Call for Abstracts: Devotion (Walāya) and Shiʿi Islam

Ameena Yovan's picture
Call for Papers
October 31, 2019
Illinois, United States
Subject Fields: 
Arabic History / Studies, Islamic History / Studies, Middle East History / Studies, Religious Studies and Theology, South Asian History / Studies

Submission Deadline: 31 October 2019

Symposium Dates: April 3-4, 2020
Symposium Location: The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA

Website and Full Details:

About the Shiʿi Studies Group

The Shiʿi Studies Group, established in 2010 at the University of Chicago, provides an interdisciplinary, non-area-specific forum for the discussion of research on Shiʿism by faculty and graduate students at the University and beyond. The annual symposium aims to strengthen the field of Shiʿi Studies by bringing together a group of both senior and early-career scholars to present research and to cultivate an environment for intellectual discussion and collaboration. At each symposium, we aim to address a focused set of questions with cross-cutting relevance to scholars working on various periods and from various disciplinary perspectives.

About the 2020 Symposium

The Shiʿi Studies Group will host its 2020 symposium on the theme of walāya. This multivalent term, largely understood to mean “devotion” to the family of the Prophet, the Imam, and the Imam’s devotees, is a bedrock of Shiʿi belief and practice. However, defining walāya and its limits is made difficult by shifting community boundaries and changing needs. How have the Shiʿa addressed walāya in different times, fields, and contexts? In addition, how has walāya been thought of in different ways by different schools within Shiʿi Islam? Groups that have defined themselves through walāya have often had this transmuted into accusations of ghuluww (devotional extremism) –how much do they exist alongside each other, in parallel tracks? Furthermore, though this symposium will focus on walāya in Shiʿi Islam, our methods of inquiry are not limited to the Shiʿi tradition. Conceptualizing walāya in a Shiʿi context can be used to better understand devotion and piety in Islamic and religious studies more broadly.

The Symposium will be held April 3-4, 2020 at the University of Chicago. The format will consists of panels arranged around works with similar themes. Individual presentations are expected for approximately 25 minutes, followed by moderated discussion between panelists and the audience. 

For more information and a full Call for Papers, please visit our website,

Guidelines for Submissions

Abstracts of around 300 words, along with a CV, should be submitted by October 31, 2019. Send abstracts to, with the words “UChicago Shiʿi Studies Symposium Application” in the subject line.

Contact Info: 

Mohammad Sagha, The University of Chicago, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

Zach Winters, The University of Chicago, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

Ameena Yovan, The University of Chicago, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

Contact Email: