afterlives of slavery and the continual confinements that render Black Life precarious. Taken together, these challenges invoke new and important questions about national security, immigration policy, the logic of coloniality, anti-Black violence, secular law, border patrol, and sovereignty.

The Politics of Movement: Racialization, Religion, and Migration graduate conference brought students and faculty together to facilitate an interdisciplinary exploration of the multiple ways of theorizing the politics of movement—broadly defined in the US and abroad. This not only included various forms of mobility—migration, diasporas, refugees, settlements, travels, transportations, etc.—but also the often racialized political techniques that restrict, contain, indoctrinate, limit, manage, or move people to create various forms of im/mobility—dislocation/removal, borders, prisons and confinements, ghettos and reservations, militaries and policing, colonies and camps, and more.

Keynote speaker: Darryl Li, University of Chicago

Conference organizers: 

  • James Howard Hill, Jr. is a PhD student in religious studies at Northwestern University. His research explores the intersection of religion, necropolitics, race, and colonialism in the Americas and throughout Atlantic geographies (Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas). His work also engages the theme of Anticolonialism in African American Religious History, the intersection of religion and retributive justice in the American Imaginary, and Black Political Theology.

  • Hafsa Oubou is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at Northwestern University. In spring 2015, she earned an MA in Middle Eastern and North African Studies from the University of Arizona. Oubou is interested in Moroccan-Belgian Shi‘a, Islam in Belgium, state-subject relations, the making of subject-citizens, secularism, education, and diaspora.

  • Matt Smith is a PhD student in religious studies at Northwestern University. Before coming to Northwestern, Matt earned his master's degree from Princeton Seminary and his bachelor's from Anderson University. His research focuses on the study of race and religion in the Americas, with a specific focus on Anglo-American Protestantism and its intersections with white imperial formations during the mid-19th to the early 20th century. Areas of interests: U.S. empire, race and diaspora, gender/sexuality, racial and settler colonialism, the coloniality of secularism, transnational Christianity, and critical white studies.

2017: Science, Technology, and the Politics of Knowledge in Global Affairs

March 30-31, 2017

Scientists, state actors, international institutions, and lay activists vie for credibility and legitimacy to both frame and control global issues. Science and technology experts are routinely cast into a supporting role to bolster their claims.

From nuclear weapons in war, to nuclear energy in the battle against climate change; from new information technologies in surveillance regimes, to the use of randomized controlled trials in international development research – scientific and technological expertise operate as instruments of power and authority, which can serve to legitimate or contest new policies and regimes of global governance. The conference provided a platform for answering questions such as:

  • How do various international actors attempt to position themselves as credible participants in global politics?
  • Under what conditions does expert knowledge come to be seen as legitimate?
  • In what ways do international actors frame global issues and what must be done about them?
  • How is scientific and technological expertise marshaled among various epistemic communities in processes of claims-making and action?

Keynote speakerSheila Jasanoff, Harvard Kennedy School

Conference organizers

  • Kevin Baker is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Northwestern University who works on the history of prediction, computer simulation, and environmental and economic modeling. His dissertation focuses on the Limits to Growth report and the birth of global modeling in the 1970s.

  • Savina Balasubramanian is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at Northwestern University whose work is at the intersection of gender and sexuality studies, science and technology studies, and political and historical sociology. Her dissertation examines the role of the social and behavioral sciences in the technopolitical governance of reproduction and population in Cold War India.

  • Omri Tubi is a second-year student in Northwestern’s sociology PhD program. His research interests are political sociology and science studies, and his work focuses on the relationship between public health campaigns and state-formation, examining malaria eradication and Jewish state-formation in Palestine.

2016: Islam and the Modern State

April 7-8, 2016

The conference examined how modern states exist in tension with the practices, institutions, and sensibilities associated with Islam. This interdisciplinary conference drew together advanced graduate students and senior scholars to probe the enduring entanglement of religion and modernity, and to understand how this entanglement bears on contemporary debates about modern statehood.

Panels investigated:

  • how states grapple with nationalism, neo-liberalism, and secularism in relation to local and global iterations of Islam;
  • the strategies that individuals and communities employ to subvert, comply with, or otherwise amend state sovereignty and its projects to cultivate ideal citizens;
  • and the modes through which the Islamic tradition is being transformed as a result of these processes.

Keynote speaker: Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Notre Dame with appointments in the Department of History and the Kroc Institute for International Studies in the Keough School of Global Affairs

Conference Organizers

  • Mona Oraby: PhD candidate in political science, Northwestern University. Her research investigates the legal regulation and administration of religious difference in the contemporary Middle East.

  • Bilal Nasir: PhD candidate in anthropology and part of the Initiative for Comparative Race and Diaspora at Northwestern University. His research examines the intersection between racialization, social movements, and Islamic learning among Muslim youth in the greater Los Angeles area.

  • Nathaniel Mathews: PhD candidate in history, Northwestern University. He works on the history of modern citizenship, ethnicity and the nation-state in Zanzibar, Oman, and the Swahili Coast.
  • Nurhaizatul Jamil: PhD candidate in anthropology, Northwestern University. Her research focuses on Muslim women’s participation in Islamic self-help classes in contemporary Singapore.